As part of the U.S.’ aim to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, as it gradually decarbonizes the economy between now and then, President Biden is adamant that the federal government should be leading by example. As well as introducing several climate policies during his time in government, most recently the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), he has pledged to reduce government carbon emissions substantially over the next decade by introducing a variety of carbon-cutting measures. Under his administration, the federal government will begin to switch to renewable energy sources for its electricity, adopt electric vehicles, and adapt its infrastructure making it possible to cut carbon and shift to cleaner energy sources.
In late 2021, President Biden signed an executive order stating that the federal government would massively reduce its emissions, by 65 percent by the end of the decade, in an effort to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. As well as switching to renewable energy sources for power and heating, Biden plans to invest billions in the expansion of a federal fleet of electric vehicles (EVs). According to a White House fact sheet, the government plans to replace its fleet of 600,000 cars and trucks with EVs in the coming years, shifting to buy 100 percent zero-emissions vehicles by 2035.
The White House will work closely with EV, battery, and charging equipment manufacturers and suppliers in the U.S. to achieve these targets. This builds upon Biden’s bigger infrastructure and energy aims for the country, with his bipartisan infrastructure plan offering $7.5 billion for the construction of a network of EV charging stations across the U.S.
The government hopes to be able to run off carbon-zero electricity by 2030, investing billions in upgrading efficiency at its 300,000 buildings. The order introduced aims to cut the emissions of federal buildings by 50 percent by 2032 and achieve net-zero CO2 emissions by 2045. In addition, it outlined plans to develop at least 10 GW of clean electricity in the U.S. by 2030.
Sarah Bloom Raskin, treasury deputy secretary under President Barack Obama, explained how the move could help encourage private companies and the public to transition away from fossil fuels to renewable alternatives. She stated, “The government is a significant driver of demand,” adding that federal procurement officers can “send a signal” even without adopting new regulations or passing legislation. She also said, “It doesn’t tell the private sector entities what to do, but to some extent, it will demand a certain kind of good and service so companies can shift what’s being made.”
Investing heavily in renewables and adopting low-carbon technologies will not only show private companies what is possible, but it could also help reduce the costs of these technologies by boosting national uptake and encouraging greater research and development in the sector. The purchase of hundreds of thousands of EVs will help fund research, development, and production in the sector, which could lead to greater breakthroughs in battery technology and the materials used in manufacturing.
The most recent sector to back this initiative is the U.S. postal service, which announced in December that it plans to buy at least 66,000 electric delivery vehicles to transform its fleet countrywide. This is part of a larger target to acquire 106,000 EVs by 2028. Its existing fleet is made up of around 220,000 vehicles. This comes after mounting pressure from environmentalists and the public towards the Postal Service (USPS) over its lack of climate action. In recent years, the USPS has continued to purchase new fossil fuel-powered vehicles, rather than electric alternatives, leading to widespread criticism.
The move follows several new national climate policies and funding to support the switch to renewable energy. The USPS expects to invest around $9.6 billion in these EVs, with a third of this funding coming from Biden’s IRA. This move will give the USPS one of the biggest EV fleets in the U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy stated, “We have a statutory requirement to deliver mail and packages to 163 million addresses six days per week and to cover our costs in doing so — that is our mission.” He added, “As I have said in the past, if we can achieve those objectives in a more environmentally responsible way, we will do so.”
Since the COP26 climate summit in 2021, President Biden has made a wide variety of climate pledges, including federal targets and supporting policies. By offering funding for renewable energy innovation and uptake, the U.S. government is clearly trying to lead by example and encourage private companies to do the same. Based on the flurry of climate targets and policies over the last year, the U.S. certainly seems to be moving more aggressively towards an energy transition.
By Felicity Bradstock for Oilprice.com
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