Obama to Double Federal Hybrid Fleet in 2010

Obama to Double Federal Hybrid Fleet in 2010

Image CC licensed by Flickr user Jim Legans, Jr

The federal government will order more than 5,000 hybrids this year, doubling the size of its hybrid fleet to more than 11,000.

The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) will also buy about 100 plug-in hybrids in 2011, President Barack Obama said today as part of a larger announcement on his broad energy security strategy.

His plan also includes boosting domestic oil drilling, finalizing new fuel economy and greenhouse gas emission standards for light-duty vehicles on Thursday, and enlisting the Department of Defense to develop a strategic approach to energy security and climate change.

The move follows President Obama's Executive Order requiring federal fleet consumption to drop 30 percent by 2020. The GSA invested more than $300 million in funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on more than 17,000 fuel-efficient vehicles last year, including a mix of hybrids, flex-fuel and four-cylinders. Putting these vehicles in service in place of less-efficient models will save taxpayers more than $40 million in fuel costs over the next seven years.

That included about 6,500 new vehicles for the U.S. Postal Service, the largest civilian fleet in the country. USPS operates more than 43,000 alternative fuel vehicles.

Swapping 5,603 of the federal fleets' least efficient vehicles for hybrids will increase the current total from 5,522 to 11,125 hybrid trucks and cars. The new vehicles will be purchased this spring and deployed beginning 90 days later throughout the rest of the calendar year. The size of the federal fleet will not increase with the new additions because the initiative fits within the each agency's planned 2010 fleet purchases. The purchases will likely include hybrid Ford Fusions, Ford Escapes and Chevy Silverados.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation will finalize tomorrow a rule that will increase corporate fuel economy standards for model year 2012-2016 light-duty vehicles. The rule brings the average fuel economy to 39 miles per gallon for passenger vehicles and 30 mpg for light trucks by 2016, trimming emissions from new cars and trucks by an estimated 30 percent.

The new emissions and fuel economy rules are the result of a long-running feud between the Bush-era EPA and several states seeking to regulate tailpipe emissions. Although this area of President Obama's new energy strategy is being hailed by environmental groups, the offshore drilling component is drawing criticism.

The plan would open up parts of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico and Arctic and Atlantic Oceans for potential drilling, but other sensitive areas, such as Bristol Bay in Alaska, would be spared.

"We're very disappointed to see important areas like the Arctic coast and the Mid and South Atlantic stay open to oil drilling," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement. "What we need is bold, decisive steps towards clean energy, like the new clean cars regulations announced this week -- not more dirty, expensive offshore drilling."

Image CC licensed by Flickr user Jim Legans, Jr.