‘Green city’ fleet’s $20M gas guzzle

Memo to City Hall: Despite Mayor Gavin Newsom’s ambitious initiative to make San Francisco one of the world’s most environmentally friendly cities, roughly 30 percent of the vehicles used by city departments — excluding Muni buses and trains — are presently running on alternative fuels.

This year the municipal vehicle fleet will burn nearly $20 million worth of increasingly costly gasoline and spew some 80,000 tons of carbon emissions into the air.

Newsom actually issued an executive directive back in 2005 that required city fleets to purchase vehicles using alternative fuels. But exemptions were permitted “when no alternative-fueled vehicle is available that meets specification.”

The Recreation and Park Department currently has no fewer than 13 new 2008 pickup trucks running on unleaded fuel, according to The City’s official car list.

In 2006, an independent study listing America’s top 10 city fleets running on alternative fuels did not include San Francisco. At the time of that report, 15 percent of San Francisco’s fleet used alternative fuel. But the top cities had 25 percent to 63 percent of their fleets as green vehicles.

The researchers theorized that San Francisco could conceivably convert its fleet of vehicles entirely to alternative fuel operation within three to five years, as existing vehicles were phased out.

Naturally, The Examiner is not calling on The City to immediately auction off and replace all its cars and trucks — especially when the projected 2008-09 municipal deficit is currently $338 million and probably still growing.

But the price of unleaded gasoline is surging to previously unheard-of heights and pressuring cash-strapped city departments are already facing significant budget cutbacks. So we just wonder why officials are not making a more determined effort to replace retired vehicles with alternates that are electric hybrids or run on propane, bio-diesel, ethanol-gas blend or all-electric.

This policy would seem to deliver a winning result all around. Department managers would gain savings that could be applied to more valuable purposes, simply by selecting replacement vehicles running on noticeably cheaper fuels.

And it does seem odd that “Green San Francisco’s” own vehicle fleet is directly responsible for producing 1 percent of the carbon emissions dirtying The City’s air and adding 80,000 tons of pollution to global warming.

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