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The Biden administration earmarks $1 billion for cleaner school buses to fight pollution and climate change.

The Biden administration, in a significant move towards green energy, has announced a nearly $1 billion investment for the transformation of the iconic yellow American school buses. This initiative, stemming from the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law, aims to replace diesel-fueled buses with cleaner alternatives, particularly electric buses, to combat pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is set to distribute grants enabling over 280 school districts to acquire more than 2,700 clean buses, benefiting approximately 7 million students.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan emphasized the future standard of zero-emission school buses in the U.S., highlighting this initiative's role in fostering a healthier environment. A significant focus of this program is on aiding low-income, rural, and tribal communities, which comprise about 86 percent of the grant recipients. The funding announcement was made during Regan's visit to Stone Mountain Middle School in Georgia, a region known for poor air quality.

The Clean School Bus Program has garnered praise from environmentalists and public health advocates, particularly for its potential benefits to children of color and those from low-income backgrounds. Studies have shown that chronic exposure to diesel exhaust correlates with increased childhood asthma, cancer risks, and diminished school performance.

However, transitioning to electric buses has not been without challenges. An EPA report revealed difficulties in charging these vehicles, as they demand substantial power from the grid. This has been a hurdle for school districts, especially those lacking the necessary infrastructure to support multiple electric buses. Utility companies have reported delays due to transformer shortages and the need to expand power lines, with some construction projects extending up to two years.

“Zero-emission school buses can and one day will be the American standard, and we’re hitting the accelerator on a cleaner and healthier future for all,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said on a Monday call with reporters.

Moreover, rural districts face unique challenges, such as the scarcity of charging stations and the inability of electric buses to cover long distances, resulting in some electric buses remaining unused while diesel buses continue to operate.

Despite these challenges, several states are independently advancing towards phasing out diesel buses. Maryland, for example, has mandated that all new school buses be electric by 2025, while California and New York have set similar goals for the coming years, according to The Washington Post.

However, there has been opposition from some Republican officials, citing the high costs of electric buses and potential tax burdens on citizens. They argue that while federal and state funds may alleviate some costs, the overall expense remains substantial for school districts.

Advocates for electric buses counter these concerns by pointing out the long-term cost savings in operation and maintenance. Additionally, electric buses can function as mobile batteries, potentially generating revenue for school districts by supplying excess electricity back to the grid during peak demand periods.

The drive towards electrifying America's school buses represents a critical intersection of environmental policy and practical implementation, where the future of transportation meets the realities of current infrastructure and economic considerations.

Eunice is a sustainability writer whose passion is sharing accessible eco-friendly practices with GreenCitizen's global readership. She enjoys birdwatching during her downtime, often deriving inspiration from nature's resilience. An enthusiastic cyclist, she is also an ardent advocate of eco-friendly transport.

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