Liberal organizations for months have pushed Biden to refuse personnel from working for him if they beforehand worked with fossil fuel companies or Wall Street firms that invested in coal, oil, or natural gas.
Though some activists are deciding not to start a major battle to stop Brian Deese, Biden's expected pick for National Economic Council director, even though he is the head of global sustainable investing at BlackRock, the world’s biggest asset manager and a leading fossil fuel investor.
These activists know that pushing too hard could restrain the influence of liberals in the Biden administration.
"This is one of several moments where we are seeing splits in the Left. It's really easy to be on the same side when you are fighting a common enemy. It's a lot harder to figure out what you agree with. You are seeing some of that sorting,” a liberal climate activist explained. The activist, who works for a group struggling against fossil fuel-aligned personnel, asked to be unknown because of internal divisions.
Deese is proving to be more divisive among liberals than Ernest Moniz, whom progressive groups are more organized and proactive in opposing as the next energy secretary.
That’s because Deese would bring climate policymaking knowledge to his position as National Economic Council director, an unusual resume for that job, which does not require Senate confirmation.
“The counterfactual person to run the NEC could be a person who doesn't know or care about climate action,” Leah Stokes, an assistant professor of environmental politics at the University of California, Santa Barbara who is ordinarily allied with liberal groups, explained.
Deese was a senior counselor to President Barack Obama centered on climate and energy, performing a significant role in developing the Paris agreement and helping impose strict fuel-efficiency standards on automakers. Those practices would place Deese to carry out Biden’s intent to make climate change policy central to all aspects of government.
“It’s both true there is opposition to him, and we don't approve of some of his policies and some of what he’s done with his life and that he also might be one of our routes into the Biden administration. Is that enough to merit shutting up?” the liberal activist said.
Some liberal groups such as Oil Change U.S. that have led the campaign pressuring Biden to withdraw Obama-era personnel with fossil fuel ties decided not to issue a public opinion on Deese at all.
Other people that have associated with that campaign, such as former Obama climate adviser John Podesta of Climate Power 2020 and Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, have made supportive statements.