Biden Executive Order to End Gasoline Powered Vehicle Purchases

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden signed an executive order committing the United States to the acquisition of only zero-emission vehicles by 2035 for the federal vehicle fleet.

This is totally in line with the administration’s stated desire to focus on transitioning the nation toward renewable energy sources while advancing electric vehicle adoption rates. But the event was curiously not celebrated with the applicable fanfare. Biden signed the document without media there to capture the moment and reporters failed to ask about it during a press event on the White House lawn later in the day. Were it not for an official fact sheet issued by the administration later in the day, we may never have known there even was a signing.

The executive order seeks to ensure that government operations reduce emissions by 65 percent by 2030. This is said to be achievable by sourcing energy from carbon-free and non-polluting sources on a net annual basis within that timeframe. However the ultimate goal is to have net-zero emissions by 2050.

Vehicles are only part of that plan. There are numerous provisions in the EO focusing creating on totally emissions-free energy and building sectors dated between 2027 and 2050. Cars are simply the third piece of the puzzle, though chronologically first. Biden’s order requires the government engage in “100 percent zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) acquisitions by 2035, including 100 percent zero-emission light-duty vehicle acquisitions by 2027.”

From the White House:

Through this executive order, the federal government will transform its portfolio of 300,000 buildings, fleet of 600,000 cars and trucks, and annual purchasing power of $650 billion in goods and services to:

Transition federal infrastructure to zero-emission vehicles and buildings powered by carbon pollution-free electricity, which will reduce the federal government’s greenhouse gas emissions by 65 percent by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

Make federal agencies more adaptive and resilient to the impacts of climate change, and increase the sustainability of federal supply chains, achieving net-zero emissions from federal procurement by 2050.

Mainstream sustainability within the federal workforce, advance equity and environmental justice, and leverage partnerships to accelerate progress.

The fact sheet goes on to explain how this will be accomplished, offering a mixed approach. It’s a mélange of giving the relevant equipment manufacturers a financial leg up, increasing the number of union jobs, altering federal agencies to have greater flexibility and control via a “ Climate Adaptation and Resilience Plan,” and updating federal buildings to include hyper efficient heating/cooling/plumbing systems.

While there are a few exemptions carved out for military and space vehicles, the plan is pretty clear about when government rides will need to be emissions free. But we can all probably sense that none of this really matters. The timelines being set are set just far enough in the future that the Biden administration might has well not have made them. Corporations and governments do this all the time, banking on the assumption that the collective consciousness will have forgotten promises made years prior.

But then why wasn’t the White House trumpeting the signing? Our guess was because it was already making a lot of noise about transitioning the federal fleet away from gasoline a few months ago.

“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 in January.

Considering the limited progress made since then, the administration may be taking it easy on underscoring the really big promises. But it’s still championing the Build Back Better Act, which is extremely ambitious and includes similar language to Wednesday’s executive order. Perhaps the White House doesn’t want to over-egg the pudding while approval ratings are so low. Honestly, your guess is as good as mine as to why this one was flown in under the radar and you’re always welcome to share it in the comments.

[Image: Orhan Cam/Shutterstock]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • 3SpeedAutomatic 3SpeedAutomatic on Dec 13, 2021

    I'm getting concerned with the "Executive Order" concept. Both Republicans and Democrats have used them in the past, but it now appears as a means to totally circumvent congress without the usual checks and balances. This could become a hot button issue if it becomes the norm in government.

  • Jeff S Jeff S on Dec 13, 2021

    True and an Executive Order can be reversed by a new President. Congress needs to do their job starting with passing a budget without multiple Continuing Resolutions and this applies to both political parties.

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