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President Barack Obama’s administration is buying fewer hybrid and electric cars and more vehicles that can consume both ethanol and gasoline to meet 2015 environmental goals, favoring older technology over new.
Obama gave speeches across the U.S. last year touting his twin goals of buying only alternative-fuel vehicles for the U.S. fleet by 2015 and getting 1 million electric vehicles on the country’s roads by that year.
That’s looking more difficult as the federal government learns the same lesson that U.S. car consumers have already figured out: it is tough being green. Rather than leading the way, the government has discovered that the high cost of hybrids and electric cars and their lack of availability often mean it makes more sense to buy cars with fuel-efficient conventional engines.
U.S. General Services Administration purchases of hybrid and electric models fell 59 percent in fiscal 2011 to about 2,645 as the federal fleet added 32,000 cars and trucks that can burn a fuel that’s 85 percent ethanol, or E85 vehicles, when it’s available.
The U.S. government, which has given automakers and suppliers money to develop electric-vehicle technologies, last year bought 2,645 hybrid, electric and fuel-cell vehicles, less than 5 percent of the 54,843 vehicles it bought, according to the data.
The GSA purchases in fiscal 2011 included 145 General Motors Co. Chevrolet Volts, 12 percent of Ford Motor Co. Fusion hybrids sold in 2011 and even two-seat electric versions of Daimler AG Smart car, according to GSA data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
In the year ended Sept. 30, the U.S. government also bought 1,380 hybrid Fusions, 101 Honda Motor Co. Insight hybrids and one Toyota Motor Corp. Prius among its alternative-fuel vehicle purchases.
In 2010, the most-recent data available, the U.S. government’s gasoline use rose to a 25-year high, increasing 3.3 percent to 50.3 trillion British thermal units, according to preliminary data compiled by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Obama has said he wants to reduce U.S. oil imports, saying promoting greener vehicles is part of that strategy