The City has spent $14 million in the last three fiscal years in fuel for government vehicles. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Budget analyst wants SF to cap spending on gasoline

San Francisco’s budget analyst wants to reduce the proposed five-year, $40 million gas contract being voted on Thursday to ensure The City does not increase fuel use from today’s level for the sake of the environment.

The Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee will vote Thursday on the contract with Western States Oil, just days after The City hosted Gov. Jerry Brown’s climate change summit and made a host of commitments to benefit the environment.

“For the City to achieve its greenhouse gas reduction goals, consumption of gasoline for the municipal fleet should decrease over time,” said a report from the Budget Analyst.

The report says that if The City use of gasoline remains flat from last fiscal year, taking into consideration price fluctuations, it shouldn’t spend more than $32 million. The budget analyst recommends reducing the contract from $40 million to $32 million to prevent The City from increasing usage.

City Administrator Naomi Kelly, who oversees the citywide fuel contract, is willing to agree to the amendment and expects usage to actually decrease during the term of the contract, according to spokesman Bill Barnes.

In the past three fiscal years, San Francisco has spent a total of $14 million on gasoline to fuel cars, trucks SUVs and equipment across all city departments, including Central Shops fueling stations, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency San Francisco and the Fire Department.

Gasoline purchases were $5.4 million last fiscal year, up from the $4.4 million three years ago. The cost of gasoline has fluctuated in past years along with gallons used.

In calendar year 2014, The City used 1,895,040 gallons of gasoline, which increased to 1,942,825 gallons in 2015. Use declined in 2016 to 1,905,404 gallons then rose to 1,937,392 gallons last year, according to data provided by Barnes.

Currently, The City uses gasoline to fuel about 2,553 vehicles and 2,326 pieces of equipment, according to the report.

Barnes defended the contract as necessary to fuel essential government operations and noted that the marketplace is limited when it comes to gasoline alternatives for equipment and vehicles other than sedans. Barnes said “The City has been focused on its passenger fleet” when it comes to switching to alternative fueled vehicles.

Last year, Supervisor Katy Tang successfully passed legislation to require city departments to switch over to zero emission vehicles over time. She said as a result of the legislation city departments “requesting to purchase new vehicles go through a screening process – which never happened before.”

“This is a great improvement process-wise, but I certainly hope that all departments will make more of a concerted effort to switch to zero emission vehicles and reduce our reliance on gasoline,” Tang said, when asked about the proposed contract.

A City Controller’s audit of the usage of government vehicle released in July points to problem areas and recommendations for improvement that could help reduce gasoline usage. Barnes said the city is “taking those steps” recommended by the audit.

The audit said that The City “still lacks formal policies and procedures surrounding vehicle utilization, fuel economy, idling, and disposal that would guide departments in purchasing decisions and regulating vehicle use. Consequently, the City may own more light-duty vehicles than it needs.”

Excessive idling can waste fuel. “Light-duty vehicles that idled for more than five minutes at a time wasted more than 15,000 gallons of fuel, or over $38,000 during January through June 2017,” the audit found.

Also, the audit found that “The City could own fewer passenger cars and trucks and instead use much more affordable transportation alternatives, including public transit and bicycles, for the relatively few trips for which it uses its 157 consistently underused light-duty vehicles.”

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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