gas_pumps.jpgSan Francisco spends $25 million a year on gassing and diesel-ing up its fleet of city-owned cars and Muni buses — which consume more fuel per year than the national average — and plans to continue to do so, but supervisors approved an out on Wednesday that could allow both for fuel-cost savings and an increase in use of biofuels.

The Office of Contract Administration (OCA) asked a Board of Supervisors committee on Wednesday to approve a $50 million two-year contract with Western States Oil for the nine millon gallons of petroleum city vehicles consume annually.

But supervisors took a recommendation from the Budget Analyst, and approved only a one-year deal, with four one-year options to extend. That move was taken in light of a potential deal Muni may strike with other transit providers in the area to purchase biofuels as part of a consortium, meaning that if Muni can find a way to buy biofuel more cheaply, it won’t be locked into the current deal until 2011 as originally proposed.

How much gas does, say, a Rec and Park lawnmower use versus, say, a public defender’s pool car used to go visit clients? Someone knows, but not the folks buying the gas.OCA took four bids from companies seeking to provide San Francisco with sweet, sweet petrol, but did not have any data handy on usage or demand from the city’s myriad gas-guzzlers, the OCA’s Bill Jones said. Meaning — how much gas does, say, a Rec and Park lawnmower use versus, say, a public defender’s pool car used to go visit clients? Someone knows, but not the folks buying the gas.

The contract is also nonbinding, which means that if the city spends less than $25 million a year on gas, that’s all it spends. Likewise, if gas costs fluctuate, the city could spend less than $25 million — and not more than, according to the contract.

Those seeking to use simple math to make this a big issue should be forewarned. Yes, 9,000,000 gallons divided by 6,000 vehicles is 1500 gallons a year — triple the national annual average for mere citizens. But this total includes Muni vehicles, Rec and Park lawnmowers, and other uses that clearly are not typical or average for Joe Six-Pack and Jane Merlot.

However, the average annual use for public transportation buses is 1,300 gallons a year according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, putting “I’m so green!” San Francisco square on the side of the gasoline guzzlahs. On top of that, less than 500 of the city’s buses are diesel-operated, according to the SF MTA’s fact sheet.

And truth be told, there has not been a citywide study on ways in which the city’s automobile fleet could cut back on its gas use in some time, a fact that rankled Green Party member Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi at Wednesday’s hearing.

The contract was forwarded to the full Board, but don’t expect to have heard the last on this. Consumption and usage “can’t be disconnected… especially with claims regarding our ingenuity as an environmentally-friendly” city, Mirkarimi said.

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