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Biden Plans To Nominate Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm As Energy Secretary

Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm speaks during a TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco in 2019.
Steve Jennings
Getty Images for TechCrunch
Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm speaks during a TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco in 2019.

Updated 6:39 p.m. ET

President-elect Joe Biden is expected to nominate former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm to be the next secretary of energy, two sources familiar with transition discussions told NPR.

Granholm will bring experience in promoting clean-energy manufacturing as Biden tries to implement a sweeping $2 trillion climate plan.

The selection was first reported by Politico.

Granholm has been Michigan's attorney general and served two terms as governor until 2011. She was also an energy adviser to Hillary Clinton and is an adjunct professor at the University of California, Berkeley law school.

When Chrysler and General Motors faced bankruptcy during the Great Recession, Granholm worked with the Obama administration on a bailout that pushed them to invest in green technology such as battery storage. Since then, automakers have dramatically ramped up production plans for electric cars.

"Prior to the pandemic, clean energy was one of the fastest growing industries in Michigan, supporting over 125,000 jobs," she wrote in a recent The Detroit Newsop-ed. Now, she said, "low-carbon recovery measures" are needed to create jobs and help a middle class that's been battered by the pandemic's economic collapse.

Biden also frames his climate plan as an opportunity to create good jobs. The plan aims to make the country's power sector carbon neutral by 2035 but relies on technologies that haven't even been developed, or at least not yet commercialized.

Lisa Ramsden, senior climate campaigner with the environmental group Greenpeace USA, welcomed the news.

"Jennifer Granholm has forcefully spoken out against both the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines and advocated for shifting investment from oil and gas to renewable energy solutions," she said in a statement. "That's the kind of leadership the Department of Energy has been sorely missing."

Progressive climate activists had campaigned against another possible DOE nominee, Ernest Moniz, citing his ties to the fossil fuel industry.

The Department of Energy leads research into key areas experts consider essential to addressing climate change, including boosting electric vehicles and renewable energy, reducing the carbon footprints of buildings, capturing carbon from power plants and reinvigorating the nuclear power industry.

If confirmed by the Senate, Granholm will lead a DOE that is sometimes called "the department of everything" because its mandates extend beyond energy.

The agency was created in 1977 but has its roots in the Manhattan Project to build an atomic bomb during World War II.

The Energy Department portfolio includes managing the security of the country's nuclear weapons stockpile, 17 national labs across the country, renewable energy and energy efficiency programs, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and the cleanup of nuclear and chemical pollution leftover from the Cold War.

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Jennifer Ludden helps edit energy and environment stories for NPR's National Desk, working with NPR staffers and a team of public radio reporters across the country. They track the shift to clean energy, state and federal policy moves, and how people and communities are coping with the mounting impacts of climate change.