Jennifer Granholm, former governor of Michigan, has been nominated by President Biden as secretary of energy.
As part of the confirmation hearing, she will sit before the Senate Natural Resources Committee and get asked dozens of questions. Most of them will be ignorant, pointless and, quite frankly, opportunistic. Senators are politicians. Their staffs will write questions that either work for Instagram or for fundraising purposes.
Most senators will be unable to ask a question without reading verbatim from the script before them. The follow-ups will be non-sequiturs which pivot to an area of familiarity. “Fracking, you could say, has some similarities with the tax code. And speaking of the tax code …”
I did this as a student, too, when I didn’t know the answer. “I think MacBeth is like Hamlet, and speaking of Hamlet, he was the Prince of Denmark.”
I maybe wasn’t a great student, but I was certainly a better student than many of these folks are at being senators.
At the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barret, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse used his 30 minutes without even asking her a question. Bloviating is a political prerequisite, but that’s an amazing feat considering he was supposed to care about her thoughts just a little.
No doubt, we’ll see that at Granholm’s hearing, too.
I’d like the chance to ask Granholm some questions about the energy industry. I’d be fair, polite, full of senate decorum, but also expect real answers and not the Kamala Harris “we should have a conversation about that” dodge. Energy powers, well, everything. What is grown, manufactured, transported, stored and refrigerated does so because of energy. This is a serious job so let’s ask some serious questions.
1. Give a brief explanation of fracking: when was it invented? How many fracked wells do we have in America? How does the process work? What percentage of our oil and gas comes from fracking? Where do we use fracking and why?
2. Oil: how much oil does America consume daily? What are the primary uses of oil? Which countries are the world’s largest oil producers? What is the current price of oil? What was it in January of 2017? What was it in January 2013? What causes the price change?
3. Natural gas: Which states produce natural gas? How many people does the industry employ? Oil is measured in barrels, how is natural gas measured? What is the current price?
4. Coal: How much coal do we have in America? Is coal dirty, yes or no, and why? What is coal used for? Can you explain anthracite and bituminous differences?
5. Solar panels: What are they made of? Where are they manufactured? What is the lifespan of a commercial solar panel? Are solar panels toxic? How much power can today’s solar panels generate?
6. Wind Turbines (Math): The largest onshore wind farm in America is Alta Wind Farms in California. It requires 3,000 acres and generates approximately 1,500 megawatts of power. New York City currently consumes up to 12,000 megawatts per day. How much land is needed to power New York City with wind turbines? Follow up: where, within 200 miles of New York City, will this land come from and should we just eliminate northern New Jersey? (I will accept “we should have a conversation about that” as an answer this time.)
7. Utility Rates: “Green” countries, particularly in Europe, pay several times more for electricity, heating, AC and gas (“petrol” as they prefer to call it) than American citizens. Is this good or bad?
8. National Security (Multiple Choice): Iran produces four million barrels of oil per day at $52 per barrel. If oil prices rise to $100 per barrel Iran will use this surplus to A) empower women’s education B) Bring high speed internet to the Zagros Mountains C) Build more missiles and shoot them at Israel D) If you don’t choose “C” there’s no hope for you
9. Equivalencies: Each wind turbine requires thousands of pounds of steel and cement/rebar to anchor it to ground. The amount of fossil fuels used in the process (coal to forge the steel and make the cement, oil used to transport these wind turbines to location) might not be offset by the green technology. So, what’s the point?
10. Jobs: Numerous pipeline workers lost their jobs under Biden’s executive order on the Keystone XL pipeline. They are the first casualties of his war on climate change. As of today, there are no “green jobs” for them to gain employment. How many more casualties will there be, and what is the length of time between the pink slip and the green job these Americans should expect?
Finally, some affirmations along the lines of Sen. Maisie Hirono’s affirmation to Judge Amy Coney Barrett that she had never sexually assaulted a colleague. Will you, Gov. Granholm, vow to:
1. never fly in a private jet.
2. forgo all domestic and international travel for conferences/conventions/speaking engagements speaking only via teleconference and virtually.
These are the most basic green initiatives someone in your position could take. This alone will demonstrate that, when it comes to the climate emergency, we truly are all in this together.
If Governor Granholm is unwilling or unable to answer any of these questions, she should be considered unqualified for the position. These are softballs. These are Energy Industry 101 basics. But the basics is where our government fails. Instead, prepare yourself for soaring rhetoric about climate justice and environmental equity, and the profound commitment to a green agenda. Lost will be the details: jobs, costs, figures, stats, kilowatts, property rights, etc.
America needs and deserves an energy secretary who doesn’t see energy workers’ jobs, utility bills, gas prices and national security as mere details in a grander green agenda.
Daniel Turner is the founder and executive director of Power The Future, a national nonprofit organization that advocates for American energy jobs. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @DanielTurnerPTF