With reduced tax bases and increased expenses, small city governments across the U.S. are seeking ways to save money. While the initial expenditure of "going green"—utilizing environmentally friendly ways to manage city functions—can require upfront money in the budget, operating costs will go down over time. Here are two ways that city governments can save money and protecting the environment.
Cities often operate heavy vehicles like trucks and buses that don't get great mileage and consume large amounts of gasoline or diesel fuel. Propane is easily available in the U.S.; in fact, most of the propane used here is produced here from natural-gas processing. Propane also burns more cleanly than fossil fuels like gasoline and diesel and produces as much as 60 to 70 percent less hydrocarbon emissions.
In a U.S. Department of Energy analysis of five school districts who switched their buses from diesel to propane, the savings for fuel and maintenance was as much as 50 percent. A similar savings could be seen in city buses, which typically operate for even more hours than a school fleet does.
Cities need to look at the cost of purchasing propane buses, which can run about $100,000—a few thousand dollars more than a standard diesel vehicle. However, over the lifespan of the bus, reduced fuel costs can save almost that entire cost. For example, one district found that it would save $98,527 per bus by using propane. Some grants and rebates may be available to municipalities purchasing alternative-fuel vehicles as well.
Another advantage of propane compared to other alternative fuels like compressed natural gas (CNG) is that expensive fueling stations are not required for a new fleet. Contact a company such as Anderson's Propane to find out more about propane rates.
Converting streetlights from traditional high-pressured sodium lights to LED, or light emitting diode, bulbs has the upfront expense of purchasing the new bulbs and paying for the labor to install them. But LED lights can save a city money in the long run because the bulbs last more than twice as long as traditional bulbs. This means less maintenance costs to replace them. They also require much less electricity to power them to similar brightness as traditional lights.
The city of Eugene, Ore., converted 4,800 streetlights to LEDs last year and estimates it will save $12,000 a month by doing so. Other municipalities calculate that the conversion will pay for itself within 5 to 6 years, and then will be able to take advantage of the dramatically lower energy costs.
Although green methods can cost more initially, the savings over time makes looking at environmentally friendly options a smart plan for city governments of all sizes. Small cities may be the most challenged to come up with the budget for propane vehicles and LED lighting, but they also stand to benefit the most by saving a larger percentage of their budgets in the years to come.