tampabay.com

Governor trades guzzler for hybrid-engine SUV

Gov. Jeb Bush also orders government offices to make energy-saving changes.

By JONI JAMES
Published September 3, 2005


TALLAHASSEE - The governor has turned in his gas guzzler.

Less than 24 hours after urging Floridians to turn up thermostats and curtail gasoline use in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Gov. Jeb Bush rode Friday in a white Ford Escape Hybrid, one of the first SUV models to combine electric and gas power. The vehicle, secured from the state Department of Environmental Protection fleet, replaces the tan Ford Expedition his security detail has used for years to ferry him about Tallahassee.

"It's kind of hard to be arguing to conserve gasoline when you're driving around in a Ford Expedition that guzzles it down at a 6- to 8-mile per gallon clip," Bush said after arriving at a northeast Tallahassee Mormon Church where hurricane evacuees were staying.

For the record, Ford Motor Co.'s Web site says its Expedition gets about 14 miles per gallon in city driving and 19 on the highway. But its Escape Hybrid gets an EPA-estimated 36 mpg in town and 31 on the highway. "This baby outside . . . makes more sense," Bush said.

Since Hurricane Katrina whacked oil platforms and refineries in the middle gulf region Monday, state officials have urged Floridians to use fuel and electricity wisely. That message swelled in volume Thursday when gas stations across Florida began reporting they were out of fuel and utilities reported problems obtaining natural gas.

Bush ordered state facilities to raise their thermostats to 78 degrees and take other energy saving measures. He asked all Floridians to do the same as part of a "shared sacrifice."

His additional sacrifice: folding his 6-foot-4 frame Friday into a decidedly smaller SUV.