Energy & Environment

Granholm: White House prefers legislation for energy infrastructure

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm emphasized Monday that the Biden administration would prefer to meet its renewable energy goals through legislation — not executive action.

Asked in a virtual Politico Playbook interview whether the administration would consider executive action if it can’t get its $2 trillion infrastructure package approved by Congress, Granholm said the administration would “use every tool we can to make this happen, but the American Jobs Plan is a big tool in the toolbox.”

Granholm went on to express confidence that the $2 trillion package “will get passed, the question is what does it look like” in its final form.

“We’ve got to figure out what are the components that could get enough votes to get us across the finish line,” she added.

It’s unclear how the package will move through the Senate, where it does not have Republican support.

There have been discussions about moving the large package with the use of budget reconciliation rules that sidestep the filibuster, meaning the bill would just need 50 votes and Vice President Harris’s tie-breaking vote to get through the chamber. 

But there have also been talks about splitting off the traditional infrastructure parts of the package as part of a bipartisan product.

Granholm said “conversations are being had right now” about passing the measure through reconciliation, which would only require a simple majority, but said “the bottom line is we want to get bipartisan support.”

Granholm also emphasized the administration’s goal of ensuring workers in the fossil fuel industry were able to transition into renewable energy rather than outright losing their livelihoods, saying, “The question is for us, as a country and a globe, how you can help [coal-dependent] communities reduce their CO2 exposure through coal.”

“We cannot abandon those workers who have made the choice and for their lives have been told ‘you’ve got to power America,’” she said.

Granholm’s comments come the week after the United Mine Workers Union announced it would back the administration’s energy transition goals as long as the White House could ensure it would retain workers’ jobs through the transition. It’s unclear how the administration can ensure that workers retain jobs that provide the same kinds of pay and benefits as jobs that might be lost in the transition away from coal.

The Energy secretary was also asked about the potential for a miles-traveled user fee to pay for infrastructure as an alternative to a corporate tax increase. The administration has emphasized a gas tax increase would violate its pledge to raise taxes on those making under $400,000 and similarly said a miles-traveled tax is not being considered.

“A user fee is not going to be enough to pay for the entire road infrastructure when you only have 3 percent of the vehicles being electric at this point,” Granholm said Monday. “It just doesn’t get you there in terms of the payfor.”

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