The Climate Debate is reaching untraditional places as a result of Biden’s aggressive policy, and these changes can become more common.
April 18, 2022 by Avi Wolasky
If climate change doesn't slow down based on convenience, then why should our efforts to counter it?
The climate change debate has been untethered from its traditional political sphere and is having implications across unique federal agencies. This reflects the increasingly popular position that the Federal Reserve should use its regulatory powers to restrain the flow of bank lending to carbon-producing entities and is being propelled by President Biden’s promise to use the “whole of government” and “deploy the full capacity of its agencies” to combat climate change.
Sticking to his word, President Biden nominated climate-activist Sarah Bloom Raskin to serve as the Federal Reserve Vice Chairwoman of Supervision, one of the most influential positions that oversees the American Banking System. As Vice Chair for Supervision, Raskin would have sweeping power to regulate the financial market. Raskin has been a vocal proponent of using the Federal Reserve, an apolitical branch of government that traditionally is used to ensure low inflation, unemployment, and a stable banking system as a device to proactively counter climate related threats such as natural disasters and wildfires. She has also called for financial regulators to “reimagine their own role,” and she criticized the treasury for lending to highly indebted fossil-fuel companies over the pandemic.
Predictably, Senate Republicans were not thrilled with the idea of using the federal reserve to fight climate change, so they boycotted the committee vote for her nomination. This left the Democrats without a quorum necessary to advance her and four other Fed nominees through the senate, leaving their status in limbo, which happened to include Chairman Jerome Powell. Powell’s nomination is not truly in jeopardy because unlike Raskin, Powell is reluctant to use the Fed’s powers to address climate change, so Republicans and Democrats are sufficiently united on the idea of him serving another term. 
That being said, the delay of Powell’s confirmation process caused by Republican opposition to Raskin is an interesting byproduct of Biden’s novel approach to climate change, placing it at the top of his administration’s list of priorities. In the face of rising inflation and uncertainty in the global economy caused by Russia, it would be understandable for Biden to back down from using the Fed to fight climate change and instead seek smooth nominations for his appointees, but that does not appear to be the case. Additionally, the delay in filling top Fed appointments caused by the Raskin controversy is slowing important decisions on regulatory policy. Biden is keeping his eye on the ball and sticking to his green-first agenda, however, causing climate change politics to infiltrate and disrupt unfamiliar political territories.
Another unconventional place where environmental politics are getting exposure is in the United States Postal Service. Needing to upgrade their fleet, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced that the USPS is planning to purchase 50,000 to 165,000 new vehicles, with the vast majority of the vehicles being gas-powered. This comes on the heels of Biden signing an executive order to drastically reduce the federal government’s gas-powered vehicle infrastructure and by 2035 to only purchase zero-emission vehicles. Dejoy’s persistence on buying gas-powered vehicles has brought him under hot water. Many, including EPA administrator for policy Vicki Arroyo, consider it “a crucial lost opportunity to more rapidly reduce the carbon footprint of one the largest government fleets in the world,” and more generally implement the administration’s new climate rules. The Postal Service is not bound by executive orders because it is an independent agency, but the fact that the Postmaster General is being called to resign due to climate change politics is an unprecedented and uniquely interesting development.
As the previous examples illustrate, due to the Biden administration and its aggressive attitude towards countering climate change, green politics are becoming an increasingly visible political issue. As a result, they will be increasingly harder to ignore and relegate to one political space. Environmental concerns will take priority regardless of current events, and no government agency is safe from having an environmental reckoning. Despite these developments fostering some political turmoil and creating uncertainty during already precarious times, climate change politics may nevertheless need to play the role of disrupter if we are to seriously commit to addressing and impeding the climate change threat.
 See Fact Sheet, The White House, President Biden Sets 2030 Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Target Aimed at Creating Good-Paying Union Jobs and Securing U.S. Leadership on Clean Energy
Technologies, (Apr. 22, 2021), https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-
 Biden Considering Sarah Bloom Raskin To Take Top Fed Banking Spot, PYMTS (Dec. 28, 2021), https://www.pymnts.com/politics/2021/biden-considering-sarah-bloom-raskin-for-top-fed-banking-role/.
 The Editorial Board, Unfit For The Federal Reserve, The Wall Street Journal (Feb. 15, 2022), https://www.wsj.com/articles/unfit-for-the-federal-reserve-biden-nominees-sarah-bloom-raskin-lisa-cook-11644966838?cx_testId=3&cx_testVariant=cx_2&cx_artPos=4&mod=WTRN#cxrecs_s.
 Supra, note 2.
 Sarah Bloom Raskin, Changing the Climate of Financial Regulation, Project Syndicate (Sep. 10, 2021), https://www.project-syndicate.org/onpoint/us-financial-regulators-climate-change-by-sarah-bloom-raskin-2021-09.
 Andrew Ackerman and Nick Timiraos, Senate Republicans Block Vote on Biden’s Fed Nominees, The Wall Street Journal (Feb. 15, 2022), https://www.wsj.com/articles/senate-republicans-set-to-stall-key-vote-on-bidens-fed-nominees-11644949966?mod=article_inline.
 Nick Timiraos, Democrats’ Split Deepens Over Powell Fed Reappointment, The Wall Street Journal (Sep. 8, 2021), https://www.wsj.com/articles/democrats-split-deepens-over-powell-fed-reappointment-11631123805?mod=article_inline.
 See Andrew Ackerman and Andrew Duehren, Sen. Joe Manchin Signals Opposition to Sarah Bloom Raskin for Fed Post, The Wall Street Journal (Mar. 14, 2022), https://www.wsj.com/articles/sen-joe-manchin-signals-opposition-to-sarah-bloom-raskin-for-fed-post-11647275446?mod=djem10point.
 Lisa Friedman, The Post Office Is Buying Gas-Powered Trucks, Despite Biden Climate Order, N.Y. Times (Feb. 2, 2022), https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/02/climate/postal-service-trucks-electric-climate.html.
 See Fact Sheet, The White House, President Biden Signs Executive Order Catalyzing America’s Clean Energy Economy Through Federal Sustainability, (Dec. 8, 2021), https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/12/08/fact-sheet-president-biden-signs-executive-order-catalyzing-americas-clean-energy-economy-through-federal-sustainability/.
 Friedman, supra note 9.