The USPS Underestimated the Benefit of Going Electric, Study Shows

The United States Postal Service dramatically underestimated the benefits of an electric delivery fleet in its environmental review when it agreed to purchase nearly all gas-powered trucks, a peer-reviewed study by University of Michigan researchers found. The lead author of the study, Maxwell Moody, called the USPS’s environmental review “significantly flawed” in a press release, adding yet another layer of criticism to the USPS’s handling of its new delivery fleet procurement.

But critics of the USPS’s decision were hotly anticipating this environmental review. If they were correct that the USPS was making a terrible decision for both the environment and its own finances—as detailed in a thorough study by Atlas Public Policy, a non-profit research group—then an honest accounting in the environmental review would lay it all out and at the very least embarrass the USPS and prove Louis DeJoy was acting as a poor steward for the agency’s future. In other words, the USPS would have to admit in writing that it knows it’s making a bad decision but plans on doing it anyways.

Instead, the USPS chose a different approach: Fudge the numbers to make it look like a better decision than it is. One way it did so was to list the vehicle’s curb weight as one pound heavier than a critical regulatory threshold that allowed the trucks to emit more than they otherwise could. Another way it did so was to assume the price of gas would stay below $2.55 per gallon through 2040, despite gas being more expensive than that for much of the last 20 years. A third way it did so was to only study scenarios it considered infeasible, like buying 100 percent electric vehicles, so it could dismiss them regardless of what the results of the environmental assessment would be. Meanwhile, it didn’t study sensible middle ground scenarios like buying, say, 50 or 75 percent electric trucks.


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