Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm

White House Daily Press Briefing

April 8, 2021

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

You know, I think that President Biden asked me to be Secretary of Energy because I was the governor of Michigan during a time when the auto industry was on its knees and when auto workers were finding themselves out of work through no fault of their own. I have 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.

Now here we are, 12 years later, and GM is saying their entire fleet is going to be electrified. It is a huge distance that we have traveled. And so much of that is thanks to the decision by the federal government to invest in saving the backbone of the vehicle industry. 

The Obama-Biden efforts really made a statement, and worked.

We can do so much more than what we did in Michigan. And this is what the American Jobs Plan is all about.

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 out there, globally, is 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. Our economic competitors are working to corner the market.

Countries like China are putting their foot on the pedal and revving 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 finished my term as governor, I traveled to China to see their clean energy efforts. I was with a group, and we went to a city, and I was standing next to the mayor of this 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, 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, other 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?

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 also 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, that brings economic opportunity to our businesses. And of course, it’s the electrical grid that keeps the lights on.

After what happened in Texas, can anybody really doubt that electricity, that the electrical grid is part of the foundation of who we are as a nation, and that we need to invest in it if we want to make sure that power keeps coming to our homes?

There was an interesting poll in February by Consumer Reports, and they found that 76 percent of Americans think that broadband is as important as electricity and 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.

Infrastructure, as you know, is now the smallest share of our economy since World War II. 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 Democrats and Republicans support it.

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.

Starting on Inauguration Day—just to say a word about DOE, the Department of Energy, has been doing. We have been rolling out efforts to research, and develop, and deploy clean energy technologies with an eye toward creating jobs.

And if the American Jobs Plan passes, we can put this on steroids.

So in the past two weeks, for example, we made two announcements. One on research, one on deployment of offshore wind.

The research one was to cut the cost of solar energy 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 funding opportunities for clean energy technologies. 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 a clean energy technology funding opportunity to reduce methane emissions from the coal, oil, and gas industries. 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 Plan gets 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.

This is 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.