With the last several months delivering record-breaking fuel prices, as society endures what has undoubtedly been the largest spike in energy cost and inflation since the 1970s, everyone has been hoping to catch a break this summer. Some have even gotten theirs. While things are still looking exceptionally bleak in the long term, the United States appears to be enjoying a modest reprieve.
With the Biden administration hoping to transition the United States toward all-electric vehicles, it has set a goal of commissioning the construction of a nationwide network of 500,000 EV charging stations by 2030. But saying you’re going to do something as part of a $1-trillion infrastructure plan is a lot easier than actually doing it because there are a lot of steps that have to be taken before a plan can effectively be put into action. This is called planning and it’s something the government occasionally engages in to ensure a program is successful. As such, the Biden administration is issuing a series of standards and requirements for federally funded electric vehicle charging stations.
“To support the transition to electric vehicles, we must build a national charging network that makes finding a charge as easy as filling up at a gas station,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “These new ground rules will help create a network of EV chargers across the country that are convenient, affordable, reliable and accessible for all Americans.”
Last week, a group of Republican attorneys general decided to sue the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its decision to reinstate the waiver allowing California to set its own limitations on exhaust gasses and zero-emission vehicle mandates that would exceed federal standards.
The agency approved the waiver after it had been eliminated as part of the Trump administration’s fuel rollback on the grounds that it would create a schism within the industry by forcing automakers to produce vehicles that catered to the Californian market at the expense of products that might be appreciated in other parts of the country. However, Joe Biden’s EPA sees things differently and has aligned itself with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in giving the state more leeway to govern itself in regard to emissions policing.
Despite the United States confronting some of the highest energy prices in its history, the Biden administration has canceled oil and gas lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska’s Cook Inlet.
According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), national fuel prices are averaging out to a whopping $4.43 per gallon of regular gasoline. Diesel is much higher at $5.56 and is speculated to endure mass shortages in the coming months as reports from the Northeast have indicated there are already seeing record-low inventories. Over the past twelve months, fuel prices have risen by nearly $1.50 per gallon and most market analysts expect rates to continue moving upwards through the summer. Though they’re not all in agreement as to who should be blamed for our current predicament.
On Thursday, The UAW and a group of environmental groups based in the United States filed numerous lawsuits in an effort to block the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) from moving forward with plants to purchase gasoline-powered next-gen delivery vehicles (NGDVs) from Oshkosh Defense. The suits are being launched on the grounds that the USPS failed to comply with environmental regulations and went back on an earlier promise to field all-electric variants.
They’re supported by the White House — which launched an initiative to convert the entire federal fleet into battery electric vehicles last year — and congressional Democrats that were angered after the Postal Service went against the Biden administration’s request to prioritize EVs. The president and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) even went so far as to request that the USPS to hold off on the $11.3 billion contract with Oshkosh so electric options can be reevaluated. However, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has repeatedly stated that it’s not realistic to field a significant number of electric vehicles and that the mail service would need additional funding from the government to consider such a move.
Now that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) looks poised to reinstate California’s waiver under the Clean Air Act — allowing the state to establish stricter tailpipe emissions than the federal limits — the coastal region has resumed its quest to abolish gasoline-powered vehicles in earnest. While the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has yet to finalize all the details, the latest proposal calls for strengthened emissions standards for new light-duty vehicles in anticipation of the necessary approvals.
The scheme would require pure electrics and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) to make up 35 percent of new-vehicle sales for the 2026 model year. By 2030, that number will become 68 percent before hitting 100 percent for MY 2035. CARB said zero-emission vehicles comprised 12.4 percent of the state’s new market in 2021, hinting that the number could have been higher without the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule Part One having stifled its progress.
The Biden administration held another meeting with automotive executives about how to ensure electric vehicles go mainstream. But this time it included Elon Musk, who runs the most successful EV brand in the entire world.
After taking criticism for shunning the Tesla CEO in earlier meetings, senior officials held an event on Wednesday where he and other industry leaders could contribute as to how the United States should handle a national charging infrastructure and spur adoption rates. Despite Musk having often expressed a dissenting opinion in regard to President Biden’s strategy, the White House said that the meeting was productive and resulted in a “broad consensus that charging stations and vehicles need to be interoperable and provide a seamless user experience, no matter what car you drive or where you charge your EV.”
U.S. President Joe Biden is said to be considering utilizing wartime powers to spur domestic electric vehicle battery production. The administration reportedly wants to add the necessary raw materials to the Defense Production Act (DPA) penned at the start of the Korean War in 1950.
Originally designed to give the federal government more control of the U.S. economy (especially in regard to raw materials) throughout the Cold War, the law has also been leveraged by the Department of Defense to advance new technologies starting in the 1980s. In 2011, Barack Obama invoked the act to force telecommunications companies to provide detailed information to the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security. Donald Trump would later invoke the DPA to identify an array of products deemed critical to national security as the trade war with China heated up, and then again to spearhead domestic production of materials and goods pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has opted to reinstate California’s ability to set tailpipe rules and zero-emission vehicle mandates that are more rigid than federal standards. After quarreling for years over the Trump administration’s decision to roll back Obama-era fueling standards deemed untenable, the Golden State now has the ability to once again make harder for its citizens by forcing them to purchase the kind of vehicles it feels they should be driving — rather than leaving it up to the individual that’s actually buying the car.
Though it might not matter at this point. While California effectively served as a defensive shield against proposed fueling rollbacks while Trump was in office, the Biden administration strategy is broadly in line with its agenda of making gasoline unappetizing to consumers to ensure a speedy transition to electric vehicles. California doesn’t even want people to have access to gas-powered lawn care equipment. The state has effectively served as a test case for Build Back Better since before the phrase passed through the lips of a single politician.
Fuel prices have, like most other things, become totally ridiculous. In the United States, the average rate for a gallon of gasoline has eclipsed $4.00 for the first time in a decade. Though what’s probably the most alarming is how quickly it happened. Plenty of Americans could still find fuel for under $2.00 a gallon in April of 2020, meaning we’ve seen prices effectively double within two years in the United States. Meanwhile, European nations more accustomed to lofty fuel bills have been sounding the warning bells (especially in regard to diesel) for months.
Despite the issue existing long before Russia invaded Ukraine, the war has become the de facto explanation among politicians for why you had to swap to less-fancy dog food and off-brand soda to keep the truck gassed up. This is also influencing the government’s response to how to handle the present fuel crisis, which looks as if it’ll be getting worse before it gets better. But let’s take a look at how we got here before we dive into what’s being done (or not done) about it.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has invited the United Auto Workers (UAW) to hold a union vote at the company’s facility in Fremont, California. While this may fool you into believing the executive has had a change of heart in regard to unionization, Musk seems to be inviting the labor group into a trap to dunk on his political enemies.
It’s no secret that there’s been bad blood between Tesla and the Biden administration. The White House has repeatedly left the automaker out of its discussions pertaining to industry regulation and proposed additional financial incentives for automakers using unionized labor to build electric vehicles. As the world’s largest purveyor of EVs by far, Musk believes his organization deserves some acknowledgment and has noted that the UAW is one of the Democratic Party’s staunchest allies. He’s asking for the vote in Fremont because he clearly thinks it will fail.
The United States Postal Service (USPS) has been under pressure from the White House to replace its aging fleet with all-electric vehicles. But it’s looking like mail carriers will continue doing their jobs in oddly shaped trucks that burn gasoline.
While the Biden administration’s green agenda calls for government fleets to begin transitioning to EVs, the USPS had already decided to purchase 165,000 examples of the Oshkosh Defense NGDV that’s dependent upon liquid fuel. Despite the contractor saying trucks could be converted into battery electric vehicles and/or hybrids, the vast majority will be wholly reliant on internal combustion. The USPS has decided that it’s just not cost-effective or practical to do anything else and no amount of pressure from the White House will be changing its mind.
Money on the other hand…
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced today that it will distribute $5 billion to establish electric-vehicle charging along the interstate highway system. Managed by the newly formed Joint Office of Energy and Transportation formed after the $1.2-trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) passed in Congress, the federal spend is a joint operation between the DOT and U.S. Department of Energy.
By 2030, the federal government is hoping to have a network of 500,000 charging stations in a bid to reduce range anxiety and spur EV adoption. But it wants individual states to make the necessary investments to connect the highway-based network to cities and towns. As you might have guessed, Democrat lawmakers have broadly supported the imitative while Republicans are calling it too expensive and a distraction from other aspects of U.S. infrastructure in need of maintenance.
Last spring, the United States Postal Service announced that it would finally be replacing its fleet of Grumman Long Life Vehicles (LLVs) that have more than lived up to their name. Having entered into service in 1987 to replace the Dispatcher Jeep, the LLV is scheduled to be replaced by 150,000 new mail trucks from Oshkosh Defense. While the government originally wanted to use an all-electric platform, it was believed that rural routes probably required an internal combustion vehicle. Preexisting government contracts with Oshkosh likely made it a compelling manufacturer, though it annoyed some of the smaller candidates. Workhorse even sued the USPS last summer for not selecting its hideous entrant, though the official complaint was that the government hadn’t given EVs a fair shake.
That now appears to be changing because the Biden administration and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have asked USPS to hold off on the $11.3 billion contract with Oshkosh so electric options can be reevaluated.
The White House has made plans to host American business executives — including numerous CEOs tied to the automotive sector — in an effort to gain support for the stalled Build Back Better agenda. The meeting is scheduled to take place today, with President Joe Biden and company hoping to convince them to get behind the (revised) $1.75 trillion spending bill after it passed in the House but never made it through the Senate.
Seats have already been reserved for General Motors CEO Mary Barra, Ford CEO Jim Farley, and Cummins CEO Tom Linebarger. The rest are going to heads of manufacturing and technology companies, with a few noteworthy outliers. For example, the Biden administration has also invited the president of the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America and the CEO of Siemens (a multinational entity that’s not based in the United States). Based on earlier statements from White House press secretary Jen Psaki, the meetings will take place in-person, bucking the Biden administration’s trend of hosting virtual events.