Green goal for city fleet is fizzling 

Despite numerous efforts to green San Francisco’s vehicle fleet — which this year is expected to guzzle more than $20 million in fuel — less than 30 percent used by city departments are running on alternative fuels, according to City Administrator’s Office data.

The City’s various cars, trucks, SUVs and other vehicles used by city employees total 4,669, including Muni buses and trains, according to the data.

The list includes, but is not limited to, police and Sheriff’s Department cars and vans; Recreation and Park Department pickuptrucks; and cars and SUVs operated by Parking and Traffic, Public Utilities and the offices of the mayor, district attorney, public defender and city attorney.

More than 70 percent are listed as unleaded-gasoline guzzlers, while the remainder are alternative-fuel vehicles. The fleet is responsible for 1 percent of The City’s carbon emissions, or about 80,000 tons, according to officials.

Since becoming mayor, Gavin Newsom has emphasized greening The City’s fleet. In September 2005, he issued an executive directive establishing requirements for city fleets to purchase vehicles using alternative fuels.

Departments, however, continue to purchase unleaded-fuel vehicles. The Recreation and Park Department has 13 model year 2008 pickup trucks using unleaded, according to The City’s car list.

While San Francisco bars departments from purchasing unleaded-fuel cars, exemptions are permitted "when no alternative-fueled vehicle is available that meets specification," according to Mark Westlund, of the Department of the Environment.

One "common reason" an exemption is granted, Westlund said, is when "a vehicle may have to travel long distances, for instance to a remote Public Utilities Commission watersheds, and there may not be a reliable alternative fueling options available."

However, all taxicabs in San Francisco are required to run on alternative fuels by 2011 — a city mandate passed by the Board of Supervisors, and supported by Newsom.

The City has too many cars, especially passenger cars, said Tom Radulovich, executive director of the nonprofit Livable City, which promotes public transit and other eco-friendly forms of transportation.

Radulovich said The City should contract with a car-share company. Keeping the cars on hand, he said, only serves as an "incentive" for people to use them.

In 2006, a list of the top 10 city fleets running on alternative fuels did not include San Francisco. The study, conducted by Internet company Sustainlane, found that 15 percent of San Francisco’s fleet was running on alternative fuel, whereas the top cities had 25 percent to 63 percent of their fleets as green vehicles.

San Francisco could feasibly make its entire fleet alternative-fuel-based within three to five years, said Warren Karlenzig, who helped conduct the ranking study. Westlund, however, said a 100 percent green fleet is not within reach at this point.

"It is not possible at this time to have an entirely alternative-fuel fleet because neither the vehicle types nor the fueling infrastructure currently exist," he said.

Westlund praised the efforts of The City’s fleet going green, calling the numbers of alternative-fuel vehicles a "significant increase" since 2004.

San Francisco has made strides in greening its taxpayer-paid fleet since 2003, when only 11 percent of its fleet — including Muni passenger carriers — was alternative fuel.

The cars used by city employees guzzle about $20 million worth of fuel annually — a financial figure that is expected to increase due to the surge in fuel costs.

The number of cars used by city departments is 6,884, which includes Muni buses and trains, according to Mark Westlund of the Department of the Environment.

In fiscal year 2005-06, The City spent $19.9 million in fuel costs — which increased to $20.6 million last fiscal year, according to the Controller's Office. Of last year’s total, $14.9 million was spent on approximately 6 million gallons of diesel fuel, and $5.7 million was spent on 2.4 million gallons for unleaded gasoline, according to Westlund.

Rising fuel costs are expected to continue to pressure cash-strapped department budgets, said Deputy City Controller Monique Zmuda, who said there’s a significant "concern for next fiscal year, as the [fuel cost] increases are so dramatic."

Of The City’s non-Muni fleet, more than 70 percent runs on unleaded gasoline. Since Muni has a fleet that includes hybrid buses, buses that run on bio-diesel fuel, and electric trolley buses, it boosts San Francisco’s overall alternative-fuel fleet percentage to 35, Westlund said.

City’s gas tab is more than $20M per year

The cars used by city employees guzzle about $20 million worth of fuel annually — a financial figure that is expected to increase due to the surge in fuel costs.

The number of cars used by city departments is 6,884, which includes Muni buses and trains, according to Mark Westlund of the Department of the Environment.

In fiscal year 2005-06, The City spent $19.9 million in fuel costs — which increased to $20.6 million last fiscal year, according to the Controller's Office. Of last year’s total, $14.9 million was spent on approximately 6 million gallons of diesel fuel, and $5.7 million was spent on 2.4 million gallons for unleaded gasoline, according to Westlund.

Rising fuel costs are expected to continue to pressure cash-strapped department budgets, said Deputy City Controller Monique Zmuda, who said there’s a significant "concern for next fiscal year, as the [fuel cost] increases are so dramatic."

Of The City’s non-Muni fleet, more than 70 percent runs on unleaded gasoline. Since Muni has a fleet that includes hybrid buses, buses that run on bio-diesel fuel, and electric trolley buses, it boosts San Francisco’s overall alternative-fuel fleet percentage to 35, Westlund said.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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