Still, the orders could be reversed by a future administration. And the plan doesn’t cover Defense Department purchases, which account for a large portion of government energy spending. Clean energy purchases could also cost the government more money in the short term, and many of the components, such as electric charging stations for a fleet of all-electric federal vehicles, have yet to be built.
Republicans are already opposing the plan. On Wednesday, Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, the top Republican on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, denounced it as “disgraceful” and said the plan would harm workers in the fossil fuel sector.
“This is not rebuilding better,” he said in a statement. “It’s another grueling move to build a bigger bureaucracy.”
The plan Mr. Biden presented presents significant challenges for the administration.
Only 40 percent of the electricity purchased by the federal government now comes from renewable sources like wind and solar. The goal is to increase that to 100 percent in less than a decade. The federal government currently consumes only 1.5 percent of the nation’s energy, although it is a major player in certain states where it has major operations, such as Virginia, California, Georgia, and North Carolina.
By converting its energy into wind, solar and other zero-emission sources that warm the planet, the government intends to follow the path traced by companies such as Google, Apple, and Wal-Mart, which set tariffs or developed purchase agreements for energy with local utilities to achieve its 100 percent renewable energy goals, said a senior administration official.
The requirement to buy only zero-emission vehicles by 2035 is even more difficult.
Currently, electric vehicles represent only about 1.5 percent of the government fleet. In fiscal 2021, the administration purchased 650 electric vehicles, according to the administration, a number that it expects to increase multiple times this year and in the future. The government buys around 50,000 vehicles a year, many of them are replacements.
“That’s about half of a factory’s annual production, about half of one percent of all vehicles sold each year,” said Steven Koonin, a physicist who was undersecretary of energy during the Barack Obama presidency and now is a fellow on climate policy at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research organization. “They are small potatoes.”