The push for cleaner energy is climbing back to the top of the chain of priorities in the United States. On Monday, President Biden vowed to replace the US government’s fleet of about 650,000 vehicles with environmental friendly electric models.
It is a contrasting shift from the past administration’s stand on combustible vehicles, and signals the new administration’s readiness to lead by example in matters of climate concern.
“The federal government also owns an enormous fleet of vehicles, which we’re going to replace with clean electric vehicles made right here in America made by American workers,” Biden said.
He promised to close “loopholes” that allow key parts like engines, steel and glass to be manufactured abroad for vehicles considered US made.
General Services Administration (GSA), said as of 2019, the US government owned 645,000 vehicles that were driven 4.5 billion miles consuming 375 million gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel. The GSA added that the government also spent $4.4 billion on federal vehicle costs in 2019.
GSA said only 3,215 electric vehicles are part of the US government’s fleet as of July 2020.
Climate change was top of Biden’s campaign promises. In his first day in office, he signed an executive order that will foster environmental friendly energy technology and rolled back former president Trump’s orders backing fossil fuel.
Although it is not clear how Biden will keep his promise, as his ‘Buy America’ executive order does not include the purchase of electric vehicles, the move underscores his determination to keep his campaign promise on climate change at extra cost.
Replacing the current government fleet could cost the US more than $20 billion.
During his campaign, Biden promised to “make a major federal commitment to purchase clean vehicles for federal, state, tribal, postal, and local fleets.” He also vowed to create 1 million new jobs in the “American auto industry, domestic auto supply chains, and auto infrastructure, from parts to material to electric vehicle charging stations.”
As part of his climate action, Biden said he would build 550,000 EV charging stations and spend more in clean energy research. He also supports new consumer rebates to replace old, less-efficient vehicles with newer electric vehicles and incentives for manufacturers to build or retool factories to assemble EVs and parts.
The move means that solar energy and electric vehicle companies will get preferential treatment. Tesla’s shares surged in December after pro green Democrats won the Georgia senatorial election, which gives them control of Congress and paves way for legislation that will back environmental friendly industries in the US.
However, it spells doom for the traditional energy industry that has already plummeted by the outbreak of COVID-19. As focus shifts to electric vehicles, automakers that are yet to find foothold in the emerging market will likely be overshadowed by Tesla and others leading the market in the US.
Experts believe the shift will help automakers in the US to show more commitment to cleaner energy by embracing electric vehicles. There has been a significant increase in the number of car manufacturers fighting to grab a share in the EV market. In the US, Nissan, Ford and GM are all working to increase their production capacities and disrupt Tesla’s dominance.
For traditional energy companies, Biden’s climate stance will mean switching to cleaner energy supplies. As more EVs get on the roads, the need for charging stations increases. Energy experts believe Biden’s vow to build 550,000 charging stations among other key energy reforms, will offer alternative business to existing fossil fuel companies.