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Granholm Says Green Jobs a Matter of ‘Economic Patriotism’

May 17, 2021 by Kate Michael
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm speaks during a press briefing at the White House, Tuesday, May 11, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration’s push to tackle several crises at once has reenergized the push for green jobs or those jobs which contribute to preserving or restoring the environment, including those in traditional sectors, like manufacturing. 

His American Jobs Plan, an infrastructure investment proposal that also focuses on economic security for the American worker and climate resilience, has the potential to make a serious stride toward energy independence and environmental protection, but it also comes with an over $2 trillion price tag. 

According to a White House fact sheet on the plan, its purpose is to “unify and mobilize the country to meet the great challenge of our time,” including the climate crisis, and connects climate resilience to job creation, in part by forming a new Civilian Conservation Corps, which is somewhat reminiscent of the public work relief program that operated under Roosevelt. 

The plan also includes proposals for building a more resilient electric transmission system to move cheaper, cleaner electricity where it is needed most; provisions to jump-start clean energy manufacturing and spurring supply chains from raw materials to the final point of sale for cleaner products like electric vehicles; investments in roads, bridges, rail and transit systems to use more sustainable and innovative materials; and efforts to maximize the resilience of land and water resources to protect communities and the environment.

Jennifer Granholm, secretary of the United States Department of Energy, recently spoke with Axios to share her thoughts on how the plan and its focus on green jobs could shift American infrastructure and tackle climate change. 

According to Granholm, green and clean energy jobs are a matter of “economic patriotism.” She explained the term this way: “The bottom line is, if we care about our country, we should be building the means for our national security, our economic security, and our energy security right here at home.”

Clean energy jobs are one way Granholm believes America can control its own destiny. “We want to be sure that we can rely upon ourselves to be energy independent and to be nationally secure,” she said, citing specific provisions in the American Jobs Plan that focus on building critical supply chains in the United States. 

“We should be building responsibly, mining responsibly, here at home, and putting our people to work,” she said. “We shouldn’t be buying wind turbines from Denmark. We should be building them here and stamping them Made in America… I think that we have given up on making stuff in America and this is our moment to reverse that trend.”

And Granholm said a jobs push in areas that need it most, and in key sectors that the U.S. needs most, remains critical. 

“There has been, historically, this bowing to the altar of low cost, and globalism and free trade. What it has meant for us… is that we get the benefit of low-cost products… but we lose out on jobs,” she said. “We need to be diversifying into areas where we know, as we say in Michigan, the puck is moving… The good thing about the [green jobs future] is all kinds of jobs, for all kinds of people, in all pockets of America.”

Granholm also touted the plan’s intention to target 40% of the benefits of the climate and clean infrastructure investments specifically to disadvantaged communities. 

“Investment in the clean energy sector… should go to communities that have been left behind,” she said, referring both to communities that experience health disparities and those disadvantaged in economic markets as a result of a shift toward more environmentally sustainable resources.

While the American Jobs Plan is, at its heart, an infrastructure bill, the proposal also seeks to fund innovation and work to improve air quality, limit greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce congestion. Whether it moves through budget reconciliation — as was done to pass the American Rescue Plan — or if Congress is able to work in a bipartisan manner to pass some or all of its provisions, the plan may prove the possibility of focusing on both the environment and the economy in tandem.

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