Energy & Environment

Republicans press Granholm on fossil fuels during confirmation hearing

Republicans on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee pressed Energy Secretary nominee Jennifer Granholm on fossil fuel issues during her sometimes tense confirmation hearing on Wednesday. 

Granholm, the former governor of Michigan, will be tasked with helping implement the president's goal of expanding clean energy as part of an effort to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. 

Both Biden and Granholm have stressed that they want to create jobs as part of the transition, with Granholm saying during the hearing the goal is to create 10 million jobs. 

Republicans, particularly those from fossil fuel-producing states, expressed skepticism during the hearing about replacing oil and gas jobs. 

In opening remarks, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who will be the top Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said he won't "sit idly by ... if the Biden administration enforces policies that threaten Wyoming's economy or the lifeblood of so many people in my home state."

He also asked Granholm if it is a "good thing" that the U.S. is the world's largest oil and natural gas producer. 

"It is a good thing, and I look forward to working with you to make sure that it's clean and reduces [greenhouse gas] emissions," Granholm said. 

At several points during the hearing, Granholm stressed her support for still-developing carbon capture and storage technology that would pull emitted carbon from the air and her thoughts that it would be an important part of producing those fuels in a cleaner manner. 

And Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) expressed concerns over how long it would take for the jobs to materialize. 

"If you've lost a job that is putting food on your table now, it's cold comfort to know that years from now, in a different state, perhaps with a different training ... there will be another job available," Cassidy said. 

"When we provided incentives for job providers to locate in Michigan in clean energy in Michigan, they came," Granholm responded. 

Meanwhile, other senators argued that impacts would be worse if the transition to clean energy does not occur. 

"The changes in employment patterns occasioned by the movement to a carbon-free economy are obvious," said Sen. Angus King (I-Maine). "What's hard to calculate is the drastic changes to our economy if we don't make this transition and the impacts all over the country in agriculture, in industry, in fisheries. ... There's an enormous cost on the other side that has to be part of this equation."

During the hearing, Granholm also laid out her vision for her tenure at the department, saying that her top priorities would be ensuring U.S. national security, supporting scientific work at national labs - including their work on climate change and deploying that research to create jobs. 

She also emphasized using "place-based" solutions, or solutions unique to each state, "to be able to take advantage of expertise and comparative advantages of states and build on that to allow them to diversify inside and outside their main industries."

The former governor also faced questions on nuclear waste storage. She said that the Biden administration opposes storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, a controversial Nevada repository that critics fear could cause water pollution. 

A vote on whether to advance Granholm's nomination to the full Senate has not yet been scheduled.

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