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The White House wants a zero-emission freight industry by 2040

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The Biden administration is tackling the monumental task of making America’s industrial freight system more environmentally friendly. The White House said on Wednesday that it aims to have 30 percent of industrial truck sales produce zero emissions by 2030 and 100 percent by 2040.

In addition to those non-binding targets, the White House is meeting on Wednesday with stakeholders from the commercial vehicle, shipping and infrastructure industries to help execute its agenda. The roundtable is designed to advance the Biden Administration’s goal of “supercharging the buildout of the infrastructure necessary to make a zero-emissions freight ecosystem a reality in the United States.”

Unsurprisingly, the freight industry uses a lot of energy and produces a lot of pollution to match. Bloomberg notes that the transportation sector emits about 29 percent of US greenhouse gas emissions, and freight (including shipping, trucking and trains) makes up about a third of that figure. So, you can ballpark that the American freight industry is responsible for roughly 10 percent of the country’s carbon emissions.

As part of the election-year rollout, the Biden Administration plans to ask the public to comment on charging infrastructure for heavy-duty vehicles, signaling that the specifics of the plan aren’t yet finalized. The White House wants to avoid a fragmented industrial EV charging system without a universally agreed-upon standard. The industry has seemingly settled on Tesla’s NACS as the de facto choice in the lightweight consumer sector.

Alongside the newly announced industrial goals, the Biden Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is opening up about $1 billion in Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) funding to replace Class 6 and 7 vehicles (school buses, garbage trucks and delivery trucks) with electric equivalents.

The IRA requires that at least $400 million of that funding goes to local communities hit the hardest by industrial pollution. The White House says 72 million Americans live near truck freight routes and bear the brunt of their short-term output. Sadly but unsurprisingly (given the nation’s history), people of color and those from low-income households are most likely to be heavily affected by high environmental toxin levels.

The White House’s goals are admirable, given the urgency of the global climate crisis and the freight industry’s role. However, one significant problem remains: These are voluntary, non-binding resolutions that could — and, given public comments, almost certainly would — be undone by a second Trump Administration, should the serial napper return to office next year. As with many other aspects of the nation’s and world’s future, US voters will decide the outcome this November.

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