Federal Times Blogs

Poll: Most favor higher fuel efficiency standards

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Most Americans favor higher government-imposed fuel-efficiency standards, according to a poll released last week.

The survey of 1,000 likely voters showed 85 percent favor government requirements to increase fuel efficiency in cars and 78 percent favor government regulation reducing emissions from large trucks, SUVs and minivans.

Respondents also support increased fuel efficiency standards even if the price of the car goes up by $3,000, with 66 percent still favoring the proposal and 28 percent opposed.

The Environmental Protection Agency received a favorable response: 63 percent of respondents saw the agency favorably or very favorably.

Environment America, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and the Union of Concerned Scientists sponsored the poll, which was conducted by the Mellman Group and has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

Sound off on carbon footprint accounting

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My cover story in this week’s Federal Times details the federal government’s new goal to cut indirect greenhouse gas emissions by 13 percent during the next decade. The bulk of the story explains the impact on federal workers — more telecommuting, fewer business trips out of state, increased recycling and energy conservation efforts.

But as I mention in the article, this is just part of a much larger undertaking to measure and shrink the government’s entire carbon footprint, including the energy used in federal facilities and vehicles.

Under an October executive order from President Obama, all agencies must undertake their first-ever comprehensive accounting of greenhouse gas emissions and report their carbon footprints by Jan. 31.

The White House Council on Environmental Quality earlier this month issued a roadmap for agencies to follow in conducting this inventory. The roadmap is divided into two parts: an overall guidance document, and a more detailed technical support document.

CEQ will accept public comments on the two documents through Sept. 1.

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GSA doubles federal hybrid vehicle fleet

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The  General Services Administration is replacing more than 5,600 of its least fuel-efficient cars and trucks with hybrids, the agency announced today.

The move effectively doubles the federal government’s inventory of hybrid vehicles, which pair an electric motor with a traditional gasoline-powered engine.

The new hybrids will be leased to agencies that are replacing vehicles this year. The Energy Department already said it will take 753 of the 5,603 new vehicles, bringing the total number of hybrid vehicles in the department to 888.

The purchases announced today are in addition to the 3,100 hybrid vehicles agencies received last year as part of the Recovery Act, a GSA spokeswoman said.

In addition to the hybrid vehicles, the federal government will purchase the first 100 plug-in electric vehicles as they roll off American assembly lines later this year, President Obama said. He made the announcement as part of a larger set of initiatives designed to wean the nation off fossil fuels and foreign sources of oil.

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Secret Service agent survives NYC car crash

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The driving techniques they teach Secret Service agents must be pretty effective. An off-duty Secret Service agent escaped unscathed from a serious crash on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in New York yesterday, according to the New York Post.

The agent’s government-owned car spun out of control and smashed into a concrete barrier on the busy highway after he was cut off and hit by a tractor trailer during rush hour, the Post reported. The rear wheels of the truck flattened the front of the agent’s car, but the agent was not hurt and declined medical care, according to the report.

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No more texting and driving, feds

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The federal government wants you to do this.

The federal government wants you to do this.

If you’re a federal employee, you can no longer text while driving on company time.

President Obama issued an Oct. 1 executive order banning federal employees from texting while driving for work, and that order took effect Wednesday. The order bans feds from using government-supplied electronics while driving, as well as texting while driving government-owned vehicles or while driving privately-owned vehicles on official government business.

Federal contracts are encouraged to adopt their own policies banning texting behind the wheel.

More than 4 million federal employees will be banned from texting on company time, according to a Transportation Department news release. Some agencies had a head start in banning texting: Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood ordered all 58,000 agency employees to comply immediately with the president’s executive order.

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More new cars on the way

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Federal agencies will be trading in more of their gas guzzlers for fuel-efficient cars soon.

The General Services Administration announced today that it ordered 14,105 vehicles from the big three automakers, using $210 million in stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

That’s on top of the 3,100 hybrid vehicles GSA purchased in April for $77 million. Another order for $15 million in advanced technology buses and electric vehicles will be made by Sept. 30, GSA said.

The new vehicles will replace older models that are less fuel efficient. Of the total vehicles purchased so far, 7,924 are Fords, 6,348 are from General Motors and 2,933 are Chrysler vehicles.

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New green goals coming

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The White House is developing an executive order that will set new goals for greening federal agencies, the administration’s top environmental policy adviser said this afternoon.

The White House Council on Environmental Quality is working with several agencies to draft the new presidential directive, council chairwoman Nancy Sutley said during an Earth Day event at the State Department. Sutley did not say when the order will be issued.

Existing laws and executive orders already require agencies to cut their energy and water consumption, increase their use of renewable energy, purchase environmentally preferable products and buy alternative fuel vehicles. Sutley said the new order will go even further.

The order will closely integrate federal greening actions and set new goals for energy efficiency, the use of renewable energy, the purchase of fuel-efficient cars, water conservation and encourage overall sustainability.

For those of you who read your Federal Times closely each week, Sutley’s comments should come as no surprise. We reported this week that the administration was reviewing all existing goals to determine which ones should be updated, modified or otherwise revised to meet the Obama administration’s green government commitments.

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Green products guide

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With pressure mounting to purchase environmentally friendly products, sorting through the various federal programs to determine whether there are specific products identified that meet environmental standards can be daunting.

After all, federal agencies are rating scores of products — everything from awards and bed linens to vending machines and water coolers — for recycled and biobased content, energy and water savings and absence of environmentally harmful chemicals or gases.

Agencies are required to buy environmentally preferable products, but finding out whether green alternatives exist for products being purchased is often a time- consuming and frustrating exercise.

Now there is a tool to make it a little easier. An intern at the White House Office of the Federal Environmental Executive has compiled environmental ratings from nine federal programs on products cutting across 18 broad categories into an Excel spreadsheet.

It’s the first time all of the designated products have been compiled into an easy to use tool for facility and fleet managers, information technology personnel, contracting officials and those who are certifying the products and services, said Dana Arnold, the acting federal environmental executive.

Arnold said the tool will be posted to both www.ofee.gov and www.fedcenter.gov and updated as new products are designated.

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The automakers might disagree…

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On ABC World News last night, reporter Jonathan Karl said this about the stimulus package:

But Republicans say the bill is filled with old-fashioned big-government spending that won’t stimulate the economy. For example, $335 million for sexually transmitted disease prevention, $600 million to buy new cars for government employees, and $1 billion to follow up on the 2010 Census, which, of course, hasn’t happened yet.

You can argue that $1 billion for the 2010 Census isn’t stimulative. We’ll buy that. But do some Congressmen really believe spending $600 million to upgrade the federal fleet (read: buying new cars) won’t help the economy?

The automakers might beg to differ.

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Get ready for transition…to SmartPay2

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Attention government travelers, buyers and drivers: You may be immersed in the presidential transition (and have plans to flee work for the holiday weekend), but don’t forget this weekend is another transition…to the new government purchase, travel and fleet charge cards.

At 11:59 p.m. Nov. 29 your old SmartPay cards will be useless, so be sure to have the new cards at the ready. That’s what David Shea, director of the General Services Administration’s SmartPay 2 program, tells us here at FedLine.

Shea has these tips for feds who may be working this holiday weekend and need to use their cards:

  • Activate the new card in advance of the Nov. 29 deadline.
  • If you are going on travel, bring both cards with you to avoid getting stuck with an inactive card.
  • Have the number for your agency’s card manager handy in case you run into trouble.

Shea expects that there will be few problems with transition this weekend. The last agencies to make their choice of card providers did so back in July, meaning there was plenty of time for cards to arrive and new accounting systems to be installed. Also, the holiday weekend means there will be little activity over the transition period.

But with more than 3 million purchase, travel and fleet cards mailed to federal employees across the nation, there are likely to be some hiccups along the way, Shea said. That’s why he and his staff will be on call all weekend to put out any major card-related fires.

FedLine suspects he’ll also be collecting the wishbone from his Thanksgiving turkey for luck.

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