Following his unsuccessful presidential bid, Pete Buttigieg will play a role in the Biden Administration. On Monday, Biden announced that Buttigieg will be joining his cabinet as Secretary of Transportation. He will be the first openly gay member of a presidential cabinet and will be one of the youngest members of Biden’s team at 38. Buttigieg, who is both an Afghanistan War veteran and a Rhodes Scholar, ran in the 2020 Democratic primaries as a centrist with similar policies to Biden’s own.
Buttigieg’s role in the Administration is likely to be critical to Biden’s infrastructure plans. Biden has made the issue of climate change central to his rhetoric involving transportation. As such, Buttigieg’s skills as a communicator will be invaluable in advancing the administration’s transportation agenda. Biden’s proposed overhaul of the country’s infrastructure will also require Buttigieg to effectively navigate the bureaucracy surrounding federal funding for public transportation efforts.
Biden is expected to put outsized emphasis on the climate compared to his predecessors. This means that Buttigieg, as Secretary of Transportation, will need to navigate complicated lobbies such as the fossil fuel industry, automotive manufacturers and the like. Since the Transportation agency has the power to levy emissions regulations on the auto industry, Buttigieg’s role will likely be pivotal in shaping the US’s climate response.
During his presidential bid, Buttigieg called for a return to Obama-era emissions guidelines that were slashed under Trump. Like Joe Biden, Buttigieg has repeatedly called for the US to be carbon neutral by 2050.
Like automobiles, transportation infrastructure will be filtered through a lens of climate change. Creating bridges, roads and levies in a sustainable manner will fall to Buttigieg. That’s not to mention the kinds of construction that will be necessary to withstand increased heat and flooding conditions over time.
“He will, I think, grasp the challenge of moving the transportation sector toward a net-zero emissions profile by 2050,” John Podesta, former advisor to Barrack Obama on climate change, said of Buttigieg. He noted that while Buttigieg doesn’t have the deepest climate background, “the guy can drill down on almost anything.”
The choice of Buttigieg to head Transportation is historic, as it would make the former South Bend mayor the first openly gay member of any cabinet. Biden promised voters he would select a historically diverse cabinet, and his choice of Buttigieg seems to highlight his commitment to that promise. Likewise, his running mate, Kamala Harris, will be the first woman, the first black American and the first Asian American to hold the office of vice president.