Federal Government Finding it Tough to Go Green

Although President Obama has mandated exclusive reliance on alternative fueled vehicles by government fleets, in practice these goals are proving tougher to truly implement.

According to a report by Bloomberg Businessweek, higher costs associated with purchasing and maintaining hybrid and electric vehicles, along with lack of infrastructure, has resulted in federal agencies turning to conventional cars and trucks for their fleet needs.

This was determined after interviews with industry analysts and after noting that the government’s major fleet acquisition arm, the U.S. General Services Administration, purchased only 2,645 hybrid and electric vehicles in 2011 – a 59-percent decrease compared to 2010.

Granted, total vehicle purchasing by the GSA was also down, yet some 32,000 vehicles powered by internal combustion engines were ordered in 2011. The GSA says that these cars and trucks are all E85 capable, but while that may sound OK, only around 2,512 stations exist that serve E85 out of approximately 162,000 filling stations nationwide. This means the majority of federal fleet vehicles must burn regular gasoline.

Not surprisingly, the government’s approach to Obama’s acquisition policy has drawn criticism in some quarters, especially considering political rhetoric that’s emerged from the White House regarding the push towards greener transportation.

Allegations are that top levels of government are only talking about leading the way, but in practice agencies within government are finding ways to skirt mandates, said Rebecca Lindland, an analyst at IHS Automotive.

“You can say you’re engaged in this behavior – saving the world but it’s not a true picture of what you’re doing if the vehicles aren’t using alternative fuels,” she said.

Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign, which is pushing for higher fuel economy targets, added, “it’s disappointing that instead of buying as many advanced-technology vehicles as they should [the government is] buying cars that run on ethanol and gasoline.”

Making matters trickier still for the government is that, according to data compiled by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2010 (the latest year in which information is available), U.S. government gasoline use stood a 50.3 trillion British thermal units, which represents the highest rate of consumption in 25 years.

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  • Capt. Concernicus

    “According to a report by Bloomberg Businessweek, higher costs associated with purchasing and maintaining hybrid and electric vehicles, along with lack of infrastructure, has resulted in federal agencies turning to conventional cars and trucks for their fleet needs.”

    —P.S. There’s no infrastructure needed beyond what is already out there in order to buy hybrids like the Toyota Prius/Camry and the the Ford Fusion. It’s a real wastes of money and resources when they’re going after and purchasing E85 vehicles, but who doesn’t love throwing money down a toilet?

  • Robert Moffitt

    When the “green car” crowd turn on each other, the only winner is the staus quo.

    Hybrids, EVs, Plug-ins, Diesels, FFVs, Biodiesel, better MPG, mass transit, etc. –All play a role. In Minnesota, the state fleet has reduced petroleum consumption in light-duty vehicles by nearly 20%. They did this by using E85 whenever possible in their flex fuel vehicles. E85 is pretty easy to find in MN, with more than 360 stations.

  • BEW

    High maintenance? My Lexus RX400h has over 150,000 miles and has had very little mainetence. Now on second service battery, third set of tires and second set of brakes. And it has pulled a trailer for much of this time. Not bad huh?

  • MrEnergyCzar

    Ethanol is a net energy disaster. It takes oil to make corn so it’s not really a domestic fuel.


  • Max Reid

    Lufthansa is flying flights from Washington DC to Frankfurt using 50% Biofuel.

    Whats the problem for Fed in buying E85 directly from Ethanol companies at a cheaper price.

    Here is the list of flexfuel vehicles and GMs sells so many vehicles with V4 engines which should give much better mileage with 6-speed tranny. Domestic fuel, more local jobs, cleaner fuel and no need to borrow to buy foreign oil.


  • JIME85

    As a federal employee, I use only E85 in both my federal vehicle (I am assigned a dodge van flexfuel). and in my own car (an Impala).

    I only need one station- not hundreds in my area– to fuel up. My state has about 140 stations (http://e85prices.com for a list of stations and a map) so I have plenty of places to fill up wherever I go. And now with gasoline at $3.89, and E85 at $2.89, ethanol is a better financial bargain for the taxpayer too.

  • veek

    What criteria are they using for cost, maintenance, efficiency, etc. and why can’t they find suitable vehicles they want the rest of us to use? If “green” vehicles are too costly or too inefficient or unsuitable in some other way, shouldn’t the GSA give the rest of us this information?

    Disappointing but not unexpected, given that the federal execs are solid (and usually long-term) members of the “1% Club.” How hypocritical. Instead of setting the example, I would be very surprised if the federal government’s executive fleet fuel economy is anywhere near the nation’s average. Regrettable, but it’s how they run their country. On the bright side, our local military senior officers are using Escape and Lincoln hybrids, and it is a good example to follow.

  • VladiMIR CRUZ

    Well then Get an alignment done and stop being such an aggressive driver.!

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  • Sitense

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