President Biden signed an executive order Wednesday requiring that federal purchases be made with the goal of making the US economy carbon emission-free by 2050.
Biden, 79, would mark his 108th birthday if the goal is reached in 29 years — a pace that may be too slow to satisfy environmentalists who claim eight years of current emission levels will doom the Earth to devastating climate change.
The White House announced the order with little fanfare and Biden signed it behind closed doors without a public event touting its provisions, which aim to use federal purchasing power to drag the entire US economy toward renewable and nuclear energy.
Biden didn’t mention the bold objective during a speech about infrastructure in Kansas City, Mo., or while speaking with reporters on the White House lawn Wednesday.
A White House fact sheet said the order “will transform [the government’s] portfolio of 300,000 buildings, fleet of 600,000 cars and trucks, and annual purchasing power of $650 billion in goods and services.”
The executive order outlines a government goal of “100 percent carbon pollution-free electricity on a net annual basis by 2030” and a “100 percent zero-emission vehicle acquisitions by 2035, including 100 percent zero-emission light-duty vehicle acquisitions by 2027.”
The order says that the feds should “lead by example in order to achieve a carbon pollution-free electricity sector by 2035 and net-zero emissions economy-wide by no later than 2050.”
“Through a whole-of-government approach, we will demonstrate how innovation and environmental stewardship can protect our planet, safeguard Federal investments against the effects of climate change, respond to the needs of all of America’s communities, and expand American technologies, industries, and jobs,” Biden said.
But Republicans and Democrats who represent areas rich in coal and gas deposits are likely to fight implementation of Biden’s vision. And industry groups may also prove fickle — especially if Republicans retake control of the executive branch.
Earlier this year, major US carmakers joined Biden’s push for electric vehicles after previously fighting fuel efficiency standards for new gas-powered cars.
Biden’s pending social spending plan, called the Build Back Better Act, would put $555 billion toward environmental programs — including $12,500 rebates for the purchase of electric vehicles. His $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill included $7.5 billion for electric vehicle charging stations and $5 billion for electric and low-emission buses.
Biden previously committed in April to slash US greenhouse gas emissions by 52 percent by the year 2035. As of 2020, just 20 percent of US power came from renewable sources such as wind, solar and hydroelectric dams. Another 20 percent was derived from nuclear power while 40 percent came from coal and 19 percent from natural gas, according to federal data.
The growth of developing economies threatens to offset any US reductions in carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gasses. China emits about 30 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide from fossil fuels — roughly double US emissions — and is also the world’s top methane emitter.