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Jean Pierre Hakim

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DUBAI: US President Joe Biden’s new energy secretary has come out fighting for renewable energy in her first big keynote address since getting Congressional approval for her appointment.

Jennifer Granholm told the CERAWeek energy forum in Houston, Texas, that the US had previously “stood on the sidelines” as rival nations developed carbon-neutral policies and technologies.

“But no more,” she told Pulitzer Prize-winning oil historian Daniel Yergin.

Granholm said that the plans to make the world net zero in energy terms by 2050 — to which the Biden administration has signed up — presented $23 trillion worth of economic opportunities, and she asked: “Where are those investments going to be? Are they going to be in China? Are they going to be in other economic competitors to us?

“You better believe other countries are vying for this economic sector. So, are we going to get in a battle, or are we going to bring a knife to a gunfight? Joe Biden is demanding that we get in the battle.”

Granholm added: “The Department of Energy is going to be one of our government’s most fierce fighting forces as we pursue this goal of a carbon- and pollution-free economy.”

The new secretary laid out some specific plans for cleaner energy. They included hundreds of gigawatts of clean energy on the US grid, the use of the $40 billion of resources of the Loan Program Office (LOP) for renewable projects, and targeted programs for US oil and gas communities to help them through the transition to cleaner energy sources.

She also announced the appointment of clean energy entrepreneur Jiga Shah as the new head of the LPO. “Jiga has written the playbook on how to drive the market towards renewable energy,” she said.

Granholm, who was governor of the car-producing state of Michigan during the global financial crisis, said that experience has taught her the need to diversify away from gasoline-fueled cars. She also said the state was now the home of one-third of all battery production for electric vehicles in the US. Since then, America has also become self-sufficient in oil and gas, and Granholm said she would continue to seek energy security in hydrocarbons. 

“We want energy security, so the job is how to manage carbon emissions,” she said, highlighting technology for carbon capture as well as the opportunity for hydrogen as a clean fuel.

Granholm said that oil and gas was a “super important” industry.

“People grew up helping to power the US and Joe Biden does not want to leave any community behind. But, I am not going to sugarcoat how difficult the energy transition is,” she said.

Granholm also highlighted plans for the US to maximize its resources of minerals critical for electric vehicle battery production, like cobalt and lithium, “which come from China and from the Democratic Republic of Congo, which uses child labor,” she added.

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