The wealthiest county in the United States, Teton County, Wyoming, is using federal subsidies funded by taxpayers to buy electric buses, and none of the eight purchased now work.
The company that made the buses, Proterra, has filed for bankruptcy, despite receiving federal handouts and praise from President Biden.
Rather than use Wyoming’s enormous natural gas resources and fix roads, the county’s elites chose to purchase electric buses, in the hope it would drive people to ride bicycles or take public transit.
A transit system run by the town of Jackson and Teton County, Wyoming replaced its diesel buses with electric, but none of the eight electric buses in its fleet are running, and the company that made them has gone bankrupt. Teton County has the highest concentration of wealth of any county in the United States, with average per capita income of more than $318,000. The county commission turned its nose up at buying natural gas vehicles despite a readily available local natural gas supply. Instead it bought electric buses from Proterra, a California company that had received massive federal subsidies. The “green” buses have been breaking down in cold weather (which is most of the time in the mountains of Wyoming) and heating needs sapped the energy from the batteries. In winter, the electric buses had to return to the depot at midday to recharge and were replaced by either another electric bus, if one was available, or a diesel-powered bus. Many of the malfunctioning buses have been abandoned, and so the town’s transit system is relying on its diesel fleet of 31 buses.
The last of the electric buses went out of service two months ago, and some of the broken buses have been awaiting parts for months and the transit agency still is not sure when the parts will come or when its electric fleet will be running again. Proterra plans to continue operating while the bankruptcy case proceeds, and it has promised to deliver buses that are on order. It is unclear whether that includes filling parts orders. According to the transit agency, prior to Proterra’s bankruptcy, the transit system was well positioned to run electric vehicles charged with wind power and hydroelectricity. In a press release announcing the company’s bankruptcy, its CEO said the company faced “various market and macroeconomic headwinds that have impacted our ability to efficiently scale all our opportunities simultaneously.”
Proterra received financial support from federal taxpayers and praise from President Biden. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provided more than $5.5 billion for low- and no-emission buses, each costing around $1 million each. In 2021, Biden participated in a virtual tour of the company, and said “The fact is, you’re making me look good.” Biden went on to discuss a plan to build 50,000 charging stations with federal support.
The Teton County Commission bought the electric buses instead of making road improvements, thinking that if driving was inconvenient, people would ride more bikes and take public transit. Since the wealth disparity is so high in Teton County and service workers cannot afford local housing, it is reasonable to assume those who were expected to ride bikes or take the buses to work were lower income people.
Despite this track record, there are more electric buses heading to Teton County as the transit agency works to phase out as much of its diesel fleet as it can. According to the News & Guide, the eight buses in its fleet cost $2.3 million, 80 percent of which was covered by a Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grant in 2019. Between 2020 and 2021, similar grants provided another $2.6 million. The transit agency plans to spend $3.3 million for four more electric buses. This time, however, a company other than Proterra will be filling the order, and delivery is years away. But one thing is clear: taxpayers are continuing to subsidize buying electric buses for the richest county in the United States.
In June, The Teton Village Association was awarded a $945,178 grant from the FTA to buy low or no-emission buses and bus facilities and the Village is offering a 20 percent match, or $166,796.25, toward the project. The buses, which seat around 35 passengers each, will likely be available in 2024 for the 2024/2025 ski season. The grant is part of a $1.7 billion earmark in Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for transit projects in 46 states and territories. Nearly half of the buses will be zero-emission models, bringing the total number of zero-emission transit buses funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law over two years to more than 1,800, which is more than double the number of EV buses on roads now. But, that number still only represents a fraction of the roughly 60,000 buses in operation in the United States.
Inflation Reduction Act “Green” Handouts
The Congressional Budget Office had forecast that energy and climate outlays tied to the law would total about $391 billion from 2022 to 2031, with more than 60 percent of that coming from claims for various tax credits, paid by taxpayers. Goldman Sachs analysts, however, estimated that the total could be three times that amount, as businesses make much heavier use of the incentives than the government anticipated and as the Biden Administration interprets the law in the most generous way, increasing the handouts. Goldman Sachs’ estimate is $1.2 trillion from taxpayers in the form of federal tax credits and other incentives. Other research groups and the government have also revised their forecasts upward.
Biden’s Push for Electric School Buses
The Biden administration is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to subsidize the purchase of electric school buses despite their cost and their tendency to catch fire. Electric school buses cost double that of diesel school buses–about $400,000 compared to $200,000, according to Electrek. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made an additional $500 million available to help rebate recipients to transform their school bus fleets from diesel to electric on top of an earlier $1 billion made available via the program. The government is getting communities hooked on green handouts for charging infrastructure and other equipment and personnel. “Free money” is a powerful drug for local politicians.
Several electric buses have caught fire across the country in recent months, a trend mostly attributable to malfunctions in their lithium-ion batteries. According to fire officials, lithium ion battery fires are difficult to extinguish due to the thermal chemical process that produces great heat and continually reignites. Rather than extinguish them, fire officials let the fire burn out.
Electric buses have burst into flames due to battery malfunctions in Wichita, Kansas, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, San Jose, California, and Hamden, Connecticut, since July 2022. The Hamden e-bus fire resulted in a decision to pull the city’s entire e-bus fleet off the roads despite receiving praise from Democratic Governor Ned Lamont and Senator Chris Murphy.
The Biden administration is pushing electric buses on the American public regardless of their cost and safety as their cost is double that of diesel buses and there are many instances of them catching fire with injuries to mechanics and others. Biden is subsidizing electric buses with taxpayer funds and city transit agencies are jumping on the e-bus band wagon. However, in certain areas such as Jackson Hole, Wyoming, e-buses have not fared well. In the winter, the cold and the heat that the passengers demand sap the battery of power and require the buses to return to the depot by midday to be replaced by another e-bus or a diesel bus. Further, the company that made the original eight buses for the city, Proterra, has filed for bankruptcy and it is unclear whether the 8 broken buses will receive parts. Still, the city’s transit agency is continuing to accept federal money to buy more electric buses.