EPA lists fuel-efficient cars members of Congress can lease

WASHINGTON — A congressman's campaign to force members of Congress to drive "green" is gassed up and ready to go.

Lincoln Navigators to tool around the old congressional district? Those were the days, my friend.

At a time when gasoline costs more than $4 per gallon, do lawmakers really want to sit behind the wheel of a big honking SUV or some other gas-guzzling symbol of luxury, and on the taxpayer's dime?

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver's three-year drive to bring fuel efficiency to the federal vehicle-leasing program finally got some wheels. The EPA finally has compiled a list of what can be leased under Cleaver's 2005 proposal, which requires members of the House of Representatives who lease a vehicle taxpayer expense to pick one with low greenhouse-gas emissions.

"We have been preaching in Washington the importance of escaping from our dependence on foreign oil and reducing our carbon output," the Missouri Democrat said. "Now, each member who uses taxpayer money to lease a vehicle is forced to walk their talk."

"It really shows terrific foresight, in fact way more than you would have found in Detroit," said Julia Bovey, a spokeswoman for the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group. "In 2005, they were still trying to figure out, 'What's the biggest SUV we can build?' "

Opponents of the measure included members from large congressional districts out West, sometimes with rugged terrain, who said they needed big cars and SUVs to get around. But Cleaver's measure passed last year as part of an energy bill.

More than 140 of the 435 House members use the leasing program, which pays the cost of the lease, gas and insurance. Leases usually run two years.

Many participants already lease vehicles with low greenhouse-gas emissions. The ones who're driving vehicles that didn't make the EPA list can continue to do so until their current leases expire.

It's not as if lawmakers will have to lose any style points under Cleaver's green regime. There are more than just Chevys, Subarus and KIA's.

The Lexus hybrid is an excellent choice. There are also several nice BMWs to choose from.

Cleaver's own Ford van, powered by vegetable oil and costing less than a $1 per gallon to run, didn't get the EPA stamp of approval. He's hoping for a waiver for the van, which gives off an aroma of greasy french fries.

If not, Congressman, could we interest you in a sporty Volvo convertible?