U.S. Postal Service Defies Biden’s Electric Vehicle Plan

by TK Sanders

The United States Postal Service recently said it will move forward with its plan to update its fleet of trucks with mostly gas-powered engines. According to the plan, the USPS will replace the fleet with 90 percent gas-powered vehicles (about 150,000 total trucks), and 10 percent electric vehicles. The decision directly contradicts President Biden’s supposed plan to electrify the entire federal fleet by 2035.

The $11.3 billion contract locks in the Postal Service to another decade of petroleum-based infrastructure. Biden administration officials and environmentalist groups both say that the plan undercuts clear and achievable climate change goals. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also wants to get involved, demanding further studies on the impact of carbon emissions on the planet before making a final decision.

But Postmaster General Louis DeJoy argues both that he lacks the funding needed to increase the EVs in the fleet; and that the USPS cannot wait any longer to begin the process.

“As we have reiterated throughout this process, our commitment to an electric fleet remains ambitious. [We must also navigate the] pressing vehicle and safety needs of our aging fleet, as well as our fragile financial condition,” DeJoy said in a statement. “Therefore, the process needs to keep moving forward.”

What are the details of the new order?

The Postal Service enjoys federal benefits, but it is not a government agency, per se; meaning the USPS must justify and create and its own funding like a regular business. It can also make its own operational decisions without interference from Congress or the executive branch. Therefore, for this particular deal, DeJoy’s contract with OshKosh defense for 1650,000 total vehicles will likely move forward; though some environmental lawyers say they will needle the decision in court if they can.

Adrian Martinez, an attorney at the environmental law group Earthjustice, said he would pursue litigation to alter the outcome.

“DeJoy’s environmental review is rickety. It’s founded on suspect calculations, and fails to meet the standards of the law,” Martinez said. “We’re not done fighting this reckless decision regarding the USPS fleet.”

The initial order of trucks does include 5,000 EVs, starting in 2023; with the opportunity to increase the number of EVs later “should additional funding” become available. Oshkosh says it designed the trucks to include any mix of vehicles USPS desires, including an all-electric fleet.

Critics say the USPS is overestimating the cost of electric vehicles, and downplaying the cost of gasoline

Opponents of the decision also believe that the agency used a flawed analysis of current energy economics. For example, the Postal Service projected normal inflationary rises in petroleum pricing between now and 2040; or about 35 cents per gallon. But critics point out that the baseline price used isn’t even in line with current gas prices, which are more in-line with the USPS’s 2040 number. So a 35 cent increase will actually affect the cost of ownership much more greatly than currently advertised, according to environmentalists.

“Beyond the deeply flawed climate and air pollution analysis, the environmental review appears to be analyzing economic conditions like fuel prices, battery prices, and other inputs from a fantasyland; rather than reality,” Martinez also said.

Mark Guilfoil, vice president for supply management at USPS, said the mail agency conducted a thorough review of its own. He also said the agency is moving forward with their findings, regardless of criticism.

“We determined that the EPA’s [and others’] requests for supplemental impact statements and public hearings would not add value to the Postal Service’s already year-long review.”