Making good on his promise to go greener and seeking a way to provide at least a bit of relief to the beleaguered U.S. auto industry overall, President Obama has announced that the government will purchase 17,600 new American-made vehicles for use in its fleets. According to a White House statement, the General Services Administration will apply $285 million of the $300 million already approved in economic stimulus funds by June 1 to replace less-efficient conventional vehicles with new higher-mileage models from Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors. The overall goal of the program is the raise the government's average fleet mpg numbers by at least 10 percent, a bump that would help reduce their collective gasoline use by 1.3 million annually and drop carbon dioxide emissions by 26 million pounds.
One key element of this commitment involves purchasing up to 2,500 hybrid models by April 15. The GSA also plans to order a number of vehicles that operate on compressed natural gas or all-electric power as well as hybrid buses by September 30. It has pledged $15 billion in additional funding to underwrite further testing of advanced technology vehicles.
President Obama, already on record as hoping to convert the White House fleet to electric power within a year and to ultimately see half of the entire federal fleet be plug-in hybrids by 2012, was enthusiastic about the potential for change in this critical area. "This is only a first step, but I will continue to ensure that we are working to support the American auto industry during this difficult period of restructuring."
Those sentiments were welcomed by Michigan's Governor Jennifer Granholm, who noted that, "This is good news for the American auto companies and the hundreds of thousands of families who rely on those companies for their livelihoods. Bolstering sales at these companies is the best way to protect jobs."