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New Energy Department roles look to animate Biden's campaign themes

The burst of Biden administration staffing picks announced yesterday revealed that the Energy Department (DOE) has newly created roles that reflect what President Biden called campaign priorities.

Driving the news: One new position is "director of energy jobs," which is being filled by Jennifer Jean Kropke. She was previously the first director of workforce and environmental engagement with Local 11 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.


Another newly created position is "deputy director for energy justice." It's being filled by Shalanda H. Baker, who comes from her job as a Northeastern University law professor. She also co-founded the nonprofit Initiative for Energy Justice.

Why it matters: A pillar of Biden's case for his climate agenda is a fundamentally economic pitch.

  • He's hoping to accelerate job growth in energy-related fields like electric vehicle manufacturing and charging infrastructure, faster deployment of renewables and more.
  • Biden officials also say they'll also focus heavily on environmental justice — addressing the disproportionate pollution burdens often faced by the poor and people of color.

The big picture: They're the latest of several newly created administration positions.

  • The highest level ones, which were announced in December, are John Kerry's gig as special climate envoy and Gina McCarthy, who is leading the new White House climate office. We wrote about her top deputies here.
  • Two more: There's now a senior director for environmental justice at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, a role filled by Cecilia Martinez. And per the White House, associate director for climate, energy, environment and science is a new position within the Office of Management and Budget.

Reality check: Who knows how much all the new bodies will actually translate into tangible outcomes. But they're nonetheless a sign of intent.

What we don't know: The precise outlines and activities of the new DOE roles. DOE spokesman Kevin Liao spoke of the positions in broad terms.

  • "These new positions reflect President Biden’s belief in the job creating potential of bold climate action and the urgent need to act on longstanding environmental injustices in America," he said.
  • Baker's overall views are captured in a WBUR interview posted earlier this week.

Yes, but: Biden's facing immediate criticism that his initial climate policy moves are hurting jobs.

  • Republicans and industry officials and some unions bashed his decision to nix the permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
  • Keystone developer TC Energy said it's cutting more than 1,000 construction jobs in coming weeks, Reuters reports.
  • And oil industry groups criticized yesterday's Interior Department move to freeze permitting for oil-and-gas projects on federal lands.

Bonus: Here are the new staffing lists from EPA, DOE, Interior and the Transportation Department (DOT).

One thing that stands out is that lots of Obama-era names are coming back.

  • For instance, DOE chief of staff Tarak Shah was also at the agency under Obama, while EPA chief of staff Dan Utech was an Obama White House energy and climate aide.
  • Another example is Andrew Light, who has a high-level international affairs role at DOE. He was a senior State Department climate aide under Obama.

The intrigue: With a h/t to E&E News, one of the Transportation picks could signal the administration's intent to set much more aggressive fuel economy rules.

  • Steve Cliff, new deputy administrator of DOT's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, comes from the California Air Resources Board, which focuses heavily on transportation-sector emissions.

Go deeper: Biden's plan to upend Trump's environmental legacy

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Why the startup world needs to ditch "unicorns" for "dragons"

When Aileen Lee originally coined the term "unicorn" in late 2013, she was describing the 39 "U.S.-based software companies started since 2003 and valued at over $1 billion by public or private market investors."

Flashback: It got redefined in early 2015 by yours truly and Erin Griffith, in a cover story for Fortune, as any privately-held startup valued at $1 billion or more. At the time, we counted 80 of them.

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Scoop: Facebook's new moves to lower News Feed's political volume

Facebook plans to announce that it will de-emphasize political posts and current events content in the News Feed based on negative user feedback, Axios has learned. It also plans to expand tests to limit the amount of political content that people see in their News Feeds to more countries outside of the U.S.

Why it matters: The changes could reduce traffic to some news publishers, particularly companies that post a lot of political content.

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Scoop: Amazon quietly getting into live audio business

Amazon is investing heavily in a new live audio feature that's similar to other live audio offerings like Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces and Spotify's new live audio platform, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: As with Amazon's efforts in podcasting and music subscriptions, the company sees live audio as a way to bolster the types of content it can offer through its voice assistant, Alexa, and its smart speaker products.

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Hurricane Ida exposes America's precarious energy infrastructure

The powerful hurricane that plunged New Orleans into darkness for what could be weeks is the latest sign that U.S. power systems are not ready for a warmer, more volatile world.

The big picture: “Our current infrastructure is not adequate when it comes to these kinds of weather extremes,” Joshua Rhodes, a University of Texas energy expert, tells Axios.

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"We must go further": 70% of adults in European Union are fully vaccinated

About 70% of adults in the European Union are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said Tuesday.

Why it matters: The milestone makes the E.U. one of the world's leaders in inoculations, after an initially lagging vaccine campaign, the New York Times notes.

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What Elizabeth Holmes jurors will be asked ahead of fraud trial

Jury selection begins today in USA v. Elizabeth Holmes, with the actual jury trial to get underway on Sept. 8.

Why it matters: Theranos was the biggest fraud in Silicon Valley history, putting both hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of patients' health at risk.

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