Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm
Argonne National Lab's America Resilient Conference
April 14, 2021
Thank you, Paul, for that gracious introduction. And hello, everyone!
It is such a pleasure to join you all and close out this fascinating look at the tools we have to build resilience in the face of climate change.
I think everyone knows the challenge in front of us.
As long as our society remains powered by fossil fuels with uncontrolled carbon pollution, the storms hitting us will keep growing stronger, the wildfire seasons will keep getting longer, and the higher the sea levels will rise.
President Biden understands this is an urgent crisis.
He’s laid out a bold agenda to get the country on an irreversible path to 100% clean energy by 2035, and a net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
And while it’s critical that we decarbonize our economy as quickly as possible… The fact is, the emissions we’ve already produced have baked in changes to our weather patterns that will unfold over the years to come.
But what you’ve spent this morning learning is that we don’t have to wait and see what those changes hold for us.
If you don’t mind, I want to just say a few words to the folks doing incredible work at our national laboratories—especially the wildly talented researchers and scientists at Argonne National Lab tuning in.
What you manage to pull off… well, to me, it’s pure magic.
I’m speaking beyond what you do on climate, and clean energy, and energy efficiency—which I know occupies just a fraction of your time and attention.
I’m talking about all you do in your pursuit of your broader fundamental science mission.
You’re reimagining the bounds of what humanity believes possible… and unlocking answers to our biggest questions.
You’re inventing technologies most people couldn’t even conceive of in their dreams… making it possible to deploy them at scale and ready them for the commercial marketplace… and clearing the way for America to win the future.
That is so critical—not only to DOE’s purpose, but to this administration’s vision, and certainly to the future of the nation.
I don’t want or intend to get political here, but I do want to acknowledge the feelings of some in our DOE family.
I know that in the past few years, not all, but some staff at our labs have felt ignored, attacked, slighted. Not all, but some of you may have had studies blocked or delayed, or felt the integrity of your work was put in jeopardy. The suspension of Diversity-Equity-Inclusion efforts may have made some of you feel unwelcomed. And many of you may have watched dear colleagues decide to leave.
But hopefully those who felt that way, now feel that we are all on the same page.
Whether you experienced those feelings or not, please know that President Biden [and I] share a deep and abiding respect for all you do, and all you offer to the country.
You are the crown jewels of DOE, as it’s often said, and we will recognize and support you accordingly.
You see all of that in the investments the president is calling for with his budget, and with the American Jobs Plan that he is hoping to get through Congress.
We’re betting big on scientific research and development. We’re betting on American ingenuity. That means, we’re betting on you.
We’ll take our guidance from you, and from the facts and data you uncover.
You’ve already shown us some amazing things.
DOE’s labs were able to map out, for example, the projected spread of COVID-19.
I know you probably talked about how labs like Argonne have helped the energy industry and states understand the risks of natural disasters on infrastructure.
They can tell you the state of our nuclear stockpile, and how these weapons would perform, without any physical testing.
They can help a city like Los Angeles figure out exactly what they need, and how long they need, to transition to 100% clean energy.
And as our conference attendees heard throughout this morning, we can crunch and model the data quickly to see the future of climate impacts.
Argonne’s scientists and researchers are aiding the development of the highest-resolution capability for climate impacts analysis on the planet. And you do it by enhancing our ability to make predictions down to the local level.
This gives us a one-two punch response to the climate crisis.
Even as we work to mitigate the threat by decarbonizing our economy, we can understand better than ever what the emissions we’ve already generated are doing to our communities, and our landscape. And we can look ahead to see what the future has in store for us.
We can use that powerful information to adapt, which increases community resilience.
This is especially critical for disadvantaged frontline communities—often lower-income and communities of color—which are already feeling the impacts of climate change. I know Shalanda Baker talked about that.
We have the tools to help them navigate the storms ahead.
The thing is, the outputs are only as good as the data we input. And the most reliable data comes from the ground, directly from these communities.
Frankly, we at DOE don’t have enough time to build the relationships necessary here all on our own.
But many of you already have those connections and can bring them to bear right now.
So whether you’re with a state or local government, or you’re in the private sector… We need your help. We need your partnership.
And I can promise you, this will be an all-win proposition.
Argonne is working with a handful of universities right now, collecting and crunching exactly the kind of data that will give us a granular look at what’s in store at the hyperlocal level.
That will allow us to improve the models that help us plan the resilience projects needed to protect vulnerable communities.
It will help cities and regions plan for resilience in the face of whatever Mother Nature will start throwing at them.
These communities can gain insight into how to change construction codes, for example, so that their buildings can withstand stronger storms, heat waves, cold snaps… and it will tell them where to build new housing, so that their residents don’t sink their savings into a home that later struggles with flooding.
We’re already doing this kind of work with AT&T. We’re using their data on their telecommunications infrastructure—infrastructure all of us depend on in an emergency—to understand what steps they need to take to safeguard their network from the increasing dangers of extreme weather.
And let me just emphasize it: the work to make our communities and our country more resilient to the impacts of climate change will only be possible at the scale we need with this American Jobs Plan that the president has proposed.
Not only will our labs get more funding to keep advancing this modeling and bring it to more and more communities at scale.
We’ll have the money to rebuild our infrastructure in a way that anticipates the extreme weather that the models tell us is coming.
Think about what this would mean for a place like Texas.
What if the models could let us see ahead of time the flooding that another Hurricane Harvey would cause? Or when the next deep freeze will hit?
We can map out what parts of the power grid to prioritize for weatherizing, where demand will surge, how to balance it and keep the system running. And we can get residents prepared. So next time, rather than anyone shivering in the cold after a grid failure or wading through waist-high water in their home, they’ll ride it out cozied up with their families—somewhere safe and comfortable.
The point is this: Those once-a-century storms are showing up more regularly, and they will keep coming. But they need not all be crises.
If we work together, we can take hold of this future. So I am asking for your partnership.
Let’s tap this great American ingenuity that has delivered the world’s most incredible technological breakthroughs. Let’s show the world that even against a challenge as great as climate change, we can adapt, we can grow more resilient, and we can thrive.
Thank you so much for attending, and thanks for all that Argonne is doing.