The long-struggling United States Postal Service (USPS) may soon be turning a corner thanks to sound management practices and wise investment choices. After years of deliberation, the USPS recently announced the agency has selected a vendor for the production of thousands of new trucks. According to the agency: “Under the contract’s initial $482 million investment, Oshkosh Defense will finalize the production design of the Next Generation Delivery Vehicle…and will assemble 50,000 to 165,000 of them over 10 years.” While these vehicles are capable of being retrofitted with electric systems in the future, the USPS opted mainly for gas-powered vehicles and rejected going electric for the time being. Federal and state government should take the USPS’ lead and reject costly electric vehicles in favor of more economical fleets.
In replacing nearly 200,000 vehicles well past their prime, the USPS is embarking on one of the most ambitious capital spending efforts in the agency’s history. The initial tab of $482 million to be spent on getting Oshkosh production efforts up and running is just a small piece of an estimated $6 billion production effort over 10 years. But this vehicle procurement program could have been considerably more expensive if the agency had gone for a primarily electric fleet. According to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, the USPS would need to spend up to $4 billion extra to procure battery-powered cars. This would’ve been a hard sell given that the agency has more than $160 billion worth of debt and unfunded liabilities and could soon run out of money absent significant reforms. While costs overruns are all-but-inevitable for the USPS’ new fleet, the agency wisely avoided purchasing vehicles that would be prohibitively expensive to build for the foreseeable future.
But, unfortunately, it appears the USPS will be a governmental outlier in rejecting electric vehicles. Shortly after being inaugurated, Pres. Joe Biden proclaimed, “The federal government…owns an enormous fleet of vehicles, which we’re going to replace with clean electric vehicles made right here in America, by American workers.” Even taking America’s mail carrier out of the equation, there are more than 400,000 vehicles in the federal government’s fleet bound to be impacted by Biden’s plan. The Government Accountability Office has found federal fleet replacement efforts would cost taxpayers significant sums, noting that these vehicles cost “approximately $16,100 to $18,800 more to acquire a battery electric vehicle that is an equivalently sized conventionally-fueled vehicle.” The Biden administration (and the Obama administration before it) claimed electrifying the federal fleet would be good for the environment and help America move past fossil fuels. In reality, the production process for electric vehicles is hardly squeaky clean.
The battery production process produces an array of hazardous byproducts that pollute the environment and diminish the quality of life for people living and working nearby. Even assuming that lifecycle carbon emissions for conventional vehicles are three times higher than for electric vehicles, Biden’s electrification policy would barely budge greenhouse gas figures. Making the (non-USPS) federal fleet fully electric could reduce emissions by about one million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year, at a time when the U.S. spews 5 billion tons of CO2 into the air annually. In other words, Biden’s “green” pipedream would reduce U.S. emissions by a fraction of a percent while costing taxpayers billions of dollars in added expenses.
Rather than doubling down on a failed EV policy, President Biden should work with federal agencies to reduce costs and create sensible spending priorities. Agencies could reduce their carbon footprint far more effectively by reducing duplicative inspections and cutting down overall regulatory activities. The federal government should steer away from costly policies that do little to help taxpayers or the environment.