Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm Says an Electric Vehicle Future Will Mean New Jobs

By Jeffrey Bonior
Mar 10 2021 |
The U.S. needs over 100 battery cell manufacturing locations by 2035, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said. Right now, the United States has five; China has 96. Getty Images

But to fully take advantage of a historic opportunity, the United States must jam on the accelerator, the former Michigan governor said.  

Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said this week that the Biden administration will aggressively pursue policies to move American transit to electric vehicles (EVs) and adopt other clean energy policies.

Speaking on a webinar hosted by Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE) on Tuesday, Granholm stressed the importance of America’s self-reliance on electrical power so that the United States remains competitive with China and other energy competitors in producing clean energy and eliminating carbon emissions.

Granholm cited a new SAFE report, “The Commanding Heights of Global Transportation,” noting that electrification can help solve the climate crisis while also creating new industries that will provide hundreds of thousands of jobs.

“What President Biden and I have been stressing to everybody is that the solution to the climate crisis can create massive job opportunities for the economy and the American people,” Granholm said. “Tools like getting to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and 100 percent clean energy by 2035 will create jobs.

“Energy policy means jobs, in this case 647,000 of them,” Granholm added.

Moving away from the internal combustion engine to a future of digital electrical vehicles, alternative fuel vehicles, and autonomous vehicles are the backbone of the modern transportation world. And as a former two-term Governor of Michigan, Granholm is no stranger to the automobile and transportation industries.

But making these new types of vehicles is just half the battle. Granholm said it’s also important that the United States strengthen its supply chain by producing lithium, rare earth and other EV minerals right here at home.

“Many parts of the country are sitting on top of the materials that we need to produce battery technologies,” she said. “We need to make EVs affordable for everyone. We, along with private sector partners, have reduced the cost of lithium-Ion EV battery packs by about 85 percent and our goal is to lower them even further. We need to make EVs more accessible to everyone.

“EV owners already save money at the pump. They save $600 on average in annual savings because their cars cost half as much to fuel as compared to the average gasoline powered car, but they also save at the shop because EVs cost on average $6,000 less to maintain over their lifetime.”

Granholm predicted that dealerships will have more than 100 new EV models on the market in the next two or three years, and stressed the Biden administration is ready to provide the infrastructure to accommodate this modern technology. This includes a nation equipped with the necessary number of EV charging stations and adding hundreds and hundreds of clean gigawatts to America’s transmission grids.

There have been studies and reports that indicate that reduced carbon emissions, including batteries, are going to create a $23 trillion market over the next decade.

“Twenty-three trillion dollars!” Granholm said. “The question is: Where are those investments going to be? Are they going to be in China? Are they going to be in our other economic competitor countries? You better believe all of them are strategizing right now to try and corner the market. And in some cases, like China, they have a large investment in many of these technologies.

“The U.S. needs over 100 battery cell manufacturing locations by 2035. Today we’ve got five. China has 96. I’m sure you’ve read that Elon Musk may be working on a new Gigafactory in Texas and that’s great. But we’ve got to make battery production in the U.S. come from more than just one guy.”

Granholm referred to the SAFE Commanding Heights report when speaking about how America needs to recycle the critical materials it is already using in battery production. Research at the Department of Energy lab shows that up to 40 percent of the minerals for future batteries can come from recycled batteries.

“With every level of the supply chain we capture, we can fuel a new domestic industry and create new jobs, hundreds of thousands of them,” Granholm said. “We are not going to stop until we explore every aspect of supply chains for this. We are going to put people in manufacturing, in skilled trades, engineering and people to work building a new electrification structure.

“We are going to help those in coal, oil and gas communities translate their skills into new clean energy jobs. We have a brand-new office now of energy jobs which is going to help us team up with private sector and organized labor so that we can seize the opportunities in all corners of the country including corners that have long felt unseen.”

“I am totally obsessed with creating good paying jobs in America in this global economy.”

Granholm, with her Michigan automotive roots, presided over the state where the internal combustion engine has dominated vehicle production for more than a century.

But she is as excited and committed to EVs and future electrification as Henry Ford must have been when he invented the Model-T.

And Granholm pointed out that she does not just talk the talk; she has been driving electric for several years now.

“I admit I am a little biased,” she said. “I lease a Chevy Volt and it’s the best car I have ever had and I’m on my second lease. Before I leased the Volt, I drove the first Volt off the assembly line when I was governor, and I am totally sold on electric vehicles, not just as somebody that wants clean energy but just because they are fantastic cars.

“We already know that EVs are going to be one of the most effective solutions to the climate crisis.”

In true Detroit fashion, Granholm added, “We need to jam on the accelerator here.”