White House asks employees to travel by train, EVs when possible

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. federal employees should rent electric vehicles and opt for rail trips when feasible on government travel to sharply reduce emissions, the White House said on Thursday.

In 2022, U.S. government employees spent $2.8 billion on official travel, taking more than 2.8 million flights, 2.3 million vehicle rentals and 33,000 rail trips. Federal travel accounts for 1.8% of federal greenhouse gas emissions, the White House said.

“The federal government will save taxpayers money, reduce emissions, strengthen our growing electric vehicle industry and create good-paying union jobs,” said White House Council on Environmental Quality chair Brenda Mallory.

Biden in December 2021 issued an executive order directing the government to stop purchasing gas-powered vehicles by 2035 and said all light-duty federal acquisitions by 2027 should be electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEV).

The White House said on Friday the federal government has acquired over 14,000 zero emission vehicles and installed 5,500 charging ports to date. General Services Administration Robin Carnahan said 19% of vehicles it purchased for government fleets this year are EVs — up from 1% in 2021. “We’re making steady progress.

The U.S. government owns more than 650,000 vehicles and purchases about 50,000 annually.

Federal employees in a directive on Thursday were told to rent EVs on official travel when costs are less or equal to comparable gas-powered vehicles and charging is accessible.

They must use rail for trips less than 250 miles (402 km)when cost-effective and feasible rather airplane. It also directs federal employees to avoid taking private vehicles for official travel.

Government employees should also opt for electric vehicle Lyft, Uber or taxi rides if available and increasing public transit use.

The memo also said the Biden administration plans to develop a sustainable aviation strategic plan including requiring airlines to submit information on fuel and operational efficiency initiatives, including sustainable aviation fuel investments.

The federal government spent $1.66 billion on flights and $4.2 million on rail trips last year.

Biden in 2021 set a goal, backed by automakers, seeking 50% of all new vehicles by 2030 to be EVs.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Josie Kao)