America’s Power Grid Could Gum Up Biden EPA’s Plan To Electrify School Buses, Report Finds

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  • American utility companies may not be prepared to build the power grid infrastructure needed to reach the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) targets for electric school bus adoption, according to a report from the office of the agency’s inspector general.
  • The bipartisan infrastructure law of 2021 set aside $5 billion for the Clean School Bus Program as part of the Biden administration’s wider EV push, but utility companies may be unprepared to provide the charging infrastructure needed to meet the EPA’s goals on time. 
  • “Increased power supply demands could delay electric school bus deployment,” the report states. “We identified concerns with delays related to the infrastructure needed to support the bus charger manufacturers and the increased demand on utilities. 

The power grid may be lacking sufficient infrastructure to reach the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) electric school bus goals in a timely manner, according to an EPA inspector general report.

The report, which focuses on the potential problems that the agency’s Clean School Bus Program could face, explicitly asserts that the increased demand on utility companies for power and related charging infrastructure associated with the initiative could delay its implementation. The bipartisan infrastructure law of 2021 allocated $5 billion in taxpayer funds over five years to replace existing diesel-powered school buses with zero-emission equivalents, which the EPA has pursued with grantmaking and rebate programs.

“Increased power supply demands could delay electric school bus deployment,” the report states. “We identified concerns with delays related to the infrastructure needed to support the bus charger manufacturers and the increased demand on utilities. The most common infrastructure upgrades needed to support the bus chargers are transformers, electrical lines and switch changers … The increased demand on manufacturers and utility companies may impact the timeliness of replacing diesel buses and ultimately may delay program health and environmental benefits.” (RELATED: E-Buses Bought From Now-Bankrupt Manufacturer By Blue Enclave Are Now All Out Of Commission)

The agency must make sure that utility companies have built and brought online charging infrastructure to ensure that school district bus fleets are functional and operational on time, according to the report. However, the EPA does not currently require applicants to coordinate with utility companies in advance regarding the adoption of electric school bus fleets, which the report identifies as a key contributing factor to potential problems the program could face down the road.

Beyond the practical issues mentioned in the report, the inspector general’s office also highlighted the potential for waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars associated with the clean bus push in a related Dec. 27 letter sent to Joseph Goffman, the principal deputy assistant administrator of the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation.

“Our initial investigation of its protocols found that the Clean School Bus Program is rife with potentially inaccurate information. We also identified instances in which entities lacking student enrollments applied for and received funding, imperiling the program’s principle of equitable resource distribution,” Jason Abend, the assistant inspector general for the EPA, wrote to Goffman. “During our investigation, the EPA Office of Air and Radiation, which is responsible for implementing the Clean School Bus Program for the Agency, told us that the statutory text and the EPA’s implementing guidance do not require applicants to expressly attest to the accuracy and truthfulness of their Clean School Bus applications. In addition, there is no requirement that applicants provide data to support information included in their applications.”

The agency is reviewing the concerns identified in the work of the inspector general’s office and has no further information to add, an EPA spokesperson told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

The electric school bus initiative is part of the Biden administration’s wider effort to electrify American transportation. The White House wants 50% of all new car sales to be EVs by 2050, and it has spent billions of taxpayer funds and regulated the automobile market in pursuit of that target.

Electric buses have several disadvantages that are not shared by their conventional and more widely-used equivalents.

There have been several instances of the lithium ion batteries that power electric buses catching fire in recent years, with the toxicity of the resulting fumes sending first responders to the hospital. Cold temperatures also generally tend to cause diminishing range and performance for the lithium ion batteries because they must work harder to generate power, and the cold can also damage the component cells within a battery, according to Renogy, a green energy company.

Additionally, the lithium ion batteries within electric buses are very heavy and make them considerably heavier than gas-powered buses, according to the Maine Department of Transportation. One related consequence is that electric buses tend to add much more strain to the pavement; for example, the use of electric buses in Indianapolis, Indiana, prompted the pavement transited by its electric buses to deteriorate within several years, which in turn led to more frequent road construction projects and inconveniences for residents, according to the Thoreau Institute.

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