Photo: Jennifer Granholm; Source: Her website

U.S. energy secretary pick Jennifer Granholm backs Biden’s green push

After many negative comments targeted President Biden’s plan to halt oil and gas leasing, the nominee for the position of energy secretary Jennifer Granholm defended the administration’s push for a clean energy transition.

To remind, Republican senators from oil-producing states, led by Senator Bill Cassidy from Louisiana, introduced legislation that could block the Biden administration’s order pausing new oil and gas leasing on federal lands.

Cassidy was backed by 24 more senators from 16 more states – Wyoming, Tennessee, Arkansas, West Virginia, Texas, North Dakota, Idaho, Montana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Utah, Kansas, Alaska, Pennsylvania, and Alabama.

A U.S. House of Representatives companion version of the bill is being sponsored by Representative Yvette Herrell and co-sponsored by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Minority Whip Steve Scalise, and Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Bruce Westerman, among others.

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To add more negative context to the leasing halt, the API, IAGC, IPAA, and NOIA described it as “short-sighted”, “in reality a ban”, “obliteration of jobs”, and “a step backwards for the U.S. economy” as well as a move that has “no shortage of negative consequences”.

Granholm took a different approach at her Senate confirmation hearing last week. She wants to steer the department to help the United States compete with China on electric vehicles and green technologies like advanced batteries and solar and wind power.

She made a rather simple argument by stating: “We can buy electric car batteries from Asia or we can make them in America. We can install wind turbines from Denmark or we can make them in America”.

But Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia who will soon head the committee, and John Barrasso of Wyoming, the panel’s top Republican, told Granholm that Biden’s green push is increasing concerns in rural states that coal, oil and gas workers risk losing their jobs in the transition.

The hearing happened days after Biden cancelled a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline to bring oil from Canada. Days following that, the president made a temporary ban on oil and gas leasing on federal land indefinite.

A ‘golden opportunity’

Reuters quoted Manchin as saying that said workers in fossil fuel industry feel as “they’ve been left behind”. According to him, the energy transition must be about innovation, not the elimination of jobs and that Granholm has a “golden opportunity” if the people can be transitioned into new jobs where they live.

Energy is the biggest thing that can heal us and bring us together … because it has quite divided us too”, Manchin added.

Granholm said oil, gas and coal would still be part of the U.S. energy mix despite a Biden administration goal for the country to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

She added that Michigan created a “No Worker Left Behind” program when she was governor that helped them get new jobs. And the Biden administration, she said, has pledged to commit 40 per cent of the benefits of the clean energy transition to communities that have been left behind.

Clean energy technologies could represent a $23 trillion global market by 2030, Granholm said, apparently citing a recent report by the International Finance Corporation.

If or rather when confirmed by the Senate, Granholm would be only the second female U.S. energy secretary after Hazel O’Leary served in the Clinton administration in the 1990s.

Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican, asked Granholm about opportunities for mining rare earth and other minerals that are used in advanced batteries, and wind and solar power. Granholm responded that such mining is possible but only in a “responsible way” and that she supports the industry for the jobs and energy security it provides.

It is worth noting that Granholm was the former governor of auto-manufacturing Michigan from 2003 to 2011. The magnitude of Michigan’s car industry over the years has been well documented since most of the largest U.S. brands are currently or have at some point been headquartered there.

Some brands include Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, General Motors, Henry Ford Company, Jeep, Pontiac, amongst many others. So, it is nothing new for her to be involved around businesses which are anchored around fossil fuels.

Also, while she was governor of Michigan, Granholm led a charge to secure $1.35 billion in federal funding for companies to produce electric vehicles and advanced batteries in the state showing her clean fuel transition tendencies.