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Ohio State must fuel fleet at all costs

With gas prices hovering around $4 a gallon, even drivers of small, fuel-efficient cars are feeling the pinch. So, imagine filling up a bus.

That is the reality for Ohio State Transportation and Parking Services, which fuels and operates the Campus Area Bus Service, handivans, or handicap-accessible vans, and all other university state vehicles. With so many vehicles, the university consumes a lot of fuel. Nicole Hernandez, assistant director of transportation and parking operations, said it consumed almost 528,000 gallons in 2010.

In 2010, Transportation and Parking Services budgeted almost $772,000 for fuel costs, but in 2011 that number jumped to almost $829,000, Hernandez said.

OSU purchases its fuel from Petron Oil in Chillicothe, Ohio, at non-fixed rates.

Hernandez would not say if the university pays less than the average consumer for its fuel because fuel prices vary considerably.

“Prices are not the same across the city, so it would be inaccurate for us to state that our fuel is less expensive as this really depends on the locations that you are comparing pricing to,” Hernandez said.

OSU uses two types of fuel: regular gasoline with E10 ethanol and biodiesel. Ethanol and biodiesel are renewable energy sources which use biomass materials to power engines. Ethanol is an alcohol fuel made from plant sugars. Biodiesel uses greases, like vegetable oil or animal fat, and can power traditional diesel engines without any modification.

At OSU, Transportation and Parking Services consumed about 229,000 gallons of a gasoline-ethanol mixture in 2010. In that same year, they consumed more than 298,000 gallons of biodiesel, and of that, CABS buses alone consumed more than 215,000 gallons, Hernandez said.

These figures are based on the fuel pumped at the OSU fueling station at 2578 Kenny Road.

Hernandez said the cost of fuel OSU purchases has fluctuated in recent years, but she said the university was prepared.

“We take into account rising fuel costs as part of our planning and budgeting efforts to maintain services, like CABS, to the university community,” Hernandez said.

In addition to CABS, OSU partners with the Central Ohio Transit Authority, which allows students to ride city buses by showing their BuckID at a cost to the student of $9 every quarter.

Many students choose not to ride the buses, however. Jon Hartman, a fourth-year in English and political science, said he finds it more convenient to walk to class.

“There have been several instances when I wanted to use a CABS bus to get around campus, but I find that they come around infrequently or off-schedule, so I’ll just walk it,” Hartman said.

Given the university’s sizeable investment in fuel, that is not what Transportation and Parking Services want to hear.

According to the website columbusgasprices.com, however, the average price per gallon in Columbus on Tuesday was $3.88 a gallon. At that rate, OSU’s fuel costs for regular gasoline alone would eat up the 2011 transportation and parking fuel budget.

“What we do provide to the university is a pricing structure with more stability, internal billing and an on-campus fueling location for all university state vehicles,” Hernandez said.


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