Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki and Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, April 8, 2021 | Beaufort County Now | Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki and Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, April 8, 2021

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Press Release:

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room  •  Washington D.C.  •  April 8  •  12:44 P.M. EDT

    MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Okay. We have another member of the President's Jobs Cabinet joining us today: Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm.

    Secretary Granholm is just the second woman to lead the Department of Energy, where she will help America achieve President Biden's goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. She'll do this by advancing cutting-edge clean energy technologies, creating millions of good-paying union clean energy jobs, and building an equitable clean energy future.

    Secretary Granholm was the first woman elected Governor of Michigan, serving two terms from 2003 to 2011. As governor, she successfully led efforts to diversify the state's economy, strengthen its auto industry, preserve the manufacturing sector, and add emerging sectors, such as clean energy, to Michigan's economic portfolio.

    Today, one third of all North American electric vehicle battery production takes place in Michigan. The state is one of the top five states for clean energy patents, and 126,000 Michiganders were employed in the clean energy sector prior to COVID-19.

    She also was the first woman elected Attorney General of Michigan and served as the state's top law enforcement officer from 1998 to 2002.

    As always, she can take a few questions. I'll be the bad cop. And with that, I'll turn it over to you.

    SECRETARY GRANHOLM: Great. Great. I get to bring my binder, too. (Laughter.) The double binder stack here.

    Thank you so much, Jen. I really am privileged to be able to share the podium with you today. And good afternoon, everybody.

    So, you know, I think that President Biden asked me to be the Secretary of Energy because I was the governor during a time when the auto industry was on its knees and when autoworkers were finding themselves out of work through no fault of their own. I feel like I've looked into the eyes of people who have been desperate and at a loss more times than I can count.

    And I was also governor when we invested to diversify Michigan's economy to build car 2.0, which is the electric vehicle — and the guts to that vehicle, the battery. And now here we are, 12 years later, and General Motors is saying that their entire fleet is going to be electrified.

    It is a huge distance that we've traveled, and so much of that is thanks to the decision by the federal government to invest in saving the backbone of the manufacturing industry, which was at that point the electric — or the vehicle industry. And the Obama-Biden efforts really made a statement and worked.

    And so we can do so much more than what we did in Michigan, and this is what the American Jobs Plan is all about. I'm so — I feel so happy for America that we have a President who wants to invest in our country and in our workers and in our manufacturing.

    And so, to me, the fact that there is out there, globally, a $23 trillion market for clean energy products, for products that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, is a massive opportunity for this country. And you better believe that other countries are seeing that opportunity as well, and our economic competitors are working to corner the market on those opportunities. Countries like China are pressing their foot on the pedal and revving up their electric engines, and they are thrilled to see that the United States is standing still while they are working to create jobs for their people.

    When I — after I was finished being governor, I traveled to China to see their clean energy efforts. It was with a group. And we went to a city, and I was standing next to the mayor of the city in China, and during a demonstration, he leaned over to me and he said, "So when do you think the United States is going to get a clean energy plan?" And at this point — and this was several years ago — I said, "Oh, I don't know. There's so much polarization. It's difficult in Congress to get consensus." And he just looked at me and he smiled, and he said, "Take your time." "Take your time." Because they saw our passivity as their opportunity. And it's not just in China; it's in other countries too.

    Understandably, countries want to corner this market on clean energy products because we have 195 countries who have committed to lowering their greenhouse gas emissions.

    So the question is: Where are those products going to be built, and who are they going to be built by? And it's going to take a lot of work, literally. We need millions of people in the United States working to lower greenhouse gas emissions. And we all know that, in the 21st century, making sure that we have the right infrastructure is critical.

    Infrastructure is, yes, roads and bridges, but it is ports and airports, and it is trains, and it is the pipes that pump water into our homes, and it is the broadband that brings the world and learning to our children; it's the broadband that brings economic opportunity to our businesses. Of course, it's the electrical grid that keeps the lights on. After what happened in Texas, can anybody really doubt that electricity and the electric grid is part of the foundation of who we are as a nation? And we need to invest in it if we want to make sure power keeps coming to our homes.

    There was an interesting poll that was done in February by Consumer Reports, and they found that 76 percent of Americans think that broadband is as important as electricity and water. Water. I mean, how can we not agree that broadband

    is infrastructure? And yet, we have been disinvesting in infrastructure as a nation, for decades. In infrastructure, in research and development, and in manufacturing — all of them we have been disinvesting in.

    Infrastructure, as you know, is now the smallest share of our economy since World War Two. We are at a 72-year low with respect to manufacturing. Research and development has been dropping since the 1960s. China and our economic competitors are investing in research and development because they want to seize the future; they want to surpass the United States. And if we allow that to happen, we will be weaker as a nation, and we will fall. And we cannot do that.

    And that's what this American Jobs Plan is all about. So we can't just sit around saying, "We need to do this. It's bipartisan." We know that Republicans and Democrats — it's a joke in Washington, Infrastructure Week. And Democrats and Republicans have been making that joke, but it's not a joke anymore. We need to get it done. And there is bipartisan support for these elements — these basic elements.

    So starting on Inauguration Day, just to say a word about what DOE, Department of Energy, has been doing: We've been rolling out efforts to research and development, and deploy clean energy technologies, with an eye toward creating jobs. And if the American Jobs Plan passes, this will be able to be put on steroids.


    So in the past two weeks, just as an example, we made two announcements on research. One — or one on research, and one on deployment of offshore wind. The research one was to cut the cost of solar by half, yet again, in the next 10 years. And on offshore wind, it was to add 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy on the Atlantic Seaboard, again, within 10 years.

    Today we are announcing another two ser- — two funding opportunities for clean energy technology. One of them is to create next-generation biofuels for airplanes and ships, which are very hard to electrify, and the second is to announce clean energy technology funding opportunity to reduce methane emissions from the coal, oil, and gas industry. And as many of you know, methane is an extremely potent and dangerous greenhouse gas.

    But these investments are really just a down payment on what we need to do as a nation, and the American Jobs project will take us the rest of the way.

    And I want to emphasize the — because I've been meeting with so many stakeholders on this — the true importance of ensuring that 40 percent of the benefits of the American Jobs Plan go to communities that have been left behind or unseen — people who have been in the shadows of power plants and whose children have to gasp to breathe or use an inhaler.

    We need to remedy a moral wrong and make those investments, and the American Jobs Plan will allow us to do that. It's a once-in-a-century investment to seize a once-in-a-century opportunity. That's what the people elected Joe Biden to do, and we've waited far too long to do it. So we're going to get it done, and we're going to put America to work.

    And I'm happy to take any questions.

    MS. PSAKI: Let's start. Zeke.

    Q:  Thank you, Secretary. If I can shift gears a little bit, one of the things in the President's infrastructure package was investments in nuclear — advanced nuclear development. One of the things I know you mentioned — or you reiterated during your confirmation hearing is the President's opposition to funding for a nuclear fuel repository in Yucca Mountain. Where does the Biden administration plan to store the nation's spent radioactive nuclear fuel? And what's the ongoing process of that review?

    SECRETARY GRANHOLM: Yeah, you'll — some of you may recall there was a bipartisan commission on what to do about spent nuclear fuel. There has to be a consent-based process to be able to do that. We are beginning that work inside of the Department of Energy. We have to find a solution, but it has to be based on, you know, community agreement.

    Q:  Is there a timetable for that review when you —

    SECRETARY GRANHOLM: We'll make an announcement — we'll be making an announcement on that; I'm not ready to say yet.

    Q:  And then just — sorry, just changing gears again — the last administration invested heavily in the nation's nuclear triad — the development of new and improved nuclear weaponry. Is the policy of this administration that a lot of this development falls under your department to continue that R&D — that expensive R&D to modernize the nation's nuclear arsenal?

    SECRETARY GRANHOLM: We have to modernize the nation's nuclear arsenal. We have to keep and maintain the stockpile to make sure that it is safe and effective. And we will continue to do that to ensure that we can deter nuclear aggression from other countries. So our nuclear deterrent is important and it is embedded in the values of that stockpile, and we'll make sure that our people are safe.

    MS. PSAKI: Kaitlan.

    Q:  Thank you so much. I've heard you talk about the corporate tax rate and what they want to do with this infrastructure bill. Can this infrastructure bill be successful with a 25 percent corporate tax rate?

    SECRETARY GRANHOLM: You know, as the President has said, this is a negotiation. And he really does want to hear from Democrats and Republicans about what would be acceptable to get this across the line. So there is room for negotiation, but his point is that it has to be paid for. And so, if it's not a 28 percent, what — what else is it?

    And we're very encouraged by those who have been bringing ideas forth, and we are hopeful that — especially when Congress gets back next week — that those discussions can begin in earnest.

    MS. PSAKI: Mary.

    Q:  Thank you. You're one of the five Cabinet secretaries that the President has tasked with engaging with Congress on this. You mentioned the President is willing to negotiate. He says he's open to alternative ways to pay for this if Republicans put forth any. In your conversations at all, have you heard any such alternatives from Republican members?

    SECRETARY GRANHOLM: I have. (Laughs.)

    Q:  Any you'd love to share?

    SECRETARY GRANHOLM: Yeah, I'm not going to make announcements for them. They obviously want to bring forth their own ideas, but I have heard alternatives, yes.

    Q:  And the President also asked you to help engage the public in selling this plan. You haven't hit the road yet though. Is that something that you plan to do in the coming weeks?

    SECRETARY GRANHOLM: Well, we're going to be taking our guidance, you know, from the White House, in terms of what's safe, et cetera.

    We've certainly been hitting the Zoom and making our case through that and the phones. So we'll see, you know, how it goes. There is a period of time that we have to be able to do this, but we want to make sure that it's safe.

    MS. PSAKI: Tamara.

    Q:  Yeah, in terms of the negotiations — the discussions with Congress — is there a deadline, is there a timeframe that — where this turns into a pumpkin? Or do you just go it alone?

    SECRETARY GRANHOLM: Yeah, I mean, I don't know if you want to answer that, Jen.

    MS. PSAKI: We'll have a whole briefing after this. (Laughs.)

    SECRETARY GRANHOLM: Yeah, I mean, I know that they said that they would like to see progress by Memorial Day, and hopefully we can start to see that. But, obviously, those meetings have to begin in earnest next week.

    MS. PSAKI: Francesca.

    Q:  Thank you. What do you say to Americans working in the oil and gas industry in California and elsewhere who say that these have been good-paying jobs that have given them access to the middle class?


    And what, if anything, can the federal government do to ensure that these clean energy jobs, like the ones that you described, are as good as the ones that they'll be replacing?

    SECRETARY GRANHOLM: Yeah, this is a great question. And we — this is why the American Jobs Plan is very specifically targeting communities in coal and power plant areas, in gas and in natural gas. There are billions of dollars in this bill for the technologies that will reduce CO2 emissions in those — in those industries. For example, carbon capture, use, and sequestration — I don't mean to get too technical — but hydrogen deployment and demonstration projects.

    I've been talking with my counterparts around the world; there is a huge appetite for a partnership with America on these next-generation technologies that will reduce CO2 emissions from that kind of baseline power. Those jobs, in those kinds of technologies, are good-paying jobs. Those are jobs that are going to be for welders and sheet metal workers and all of the trades. And we're going to, as we put out funding opportunities, ensure that there are project labor agreements that the people who are working in them are paid — under Davis-Bacon — are paid prevailing wage.

    So we want to create good-paying jobs all across the country, and there will be millions of them if this is passed. The opportunities — this is why we've been having a huge number of discussions with our brothers and sisters in the labor movement, in the building trades, to make sure that we do this in a way that gives their workers opportunity, and it will. And that's why they're supportive of it.

    MS. PSAKI: Steve.

    Q:  You mentioned the next-generation biofuels for airplanes and ships. When should we expect something like that to come online, when we'll see planes flying with biofuel?

    SECRETARY GRANHOLM: Yeah, well, it's going to take — I mean, obviously, we got to get started on it. And this is a research opportunity; it is not a deployment opportunity.

    But they're — because funding opportunities really accelerate so much appetite for the technology, and because there have been a lot of breakthroughs — in fact, the airline industry itself has been investing in next-generation biofuels to be able to demonstrate that it can be used. So, you know, without saying specifically, I think in — certainly within 5 to 10 years, we will be able to see this deployed and available for both shipping and for air.

    MS. PSAKI: Last question to Nancy.

    Q:  Thank you. I'm wondering how — you're talking about how the American Jobs Plan, if it passed, would create good jobs. I'm wondering what levers that the federal government has to ensure that those jobs will be, you know, at a certain wage scale, have benefits. Like, what can you do to enforce that?

    SECRETARY GRANHOLM: Yeah, I mean, as we know, the federal government has many mechanisms for pushing out funding, and that includes bidding on projects, and that includes passing — passing it through for — in competitions, et cetera. In those opportunities, you can put — you know, attach strings to make sure that these are good-paying jobs, that they have project labor agreements, et cetera.

    And so, I know it is — and it's true with respect to the federal government's buying power, as well as procurement power. We want to make sure that we create good-paying jobs for all kinds of people in every pocket of America, and that means good-paying union jobs. So we're going to use every — every lever possible to be able to do that, including, if you want to bid on this, you've got to make sure that you have a project labor agreement.

    MS. PSAKI: Thank you, Secretary Granholm —


    MS. PSAKI: — for joining us.

    SECRETARY GRANHOLM: Thank you. Appreciate it. Good luck.

    Q:  Thank you.

    SECRETARY GRANHOLM: Wait, I got to grab my — my mask.

    MS. PSAKI: Oh, go — go ahead. Sorry.

    Okay. A couple items at the top. As President Biden noted in a proclamation issued on Sunday, we are marking Holocaust Remembrance Day this week. Today, we rededicate ourselves to standing in solidarity with the Jewish people in America, Israel, and around the world, and to remembering the horrors of the Holocaust. An estimated 6 million Jews perished alongside millions of other innocent victims around the world.

    We honor the memories of precious lives lost, reflect on the incomprehensible wounds to our humanity and the lessons learned, and mourn for the communities broken and scattered. And we embrace Holocaust survivors, some of whom are still with us. They deserve our continued support to live in dignity.

    With that, a short — short topper. I only had one today. Go ahead.

    [ ... ]

    Read the full transcript HERE.

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