While Europe is planning to take the drastic and awesome leap of banning all gas-powered vehicles by 2050, President Obama wants to take a much smaller step in the same general direction by requiring all new government vehicles run on clean energy by the year 2015. But if you're looking for a fleet of new Tesla Roadsters with "USA" on the sides, you're going to be out of luck.
It's worth mentioning that the government has been inching toward this goal for a while now; all government agencies are mandated to improve the fuel consumption of their vehicle fleets by a percentage every year and are encouraged to make new vehicle purchases eco-friendly. However, there's a lot of leeway in this whole "clean energy" thing, which seems to primarily mean "non-foreign oil." So, we're not talking about hydrogen cars, or electric cars, or compressed natural gas cars, or even hybrid cars. What's likely going to happen is that the government is just going to transition entirely to vehicles that run primarily on biofuels like E-85 ethanol. And when I say "transition entirely," keep in mind that there are exemptions for law enforcement and emergency use vehicles, among other things.
I'm basing this on looking at at the GSA's planned vehicle acquisitions for 2011 and 2012. The GSA (or General Services Administration) is the government agency that provides cars to government employees, and it leases or purchases several hundred new vehicles every year. For 2011, for example, the GSA plans to lease 262 vehicles that qualify for EPA 'alternative fuel' credits, and 255 of them get those credits from being able to run on E-85, with the remainder (all seven of them) being hybrids or running on compressed natural gas. And at this point, 2012 looks to be much the same.
Don't get me wrong, E-85 is (arguably) much better for the environment than gasoline, especially if that gasoline is comes from foreign sources. And it's great that the government is trying to lead by example here. But the example they're leading by isn't exactly the technological inspiration that I was hoping for. It's hard to blame them, I suppose, since change is difficult and E-85 is something that's safe and cheap and readily available, but the fact remains that we're not exactly leading the charge here in the US when it comes to innovative ways of encouraging the next generation of transportation technology.