The nations’ third largest school district has taken a major step forward in clearing the air for future generations. Chicago Public Schools and Falcon Transportation Inc. has announced the launch of a pilot program replacing the diesel fuel traditionally used to power school buses with O2Diesel, a cleaner-burning fuel blend of ethanol-diesel. The program is being tested in 27 school buses owned by Falcon serving 18 Chicago Public Schools. The newly converted vehicles were unveiled at a news conference today at the Louisa May Alcott School in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood.

“Providing safe and healthy passage to school is critical to our mission of giving children the tools they need to learn and thrive,” said Arne Duncan, CEO of the Chicago Public Schools. “Our school system is at the forefront of environmental issues – from recycling to buying green classroom products to the greening of our school bus fleet; the ethanol-diesel program complements our recent efforts to retrofit 600 school buses.”

“The environmental benefits of ethanol-diesel fuel over traditional diesel fuel are significant,” said Sadhu Johnston, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Environment. “Ethanol captures and delivers renewable energy, reduces greenhouse gas and reduces harmful school bus emissions.”

“This is not just a solution to improve the environment, it is a health issue, particularly for children,” said Terry Mason, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Health. Mason added that asthma is the leading cause of missed school days and hospitalizations for school-aged children due to a chronic illness. Approximately 20 million Americans suffer from asthma; nine million are under the age of 18.

Studies have documented that long-term exposure to diesel exhaust can have serious health effects. The particulate matter has been shown to impair the lungs and can aggravate diseases like emphysema and bronchitis. Children are more susceptible to the harmful effects of air pollution; they breathe faster and their lungs are less able to fight off these pollutants.

The introduction of this cost-effective, ethanol-diesel fuel in school buses is part of the CityHome Program, a national air quality initiative that enables municipal transit systems and school bus operators to make the switch to O2Diesel at no additional cost. The costs of conversion are shared by the corporate sponsors. CityHome was launched in 2005 with the StarTran System in Lincoln, Neb., with the conversion of 67 diesel-powered transit buses to O2Diesel. In September, the city of Spearfish, S.D., became the first school district to covert its entire fleet to O2Diesel.

“Independent and government-recognized laboratory tests have demonstrated the effectiveness of O2Diesel in reducing harmful emissions.” said Alan Rae, CEO of O2Diesel. “In the country’s drive to wean itself from petroleum, ethanol will emerge a winner as a component in both gasoline and diesel.”

The CityHome school bus initiative is intended to expand quickly in the Midwest with several pilot programs through the joint efforts of O2 Diesel and the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC).

“Switching to a cleaner-burning ethanol-diesel blend is a commitment to safeguarding our children’s health and the health of future generations,” said Tom Slunecka, executive director of EPIC.

A 2005 study on a fleet of 75 transit buses in Johnson County, Kan., predicted emissions reductions of six tons per year by switching to O2Diesel. O2Diesel is available today to meet the clean air challenges of future generations.

For more information on the CityHome program, visit www.cityhome.info.

For more information on EPIC, visit www.drivingethanol.org.