Texas school district fleets operating clean propane autogas buses are benefiting from the “fiscal cliff” bill, which includes the extension of expired alternative-fuel tax credits. Schools already cutting costs with propane autogas will now save even more money by recouping 50-cents-per-gallon through 2013 and retroactively to 2012.
“It’s no secret that Texas schools have struggled in the wake of the roughly $5.4 billion state budget cut to public education funding last session,” said Jackie Mason of the Propane Council of Texas. “Many switched buses to propane autogas as a way to cut costs, and these tax extensions offer additional financial relief. Districts like Dallas County Schools have already saved millions on fuel costs with propane autogas buses, which also significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and harmful pollutants compared to gasoline or diesel buses.”
Schools across the state have put hundreds of thousands of dollars each year back into their budget with alternative-fuel tax credits, in addition to the thousands saved on fuel costs. There are 2,078 propane-powered buses operating in 75 Texas school districts, according to the Railroad Commission of Texas.
Dallas County Schools, the largest propane-powered school bus fleet in Texas, saves about $500,000 annually with the 50-cents-per gallon tax credit. The district has utilized autogas for nearly 20 years and saves approximately $1.5 million in fuel costs each year, according to Tim Jones of Dallas County Schools administration. Northside ISD, the second-largest propane autogas bus fleet in the state with 40 percent of its buses running on propane autogas, saved around $225,000 with the credit from 2011. Denton ISD recouped $170,000 with the 2011 credit, on top of saving $361,498 in fuel costs last year running buses on autogas instead of diesel.
“The savings we experience with the tax credits increases each year as we add more propane autogas buses to the fleet,” said Aaron Robbins, Denton ISD director of transportation. “Over a 13-year period as we’ve grown our autogas bus fleet from five to 104 clean vehicles, we have saved a grand total of $655,652 on the tax rebates alone.”
The Austin, Houston, and Arlington Independent School Districts recently received installation of new propane autogas fueling infrastructure, and other Texas schools running buses on propane autogas include Alvin ISD, Conroe ISD, Eanes ISD, Leander ISD, and Prosper ISD.
“Propane autogas is dependable and cheaper than gasoline or diesel. Plus, propane autogas vehicles and fueling stations are less expensive than other alternative fuels,” said Mason. “For example, it’s possible to install 10 propane autogas fueling stations for the price of one compressed natural gas station. When you’re a fleet already working on a tight budget, those savings can mean the difference between switching to alternative fuel or not.”
The alternative-fuel tax credit of 50 cents per gge (gasoline gallon equivalent) is extended through Dec. 31, 2013, and retroactive to 2012. Some taxable fleets can also take advantage of another tax credit extension for alternative fuel refueling property through the IRS. The state of Texas also periodically provides clean refueling property grants for school districts and government fleets.
Propane may be a viable option for certain fleets looking for an alternative fuel source. While converting a vehicle to a propane system comes with a high initial cost, the system may come with reduced lifecycle costs over the course of that vehicle's life.