State employees who work out of the office pay for fuel with government credit cards. The DGS is considering using government purchase card data to determine where employees buy fuel for state vehicles. The agency could then work with the California Air Resources Board (ARB) - which recently received legislative funding to establish alternative energy infrastructure in the state - to suggest appropriate locations for alternative fuel sites.

"You're going to see the adoption of these alternative fuels at a much greater rate than you would if you were to force employees to do all this other stuff. It would cost you money. It would slow things down. It would interrupt that child support services worker, and if you multiply that by 215,000 employees, you've got yourself a productivity problem," Semmes said.

The state also could track vehicle usage efficiency by installing GPS systems in them. However, state leaders have resisted GPS vehicle trackers.

"It's not part of this project, but it's something we'd like to try. A lot of folks have wanted to go down this road over the years, but when they found out that either the modules cost $800 a car or whatever the issue was, everybody got cold feet," Semmes said. He said collaboration between the California Department of Transportation and the EPA to secure funding for GPS trackers is a possibility. If the DGS can't find enough money to install them in every car, it could install them in some, but in a way drivers couldn't detect which vehicles had them, said Semmes.

Even with that compromise, GPS systems would be a tough sell with many state employees.

He said the best way to implement GPS systems would be with the intent to use the data for overall analysis of all vehicle activity - not individual vehicle travel.

"You can look at the driving habits over a period of time and say, 'Look at that. This department is driving with a sedan with one person in it from this location to that location. At the same time, another department is driving with a sedan with one person in it from the same location to the same location. Let's combine the trips and ditch one of those cars,'" Semmes said.

Benchmark It

California state government must track exactly how much energy it uses - and where it uses that energy the most - in order to achieve the mandated 20 percent cut in energy consumption. Rather than collecting massive stores of data on energy usage and building a new database to establish benchmarks, Semmes is taking advantage of existing resources outside state government. The federal Energy Star program already has a database built for analyzing power consumption. And the power utilities already have information on where and how much electricity agencies use because electricity is metered. Instead of asking agencies to assemble the data, Semmes will have utilities download the information directly into the Energy Star database.

"We can use that benchmarking data to determine what makes sense economically and which green things we should be doing," Semmes said.

But there are limits on the level of detail those benchmarks would provide at various facilities. In many cases, just one meter measures electricity for an entire campus. Semmes said the limited benchmarks would at least give the DGS a head start as it prioritizes energy efficiency efforts.

Mapping the Wind

Property tax revenue is pouring into a once-anemic government budget in Cascade County, Mont., thanks to a wind speed GIS tool the county provides to wind power developers.

Normally when a new business moves to Cascade County, it relocates to the city of Great Falls for access to sewer and water infrastructure. Consequently outlying county areas often

Andy Opsahl  | 

Andy Opsahl is a former writer and features editor for Government Technology magazine.