White House takes action to force government workers to travel via electric vehicle, rail

The White House issued new guidance requiring federal government employees to prioritize using electric vehicles (EV), trains and public transportation options when conducting official business.

The actions, which the White House said fulfilled President Biden’s promise to “lead by example” on tackling climate change, seek to take advantage of the federal government’s annual business travel purchasing power of $2.8 billion and status as the nation’s largest employer. Overall, government employees on official business took more than 2.8 million flights, made 2.3 million vehicle rentals and took 33,000 rail trips last year.

“These operational changes will accelerate the clean transportation transformation, increase good-paying union jobs and create healthier communities,” the White House said in a statement Thursday.

“President Biden’s Federal Sustainability Plan aims to reach net-zero emissions from overall Federal operations by 2050, including a 65 percent emissions reduction by 2030,” it added. “Through new Federal employee travel guidelines issued today, the Biden-Harris Administration is advancing this goal by directing Federal agencies to prioritize the use of sustainable transportation for official and local travel, both domestically and internationally.”

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Under the guidance, government employees must rent an EV on official travel when the cost of the EV is less than or equal to the most affordable comparable gas-powered vehicle available. Additionally, employees must opt for EVs when using taxis and ride-share platforms when they are cost-competitive.

In addition, employees must only use rail on trips that require less than 250 miles of travel instead of driving or flying. For local travel, employees will be required to use public transportation, a rule that includes travel upon arriving at an offsite location.

“This will save taxpayer money and reduce pollution that jeopardizes people’s health and fuels the climate crisis,” the White House said.

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As part of the announcement, rental car and ride-share companies issued a series of commitments to help the government achieve its goals. For example, Hertz is pledging to “substantially increase” EV rentals for corporate travelers next year, and Uber is expanding its “green curb at airports” program that gives riders perks to go green.

California’s state government also pledged Thursday to issue guidance within the next six months to encourage its employees to opt for EV options when on official travel.

Shortly after taking office in 2021, Biden issued the goal of ensuring 50% of total domestic vehicle purchases are electric by 2030, a first-of-its-kind goal cheered by green energy industry groups and climate advocates. Since then, the administration has pursued various regulations that, while not explicitly mandating electric vehicles, would create strong financial incentives for manufacturers to produce more zero-carbon options and for consumers to transition to those options.

In April, the EPA proposed the most aggressive federal tailpipe emissions rules on light- and medium-duty emissions ever crafted. If finalized and implemented, 67% of new sedan, crossover, SUV and light truck purchases, up to 50% of bus and garbage truck purchases, 35% of short-haul freight tractor purchases and 25% of long-haul freight tractor purchases could be electric by 2032, the White House projected.

Months later, in July, the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued its most aggressive fuel economy standards ever, an action critics say would increase consumer costs.

“We’re transforming clean energy development that’s [creating] good-paying jobs, including union jobs, in all of America,” Biden remarked last month. “We’ve already attracted over half a tri- — we’ve attracted half a trillion dollars — a half of trillion dollars in private sector investment for my Investing in America agenda in clean energy and advanced manufacturing.”

“We’re just getting — and we’re just getting started. And we really are. We’re just getting started.”

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