Jennifer Granholm was sworn in on 25 February as the 16th US Secretary of Energy by Vice President Kamala Harris, following a broad bipartisan confirmation vote of 64-35 in the US Senate. Secretary Granholm is only the second woman to lead the Department of Energy (DOE). “DOE is powered by brilliant scientists, engineers, and energy policy experts who are the very best for the job we’ve been tasked with: to develop and deploy new clean energy technologies that will achieve the Administration’s goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and secure our nation’s future,” she said. “I am so ready to work alongside them as we kickstart America’s clean energy revolution, create millions of good-paying union jobs, and deliver benefits to American workers and communities across the nation.”
Before her nomination as Energy Secretary, Granholm was the first woman elected Governor of Michigan, serving two terms from 2003 to 2011. Granholm was also the first woman elected Attorney General of Michigan, serving as the state’s top law enforcement officer from 1998 to 2002.
After two terms as governor, Granholm joined the faculty of the University of California, Berkeley as a Distinguished Professor of Practice in the Goldman School of Public Policy, focusing on the intersection of law, clean energy, manufacturing, policy, and industry. She also served as an advisor to the Clean Energy Programme of the Pew Charitable Trusts. Granholm, an immigrant from Canada, is an honors graduate of both the University of California, Berkeley and Harvard Law School.
In a spate of interviews after assuming her post, she emphasised the importance of clean energy to mitigate climate change, but did not mention nuclear power, focusing instead on carbon capture, wind and solar.
In an interview with NPR on 26 February she said, “The entire world is saying we want to get to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. And so…we should be all gearing toward that. It's a huge market opportunity for the fossil companies to diversify, to become energy companies, which many of them are already starting to do. And it's a huge opportunity for us to invest in the technologies that actually remove carbon.” She said carbon capture use and sequestration is a technology that is ready. “All we need is the investment and the commitment to attach this technology to natural gas, to the refineries, to coal refineries. We can do this right now.” She also advocated investment in wind and solar, “depending on their geography”.
She noted: “We have allowed our economic competitors like China to take our supply chains, to take our manufacturing capabilities….Well, at this moment, for our economic security, for our energy security, for our strategic placement in the globe, we need to be building these products in America.”
She added: “Clearly, we have to level the playing field, but it may mean that the United States has to decide that for our strategic placement, that we've got to invest in some of these technologies upfront like we have been doing and invest in deploying them across the country.… If we're going to have a reliable energy system, we have to have batteries that store energy from wind and solar, big batteries that are held by the utilities to make sure that we have a reliable ability to dispatch clean energy.” However, such batteries, require lithium and cobalt. “We have them underground. We have them in strategic locations, but we have not mined for them. We have allowed China to corner the market on these rare earths.”