On Wednesday, the day after his State of the Union speech, President Bush signed an Executive Order called "Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management" which deals with energy use by federal agencies. An EO is kind of like a law that never made it through Congress, and EOs have been used to do everything from setting up NOAA to giving the President immense powers with the War Powers Act in 1917.
This week's EO, which you can read here, requires agencies to make a lot of little changes to conserve energy – use less water, buy needed materials that are "biobased, environmentally preferable, energy-efficient, water-efficient, and recycled-content products," and much more. For our purposes, the important section is this one:

"(The head of each agency shall) ensure that, if the agency operates a fleet of at least 20 motor vehicles, the agency, relative to agency baselines for fiscal year 2005, (i) reduces the fleet's total consumption of petroleum products by 2 percent annually through the end of fiscal year 2015, (ii) increases the total fuel consumption that is non-petroleum-based by 10 percent annually, and (iii) uses plug-in hybrid (PIH) vehicles when PIH vehicles are commercially available at a cost reasonably comparable, on the basis of life-cycle cost, to non-PIH vehicles" (law enforcement, emergency and military tactical vehicles are exempted from this EO).

Of course, I'm for anything that moves us off of petroleum and into a cleaner energy future, but this EO brings up a lot of questions. Is the plug-in purchase requirement – as opposed to a standard hybrid or diesel requirement – just a punt because everyone knows plug-in cars won't be available for a few years? Could an agency head decide to buy a fleet of Priuses and get someone to convert it to plug-in status? Why not require agencies to buy NEVs (of bikes, for that matter) for getting around large federal agency campuses, or for workers that run errands around town during the day? And if the automakers needed any more incentive to bring plug-ins to market (beside an overwhelming consumer desire for them), knowing that federal agencies are required to buy your product should convince someone – GM? Honda? Ford? – be first out of the gate, right?

And isn't the accepted term for plug-in hybrids PHEV, not PIH?

[Source: The White House, EERE]


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