The federal government could save more than $25 billion through 2025 if 20% of its third-party transportation providers were required to adopt the same alternative fuel targets, efficiency standards and reporting practices used by federal agencies’ fleets, according to a report by the American Clean Skies Foundation (ACSF).

The report by ACSF, a nonprofit natural gas advocacy group, complements a new report by the National Petroleum Council, which outlines the potential for increased use of alternative fuels for transportation (see related story).

According to ACSF’s 55-page report, switching federal transportation contracts to vans and trucks powered by alternative fuels — including natural gas — could reduce oil consumption by billions of gallons a year and cut greenhouse gases by more than 20 million metric tons a year.

“When it comes to shipping goods to the government, we think it’s high time for Washington to start ‘buying American’ and using more carriers that rely upon cleaner domestic fuels,” said ACSF CEO Gregory Staple, who co-authored the report. “That will not only save billions of taxpayer dollars but also lead to cheaper and less polluting freight transportation options for everyone else.”

Staple and co-author Warren Lavey, an ACSF senior regulatory counsel, recommend having federal agencies publish annual targets for buying more alternative fuels, starting in 2014. They then recommend that the agencies require major carriers use alternative fuels for at least 5% of their contracted shipments, increasing by at least 2% every year from 2015 to 2025. The authors recommend that in 2016 the agencies start publishing annual targets for the use of more alternative fuels.

ACSF’s report also recommends having Congress encourage a shift in transportation spending and have the Government Accountability Office begin submitting, by 2013, an annual report on the effectiveness of federal efforts to increase the use of alternative fuels and reduce transportation costs.

“Most people are probably unaware that the freight services which are used by the government and major product suppliers provide a 30-times larger opportunity for oil savings and emissions reductions than the cars and trucks that the government owns itself,” Lavey said. “Our proposal does not require any new legislation or spending.

“Federal agencies already have the legal authority required to track the oil used and pollution associated with third-party shipping services. And agencies also have the authority to begin buying those services from freight carriers that increasingly rely on cleaner, domestically sourced alternative fuels.”

ACSF said the federal government owns or leases about 660,000 cars and trucks, and spent $1.4 billion on gasoline and diesel fuel in 2011. But federal agencies annually spend about $50 billion to procure the services of third-party transportation providers, and another $100 billion on delivery costs.

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