Sustainability

Biden Orders Federal Carbon-Free Push

The White House plan sets a 2050 target date for the federal government to be carbon-neutral, with an all-electric vehicle fleet by 2035.
Matthew HellerDecember 8, 2021

In a major push to advance his climate change agenda, President Biden signed an executive order on Wednesday to make the federal government carbon-neutral by 2050.

The order requires the government to use 100% carbon pollution-free electricity in its buildings by 2030; that the U.S. fleet of cars and trucks become all-electric by 2035; and that federal contracts for goods and services be carbon-free by 2050.

“As the single largest landowner, energy consumer, and employer in the nation, the federal government can catalyze private sector investment and expand the economy and American industry by transforming how we build, buy, and manage electricity, vehicles, buildings, and other operations to be clean and sustainable,” the order said.

The White House said the switch to zero-emission vehicles “will accelerate the advancement of America’s industrial capacity to supply zero-emission vehicles and electric vehicle batteries.”

However, electric vehicles currently represent only about 1.5% of the government fleet and in 2021 the administration purchased only 650 EVs.

“If you go through the numbers, there’s no impact on emissions or the vehicle market,” Steven Koonin, a climate policy fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told The New York Times.

At the Center for Biological Diversity, senior counsel Bill Snape said 2050 was “an extremely weak goal for the federal government to free itself from climate-heating pollution.”

“This is like a teenager promising to clean their room in 30 years. We need action now,″ he said.

As the Times reports, Biden has from his earliest days in office “intended to use the federal government as a model and to help spur the markets for green energy. The executive orders signed Wednesday set a timetable for the transition.”

The orders could be reversed by a future administration and do not cover purchasing by the Department of Defense, which accounts for a large portion of federal energy spending. But Sen. Tom Carper, Delaware Democrat and chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, praised the plan.

“Putting the weight of the federal government behind reducing emissions is the right thing to do,” he said in a news release.