The Biden administration has issued a new directive to all government employees to travel by train or electric car, or electric Uber or Lyft, when traveling on official business. As the country’s largest employer, with an annual business travel purchasing budget of $2.8 billion, that could have a serious impact on carbon emissions.
To get a sense of the scale of the new directive, in 2022 alone, federal employees took more than 2.8 million flights, 2.3 million vehicle rentals, and 33,000 rail trips, the White House said.
In an announcement, the Biden administration is directing all federal agencies to prioritize the use of sustainable transportation for official and local travel, both domestically and internationally. This includes using electric vehicles, either renting or options for taxis or ride-share services such as Lyft or Uber.
However, there is one caveat: as long as you don’t rent an EV that is at a higher rate than the “most affordable comparable vehicle available.” (I suppose it’s a safety buffer against backlash on overspending taxpayer money as we enter an election year.)
Civil servants are also asked to prioritize rail rather than planes or cars for trips less than 250 miles if rail is an available option, and again, if it’s affordable. Public transport is also highly encouraged.
Back in December 2021, President Biden issued an executive order directing the government to stop buying gas-powered vehicles by 2035, adding that all light-duty federal vehicle purchases by 2027 would be electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles.
The White House said that the federal government has acquired more than 14,000 zero-emission vehicles and installed 5,500 charging ports to date. In total, the US government owns more than 650,000 vehicles and purchases about 50,000 annually.
The memo also noted that the government plans to “develop a sustainable aviation strategic plan” that will include requiring airlines to submit details on their fuel and operational efficiencies, including investing in sustainable aviation fuel, Reuters reported.
Government agencies will have 120 days from now to report to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Memorandum and the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) on their plans to take action going forward, the memo said.
California will also join the US government by issuing its own guidance by June 2024 to all state employees, encouraging zero-emissions travel when on official business.
Author: Jennifer Mossalgue