by Greg Walcher, E&E Legal Senior Policy Fellow
As appearing in the Daily Sentinel
When I was little, Grandpa used to speculate that someday there would be a car that could run without gas.
I don’t know if he could have envisioned modern wind and solar power, or lithium-ion batteries, but as a highly skilled blacksmith he had considerable imagination about the future of gadgetry and machinery.
He might have been surprised, though, how soon such innovations would come. He has been gone 42 years, and in that short time nearly all the technological barriers to renewable energy have been conquered.
It is the economic barriers that remain unsolved. Energy can now be created from almost anything — sun, wind, rivers, tides, waves, even trash — but doing so remains more expensive than fossil fuels. In mid-2021, President Biden decided the federal government should change those economics. He ordered federal agencies to “catalyze clean energy industries and jobs through federal sustainability.” Translation: federal agencies will buy so many renewable products, like electric cars, that it will make them, and the companies who manufacture them, competitive.
With the White House pressuring appointees, you might think every agency would quickly trade in its entire fleet for new electric vehicles. But still today only a small fraction of federal vehicles is electric, a year and a half after Biden’s order. However, one agency now seeks to lead the way, showing how easily electrics can replace traditional fleet vehicles, by 2027. The announcement generated laughter and mockery in Washington, though, because the agency in question is the U.S. Forest Service (USFS).