"We have had a fuel conservation plan since '09," Burnette tells Xpress. The plan has three levels: the first is close to the city's normal level of operations, the second level comes into play if the city doesn't anticipate fuel delivery in the immediate future and has to dial back services. The third level is an emergency situation where fuel is only reserved for essential services.
Right now, the city is monitoring the advance of Hurricane Isaac "very closely," he notes, but so far hasn't seen a need to reduce services to start conserving fuel. In case of a shortage similar to 2008, the city has reserves that will last for about 15 days of normal operations, three weeks under reduced services and six to eight weeks if it puts emergency conservation into place.
"We can do that without any additional fuel," Burnette says. "We've asked how we can increase our capacity. So if we had no additional fuel to run city services, we want to stretch how long we can go."
In addition to local conservation efforts, the city is also negotiating contracts to ensure it access to national fuel supplies in case of shortages. In a recent tabletop scenario evaluation by federal and state officials, Burnette said that particular option helped the city get high marks.
"Once the static supply runs out, it's gone," he says. "So being able to tap into the national supply seems to be the most logical solution. Opening up access to other carriers, establishing those relationships means that when the fuel supply is at risk, they'll be more responsive to their existing customers."
Burnette also encourages Ashevilleans to be personally prepared for any emergency or shortage, asking them to visit ready.gov and plan accordingly.