When candidate Joe Biden said he supported the use of fracking many of my friends justified it to me as no more than Biden appealing to voters in the crucial state of Pennsylvania.
But with the news that Biden has decided to appoint Brian Deese to lead his National Economic Council, there may be much more to the new administration’s poor environmental position than a politically opportunistic support for fracking.
Brian Deese comes directly from Black Rock, the world’s largest fund manager.
Prior to Black Rock Deese held several jobs in the Obama White House. He spent four years at the NEC as special assistant to the president for economic policy and deputy director. Deese was also deputy and acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, and a senior adviser to Obama on climate policy.
In January Black Rock’s CEO, Larry Fink, made news by saying that their investments would reflect a view that the environment and the threat of climate change were a central investment consideration.
Fink chose Brian Deese to oversee BlackRock’s environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investment strategy.
Instead of reducing investments in fossil fuels, Deese’s role was apparently to give cover to Black Rock’s investment in them.
For example, in January BlackRock announced a major initiative to “put sustainability at the heart of its investment decisions,” including divestment from coal companies. In reality, the directive limited the divestment to companies that make more than 25 percent of their revenues from coal, leaving in place scores of investments. A British group called Urgewald that analyzes asset management companies for their climate risk estimates that BlackRock only excluded 20 percent of the 746 companies on its Global Coal Exit List, and the company still had $17 billion invested in coal producers.
BlackRock remains the world’s largest financial backer for fossil fuel projects, including new coal development as well as existing coal reserves. BlackRock also is heavily invested in agribusinesses that are destroying the Amazon rain forest. The company issued a statement on agribusiness in February, but it offered little in the way of solutions. The statement “fails to explain … what standards it will use to gauge companies’ operations, and what consequences there will be for companies that continue to drive widespread deforestation,” noted the coalition BlackRock’s Big Problem.
The Deese appointment is not good news.