President Barack Obama's directive that, starting in 2015, all new vehicles bought by the U.S. government will be hybrids, electric vehicles and other alternative-fuel vehicles is misguided.
In this era of political instability in the Middle East and rising gasoline prices, it is understandable that the president wants to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. It also is reasonable for the government to reduce its own consumption of products derived from petroleum, such as gasoline and plastics.
But it is wrong for the government to specify which technologies must be purchased to achieve the savings, especially since some of the technologies mentioned are more expensive than others and will take more tax dollars to purchase.
Rather, the government should set a reasonable fuel economy bogey, along with other required specifications, and let automakers compete to provide products that meet the specs.
The federal government operates more than 600,000 vehicles, which gives it tremendous purchasing power. As a result, automakers may have an incentive to produce those types of vehicles, even though there has been insignificant demand from consumers. But government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers from among various automotive technologies.