By Former Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner
As Miami Dade County Public Schools prepare to receive 10 new electric buses for their fleet, it’s important to remember that the current fleet of 1,000 diesel buses continues to cost the district millions in fuel costs and negatively impact the health of the children who ride them. Studies have shown that diesel exhaust is a major health hazard and can harm the lung development of growing children.
Fortunately, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is offering $500 million in rebates for zero-emission and low-emission school buses through the 2022 Clean School Bus Program, in addition to the millions already awarded to Florida school districts through the Volkswagen settlement and other federal funding sources.
The Miami-Dade County Public School Clean Energy Task Force recently issued a report recommending transitioning the entire school bus fleet to electric in the next several years and creating the necessary infrastructure through charging stations and hubs. This transition would not only improve the health of our children but also significantly reduce fuel costs. The report also recommends the creation of a Sustainability Director position to support and coordinate clean energy initiatives. This position has now been filled, and the district is working closely with the county to align their efforts and make cost-efficient investments in transportation infrastructure.
This will be a long-term investment for public transportation; although electric buses may cost more upfront, they cost less to maintain, and each bus will save around $11,000 per year on fuel compared to its diesel counterparts. They pay for themselves. Replacing a diesel school bus with an electric bus is equivalent to taking 27 cars off the road. Children and communities will not be forced to breathe toxic pollutants that exacerbate or increase incidents of respiratory illness.
The recently signed 2022 Inflation Reduction Act is the largest climate investment ever and will put the US on a path to reduce pollution by addressing the root cause of dirty fossil fuels. It is crucial that our county, and hopefully the rest of the state, follow suit and invest in clean energy from the sun, through solar panels on our schools, to further reduce energy costs and create energy independence.
As our municipal and county governments have made commitments to transition to clean energy, it is essential that our Miami-Dade County Public School system takes advantage of the incentives and federal funding available to transition to 100% clean energy by 2030. This aligns with the Miami-Dade County Climate Strategy, which aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions 50% by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2050.