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Iowa Senator Grassley Gets Riled Over Idling Federal Fleet Vehicles

July 16, 2008

WASHINGTON – With gas prices climbing toward $5 per gallon nationwide, energy efficiency is all the rage these days. But some government employees just aren’t conserving enough, says one Republican lawmaker, according to the Web site www.govexec.com.

Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley recently sent a letter to President Bush on expressing concern over “federal government SUVs and sedans idling for hours in Washington alone while waiting for their passengers.” Grassley, who refers to his “farm-bred green thumb” on his official Web site, targeted those vehicles ferrying around high-level government officials — including Cabinet secretaries — as some of the biggest culprits of the practice.

Cars and other vehicles used for official government business come from a variety of sources. Agencies can contact the General Services Administration, which operates a fleet of about 210,000 vehicles including automobiles and passenger vans, or they can lease or purchase cars through commercial vendors. GSA’s fleet also includes alternative-fuel vehicles. But Grassley’s complaint was with drivers, more than the vehicles themselves.

“There are likely thousands of situations such as this where fuel is being wasted by federal employees who have never been instructed to use common sense to reduce fuel use in their daily job duties,” Grassley said in his letter.

In his 2007 State of the Union address, Bush asked Americans to reduce their gasoline usage by 20 percent during the next decade. He then issued an executive order requiring the federal government to lead the way by cutting its energy consumption. Under the order, agencies operating fleets of at least 20 motor vehicles must reduce their use of petroleum products by two percent a year through the end of fiscal 2015, according to www.govexec.com.

Grassley, who is the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, said the government looks “out of touch” when drivers allow cars to idle as the rest of the country struggles with rising fuel prices.

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