Congress Can Make Those Weirdass New Postal Trucks Electric, So Do That, Congress!
US Postal Service illustration

One of the central planks of Joe Biden's climate strategy, going all the way back to the 2020 campaign (and its origins in Jay Inslee's terrific climate proposal), is the idea that the federal government should use its huge purchasing power to help move along America's transition to clean energy. It's right there in the Day One part of the Biden Climate Plan: Biden will reduce carbon emissions by, among other measures,

Using the Federal government procurement system – which spends $500 billion every year – to drive towards 100% clean energy and zero-emissions vehicles.

That's a terrific idea, except for the part where some parts of the federal government, like the US Postal Service, are designed to be so insulated from executive interference that they can create serious mischief when they're led by a rightwing asshole like Donald Trump's pet postmaster general, Louis DeJoy. Under Screwy Louie, the Postal Service announced in February that its $6 billion fleet of next-generation mail delivery vehicles would be mostly powered by Guzzolene, plus 5,000 electric-powered vehicles, or just 10 percent of the new vehicles.

This is a huge step away from environmentally responsible purchasing. With roughly 230,000 vehicles, the Postal Service fleet makes up about a third of all federally owned vehicles. The new mail trucks are likely to have a service life of decades, too, which means they could still be burning fossil fuels long after most vehicles on the road are clean.

Happily, DeJoy's fossil-fuel fixation doesn't have to be the final word.

As Abigail Weinberg reports at Mother Jones, Congress has the power to step in and keep the federal government from purchasing a fleet of gas-guzzling trucks that only get 14 miles per gallon — as long as the AC isn't running. (With AC, that drops to just 8.6 MPG.)

Instead of settling for giving thanks that such a pathetically wasteful vehicle is marginally more efficient than the aging, '80s-vintage trucks they'll replace (8 MPG, no AC to make a difference), we could instead demand that DeJoy's Folly be stopped before it goes into service next year, and that the government make a genuine investment in clean, electric trucks instead.

When DeJoy announced the new fleet would use dirty old tech, he said in a statement that the "commitment to an electric fleet remains ambitious given the pressing vehicle and safety needs of our aging fleet as well as our fragile financial condition" — basically, claiming it simply can't be done because the USPS is too poor, but maybe the mix of infernal combustion and electric trucks might change if more funding became available. Heck, maybe somewhere down the line, gas models could be converted to electric, as if the cost of retrofitting vehicles would somehow make economic sense.

DeJoy's decision to go with gas-powered trucks might not even save the USPS any money beyond the initial purchase price, since, as a study from the Atlas Public Policy research group pointed out, the gas vehicles get such shitty mileage that EVs could save billions of dollars over the life of the fleet — especially since, as America gets off the fossil fuel teat, fossil fuels will of necessity become rarer and more expensive.

In addition, as Weinberg points out, postal delivery seems like a perfect role for EVs, since they generally drive short, designated routes every day and park in the same lot every night. An electric fleet of postal vehicles would mean USPS would no longer burn 110 million gallons of fuel every year, according to environmental group Earthjustice.

That's where Rep. Gerry Connolly (D - Virginia) would like to offer an intervention: He's introduced a bill that would block the USPS from entering into a contract for new postal vehicles unless 75 percent of the fleet is electric. Disappointingly, the bill is titled the ‘‘Green Postal Service Fleet Act of 2022,’’ instead of my preferred alternative, the "ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING THE CLIMATE IS AN EMERGENCY Act of 2022." It could be amended, perhaps.

Connolly told Weinberg that

Weaning ourselves off of fossil fuel dependence is a major part of trying to cope with greenhouse gas emissions. Replenishing [the postal fleet] with vehicles that are electric and hybrid would go a long way towards helping to change the nature of fuel in US vehicles on the roads.

The Postal Service has already entered into a contract with Wisconsin's Oshkosh Defense, so if Congress wants to procure a green USPS fleet, it needs to act fast.

“When Mr. DeJoy puts his mind to it, he can marshal Republican votes for the Postal Service,” Connolly said. “There’s an appetite in Congress, if they’re willing to work with us, to fund this to ensure that they have a fleet that’s a 21st century fleet that embraces new technology and that is environmentally sensitive.”

Now, it's true that some rural routes might be longer than the likely range of current electric trucks, but only about five percent of postal routes are more than 70 miles long. If a quarter of the new fleet needs to be fossil-fuel powered, as Connolly's bill would allow, there'd be plenty of gas-powered mail trucks to cover them. And EV range keeps improving, too, so the Postal Service could start out with a smaller number of gas vehicles and replace them as longer-range electric trucks become available.

You may ask yourself, "Why is Louis DeJoy still my not-beautiful Postmaster?" The simple answer is that he can't be shitcanned until the Senate confirms Joe Biden's appointees to the Postal Service Board of Governors, which we can only assume will happen ... eventually.

[Mother Jones / CNBC / Vice]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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