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Biden’s ‘Buy American’ Executive Order Pushes for Electric Vehicles

Federal Agency/Executive Branch, Federal Regulation, Opinions, Policy, White House
January 28, 2021

by Tyne Morgan (AgWeb) Biofuels groups have high hopes a Biden Administration will get the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) back on track. But an announcement just days on the job seems to showcase a Biden Administration’s push for electric vehicles instead.

The news came as a surprise to biofuels groups, saying biofuels are the clean energy choice that could help answer the Biden Administration’s climate push. 

“We are disappointed with reports that biofuels are not included in the effort to decarbonize the transportation sector through the federal fleet,” says Emily Skor of Growth Energy. “Biofuels like plant-based ethanol play a critical role in any strategy to get to 100% transportation decarbonization. In fact, just last week, the Rhodium Group, a leading climate analysis firm, released a report that showed that biofuels play a large role in any efforts to reduce transportation sector emissions.

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) responded to the news say there’s an even bigger opportunity for cleaner energy by federal vehicles opting to use E85. 

“The federal government has for years required its fleet to run on alternative fuel blends like E85, but the federal employees behind the wheel have often neglected to do so–even with E85 easily accessible, and despite the requirement to use it,” says Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of RFA. “The infrastructure for the ‘enormous’ fleet of federal electric vehicles the president envisions is not going to be in place for some time, so we encourage the Biden administration to enforce the existing requirements for thousands of flex fuel vehicles to use American-made renewable fuels, and to adopt a technology-neutral approach to sustainably fueling the federal fleet. The federal government recognizes that ethanol reduces both tailpipe pollution and GHG emissions—the latter by up to 50%, compared to gasoline. It’s a smart, low-carbon choice available right now.”

“I just wonder if the Biden administration is going to push biofuels like the Bush administration did when I was the Secretary of Agriculture,” said Johanns (Former USDA Secretary and Nebraska Senator Mike Johanns) on AgriTalk. “The bloom kind of went off the rose, and I’m not sure that Biden scores a lot of points with the green elements of his party if he moves in the direction of biofuels. So that one I put in the category of pay attention. I’m worried about it.” READ MORE includes AUDIO

How to De-Fossilize Your Fleet: Suggestions for Fleet Managers Working on Sustainability Programs  (Advanced Biofuels USA; includes federal policy on E85 use)

Biden’s push for electric vehicles could take funding away from infrastructure projects — The federal government operated 645,000 vehicles in 2019, clocking up 4.5 billion miles. (NBC News)

Biden pledges to replace government fleet with electric vehicles (The Hill)

American-Made and All-Electric: Biden Plots out the Future for the Federal Vehicle Fleet (Green Car Reports)

Biden Plans All Electric US Government Fleet, Will Reexamine Gas Tax (Clean Technica)

How Will Biden Electrify The Federal Government’s Fleet? (Clean Technica)

Biden plan to electrify federal fleet will boost EV market, but many questions remain, experts say (Utility Dive)

Growth Energy: Biofuels can help decarbonize federal fleet (Ethanol Producer Magazine)

Biden wants an all-electric federal fleet. The question is: How will he achieve it? From postal trucks to passenger vans, the president wants to convert some 645,000 federal vehicles to electric power. The sticking point: They must be made by union workers from at least 50 percent American-made materials. (Washington Post)

The $2.1 Billion Case for Building a Federal EV Fleet (BloombergQuint)

Engine experts argue Biden’s federal fleet transition should include internal combustion (CCJ)

 

Excerpt from NBC News: For one thing, the president’s broader push to see American motorists switch from gas to battery power threatens to put even further strains on the already shrinking federal Highway Trust Fund used to maintain roads and bridges.

The fund is largely dependent upon gas taxes — that haven’t increased in nearly three decades. Increases in fuel economy over the years have trimmed revenues, a situation made worse by the sharp decline in travel during the pandemic. But the rise of electric cars could choke off funding entirely.

“As vehicles become more efficient and we pursue electrification, sooner or later there will be questions about whether the gas tax can be effective at all,” Pete Buttigieg, Biden’s nominee to become U.S. Secretary of Transportation, said during confirmation hearings last week.

There is bipartisan recognition that the nation’s transportation infrastructure needs a lot of work. And presidents from both parties have proposed increased spending over the last several decades. What has proved far more divisive is the question of how to pay for that work, despite the potentially huge number of jobs this could create.

The highway fund derives the vast majority of its funding from gas taxes that have been frozen at 18.4 cents since 1993. Considering the pushback that then-President George Bush received for that increase, few lawmakers have since been willing to back a further hike. But the situation is growing dire.

Battery-electric vehicles currently pay no federal road taxes at all. 

A handful of states, including Kansas, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah and Tennessee have taken steps to make up for their own lost gas taxes, adding fees of anywhere from $50 to $200 on BEVs and, in some cases, plug-in hybrids. READ MORE

 

Excerpt from Utility Dive:  But absent a policy directive from the President, Nelder said there are key questions outstanding. Among those are whether the Biden administration will accelerate vehicle replacements or wait until they reach the end of their useful lives, and if price parity with internal combustion engine vehicles will be required to upgrade.

But Biden’s announcement also generated some criticism, in particular that EVs may not be as environmentally-friendly as some say.

“President Biden misses two key points — electric vehicles are not all that clean and they are not all that American,” David Kreutzer, a senior economist at the fossil-fuel backed Institute for Energy Research, said in an email.

Kreutzer pointed to concerns about the materials mining needed to develop EV batteries, and sourcing them from China. “If the president wants electric vehicles to be American, he should expand access to mining here in the U.S., where we have the highest environmental and labor standards,” Kreutzer said.

And electrification will mean more than simply acquiring new vehicles, said Nelder. “They’re going to have to figure out how to work with local utilities and provision the power, and build out fleet depots for the charging infrastructure.”  READ MORE

 

Excerpt from Ethanol Producer Magazine:  (Growth Energy CEO Emily) Skor called on Biden and his administration to recognize how biofuels can reduce emissions. “We are disappointed with reports that biofuels are not included in the effort to decarbonize the transportation sector through the federal fleet,” she said. “Biofuels like plant-based ethanol play a critical role in any strategy to get to 100 percent transportation decarbonization. In fact, just last week, the Rhodium Group, a leading climate analysis firm, released a report that showed that biofuels play a large role in any efforts to reduce transportation sector emissions.

“The biofuels industry and rural America stand ready to help President Biden and his administration harness the benefits of biofuels to attain aggressive net-zero emissions goals and look forward to their plan to include biofuels in the solution to climate change.” READ MORE

 

Excerpt from Washington Post: The declaration is a boon to the fledgling electric vehicle industry, which has grown exponentially in the past decade but still represents fewer than 2 percent of automobiles sold in the United States. And it represents yet another aspect of Biden’s “all government” approach to fighting climate change; using the power of the purse, he aims to help boost American manufacturers of green products.

“It’s important as a symbolic thing,” said Timothy Lipman, co-director of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at the University of California at Berkeley. “But I think it also will have a way of helping to jolt the industry forward at a time when it kind of needed that.”
 

One of the biggest issues: Just three automakers currently manufacture electric vehicles in the United States, and none of those cars meet Biden’s criteria of being produced by union workers from at least 50 percent American-made materials.

The closest is the Chevrolet Bolt, assembled at a General Motors plant in Lake Orion, Mich. But most of that car’s parts — including the battery, motor and drive unit — are produced overseas. READ MORE

 

Excerpt from BloombergQuint:  An analysis of Uncle Sam’s garage found an aging, expensive crush of big rigs — some 645,000 vehicles in all,  almost two-thirds of which are trucks. Another 9% of the fleet is vans and buses. If U.S. automakers want to cash in on a federal fleet overhaul, they would be wise to accelerate efforts to electrify their largest models; none of these large models has been electrified — at least not at scale.

The U.S. Postal Service accounts for slightly more than one in three federal vehicles and almost all of its rigs are trucks. The government solicited bids for a new mail-hauling  machine six years ago and has yet to name a winner. If the Biden administration wants to make quick progress on its blanket electric vehicle policy goal, a plug-in postal truck seems like a must.  READ MORE

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