The Washington Times - August 27, 2008, 05:06PM

With such a large perimeter surrounding the festivities, the popularity of motorized golf carts to get around at the Democratic National Convention in Denver is huge. Oddly, though, at this “green convention,” many of these small vehicles are gasoline-powered rather than electric.

A security guard dropping off a passenger confirmed that his cart was gas-powered and said most of the units in use here are. Asked whether that was appropriate for an environmentally sensitive gathering, he snapped, “Well, how do you fell about it?” and proceeded to give a lecture on how I was only able to attend the convention because of gas fuel. Then he sped off.

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Volunteers driving carts for disabled and handicapped visitors were much more open. The volunteers were upset at first to learn of the gas-powered carts, but convention volunteer driver Dina Allen explained that “they had to go out and get extra carts that they weren’t anticipating” because of the high number of people needing rides. She said she thought only a minority of the carts for disabled delegates and conventioneers used the less-green gas fuel.

But it’s not only the handicapped who can be seen scooting about on gas-powered carts. It’s security guards, vendors, reporters and convention VIPs as well.

A Democratic National Convention vendor who asked not to be named said the gas carts were in heavy use here because “they were the only golf carts available. They ran out of the green ones.”

The convention actually has an “official vehicle provider” — General Motors — which has provided a green fleet of hybrid, fuel-efficient cars. But the GM fleet includes only full-sized vehicles, not golf carts, convention spokesman Damon Jones confirmed.

Mr. Jones said he believed all the official carts rented for the convention were electric, but he added that the organizers have no authority to ban other kinds of vehicles anyone else brings in to travel around the perimeter. “We can encourage it; it isn’t something under our control,” he said.

Greg Martin of General Motors explained in more detail about the vehicle fleet provided to the convention committee. The fleet totals 450 vehicles, with 300 of these hybrids. The hybrids are a mix of full-sized SUVs as well as two-passengers vehicles. Most are Malibus, Saturn Vues and Auras. The other 150 in the fleet are flex-fuel vehicles that run on E-85 ethanol donated by Molson-Coors, which made the fuel out of beer waste.

Mr. Martin said that GM is also the Official Vehicle Provider of the Republican National Convention. The RNC will have a similar fleet of 285 vehicles, including 100 hybrids and 185 flex-fuel/E-85 fuel-efficient vehicles. GM has been the official vehicle provider at both parties’ conventions since 1980.

Mr. Martin explained that the fleets are to be used at the discretion of the convention committees and host committees for transportation at the convention. GM has nothing to do with the use of buses, which are the major means of transportation for delegations and volunteers and are being used for transportation to and from area hotels. GM also has nothing to do with the carts used for ground transportation within the perimeter. GM also has nothing to do with any vehicles at the convention that are not under the control of the convention committee.

So although there is a fleet of fuel-efficient vehicles, if other vehicles are still being utilized and the use of these efficient vehicles is not maximized, how much effect does this really have?

— Erin M. Moffet