• Show Notes
  • Transcript

Jennifer Granholm is the U.S. Secretary of Energy. She previously served as both Governor and Attorney General of Michigan. Granholm and Preet discuss how the Inflation Reduction Act could help achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, why nuclear energy is integral to fighting climate change, and where gas prices could be headed next.

Plus, the legal battle over the FBI’s Mar-a-Lago search continues, and Preet receives a question from an American icon: Fonzie from Happy Days

Tweet your questions to @PreetBharara with hashtag #askpreet, email us at letters@cafe.com, or call 669-247-7338 to leave a voicemail.

Stay Tuned with Preet is brought to you by CAFE and the Vox Media Podcast Network.

Executive Producer: Tamara Sepper; Senior Editorial Producer: Adam Waller; Technical Director: David Tatasciore; Audio Producer: Matthew Billy; Editorial Producers: Noa Azulai, Sam Ozer-Staton.

REFERENCES & SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIALS

Q&A:

THE INTERVIEW:

  • Jennifer Granholm’s biography
  • Real-time gas prices 
  • “Experts explain how the Inflation Reduction Act helps fight climate change,” ABC News, 8/12/22
  • “Chevy Electric Vehicle Lineup,” Chevrolet.com
  • “Promoting Energy Justice,” Energy.gov
  • “U.S. oil refiners aim to run full-bore, spurning recession fears,” Reuters, 8/18/22
  • “President Biden Announces Release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve As Part of Ongoing Efforts to Lower Prices and Address Lack of Supply Around the World,” The White House, 11/23/21
  • “Biden to Pick Jennifer Granholm, Former Michigan Governor, for Energy Secretary,” NYT, 1/27/21

NUCLEAR ENERGY

  • “Biden energy secretary insists nuclear essential to clean energy initiatives,” Yahoo, 8/14/22 
  • “Bill Gates’ company TerraPower raises $750 million for nuclear energy,” CNBC, 8/15/22
  • “DOE Explains Nuclear Fusion Reactions,” Energy.gov  

RENEWABLE ENERGY

BUTTON:

  • NBA announcement on Twitter, 8/16/22
  • “Kansas recount confirms results in favor of abortion rights,” Politico, 8/21/22
  • “McConnell warns GOP may not win Senate, as group linked to him invests heavily in Ohio,” WaPo, 8/18/22

Preet Bharara:

From CAFE and the Vox Media Podcast Network, welcome to Stay Tuned. I’m Preet Bharara.

Jennifer Granholm:

Nuclear plays an important role, but so does obviously, wind and solar combined with storage of wind and solar, since those are intermediate resources. The sun doesn’t always shine, the wind doesn’t always blow.

Preet Bharara:

That’s Jennifer Granholm. She is the United States Secretary of Energy. Granholm has had a distinguished career in public service as a federal prosecutor in Michigan, attorney general, and then governor of that state from 2003 to 2011. Now, she leads the Department of Energy, where she’s at the tip of the spear in the fight against climate change. Plus, folks might not know that her department also maintains the nation’s nuclear weapons. We discuss Granholm’s vision for a clean energy future, how the Inflation Reduction Act could help achieve president Biden’s goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, and where gas prices could be headed next. That’s coming up, stay tuned.

Preet Bharara:

Hey folks, before I get to your questions, I have kind of an exciting announcement. Believe it or not, next month marks the five-year anniversary of Stay Tuned with Preet. Now I’ll tell you when we started this thing, we had no idea what it would become. Now nearly 300 episodes later, we’ve heard from everyone under the sun, from journalists to academics, to politicians, to filmmakers. But to commemorate this milestone, I want to hear from you, our listeners. I read your emails and tweets every week, so I know how thoughtful you are. You are the reason I love doing this show. So here’s my request. Please send us a short voicemail reflecting on your favorite Stay Tuned moment or guest or anything else that struck you about the show. What made a lasting impression on you? Who did you find funny or smart? Was there an episode that made you think differently about justice or the rule of law?

Preet Bharara:

We’ll edit the best voicemails together and play them on air during our anniversary episode. Please keep them to less than 60 seconds. You can leave me a voicemail at 669-247-7338. That’s 669-24-PREET. One more time. That’s 669-247-7338. We look forward to hearing from you and thanks as always for your support. Now, let’s get to your questions.

Preet Bharara:

This question comes from Twitter user, @calamation. This person asks, “Can anything good come of releasing even a redacted version of the affidavit?” And obviously, you must be referring to the affidavit that everyone is talking about in America, and that is the affidavit that was submitted in support of a request to search the premises at Mar-a-Lago for various classified documents. That’s what’s been on my mind and a lot of people’s minds and the focus of the podcast for the last number of weeks.

Preet Bharara:

So can anything good come of releasing a version of the affidavit? Well, I suppose, and I’m not advocating that it should be released, I suppose on the one hand, public interests will be vindicated. The parties that are seeking the release of the affidavit are media entities. And I am among other things, part of the media. I think that if people were able to see the probable cause set forth in some detail in the affidavit, they would gain a greater understanding of the legitimacy of the search, of the urgency of the search, the conduct, depending on your perspective, misconduct of the former president and people around him, what’s at stake. So public understanding would be deepened and maybe some of the criticism would look like it was unfounded of the FBI and other folks, who I think were just doing their jobs and following the law and following the facts after a lot of lack of cooperation from Donald Trump and his team. I guess that’s a good thing.

Preet Bharara:

But of course, as the judge has clearly pointed out both last week, and also earlier this week, there are things to be weighted on the other side of the coin as well. As the government has pointed out, and as the judges confirmed, some of those factors deserve weight. Releasing the affidavit could undermine the integrity of the investigation, which is ongoing. It could give a roadmap to the investigation for other people who are under investigation. It could chill cooperating witnesses from coming forward because they don’t want their identities to be revealed. And something else the judge also seems sensitive to is that it might do harm or cause risk of harm to witnesses who have come forward, whose identities might become known through social media and otherwise.

Preet Bharara:

Now, talking about what good would come to the public, what good would come or not come to the government’s investigation, we left one party out and that’s Donald Trump himself. Although he remained silent at the court hearing last week and the lawyers said nothing about the former president’s wishes with respect to the affidavit, in a separate motion filed this week, Trump’s lawyers pointed out that Donald Trump on social media has advocated for the release of an unredacted version of the affidavit. So for him, what good might come of that? I think very little. I agree with others who are saying that the former president wants to look like he’s posturing for transparency, but is really not because it will likely be true that if any or all of the affidavit is released, it will show the degree of malfeasance on the part of Trump and others. It will show, as I mentioned, the importance of the material that has been kept from the government. It will show how involved Donald Trump himself may have been and all of that is to Donald Trump’s detriment.

Preet Bharara:

So can anything good come of it? Yeah, public understanding will be increased, but I think it would be bad for the government’s investigation and it would probably be bad for Trump’s reputation as well.

Preet Bharara:

This question comes in an email from Peter who says, “Hi, I have a question. If Donald Trump were to announce he’s running for president, would it be wise for Merrick Garland to appoint a special counsel?” That’s sort of interesting. Part of it may depend on which investigation that special counsel would be focusing on. We now I think are clear to say that there are two different things the Department of Justice is looking at with respect to Donald Trump. One, what we’ve been talking about for a bit of time, the investigation relating to classified material, sensitive material that was secreted at Mar-a-Lago, about which there has been a very, very notorious and famous search. But then separately, Donald Trump and the people around him, their involvement in the insurrection of January 6th, those are separate and distinct, and their investigations clearly underway with respect to both of those.

Preet Bharara:

And I guess if I take your question broadly, does anything change if Donald Trump announces he’s running for president? I don’t think so. It’s something you always want to consider, but a couple of points I’d make. One, both investigations have been undertaken by existing personnel within the Justice Department, and they’re perhaps pretty far along. I think the classified documents investigation is pretty far along. Donald Trump, although he’s not an announced candidate for president, he’s presumptively someone who could run for president. He’s made noises about running for president. So the sensitivities and difficulties that attend investigating somebody who’s going to be a political candidate of a major party already exist, whether he’s technically announced he’s running or not. And I would point out obviously, the most recent example, you don’t always have to follow recent examples, but the most recent example of a nominee for president of the United States by a major political party was Hillary Clinton. And as everyone knows, there was a deep and robust investigation of her handling of classified documents. And there was no appointment of a special counsel in that case.

Preet Bharara:

So I think the die has been cast. There’s already water under the bridge with respect to both of those investigations. And I think it might be disruptive to appoint a special counsel, which by itself is controversial as a lot of people disagreed about the role of Bob Mueller, the last special council appointed by an attorney general.

Preet Bharara:

So folks, every week, I look at all the questions that get emailed to us or posted on Twitter under the hashtag Ask Preet. And most of the time, almost all the time, I don’t know who the person is, they’re anonymous listeners who are loyal and have curiosity about things going on in the law or politics or our democracy, and I do my best to take a sampling of them and answer as best as I can. Every once in a while, someone tweets a question and I know the person, or at least not personally, I know of the person and every once in a while, not too frequently, the person asking the question is an American icon. And this week in response to my perennial tweet, “What questions do you have for Stay Tuned this week?” We got a question from none other than, actor, director, Henry Winkler. That’s right, Arthur Fonzarelli, who most recently has a star turn in one of my favorite series, Barry.

Preet Bharara:

So I want to answer his question as best as I can, but I also wanted to brag that Henry Winkler, The Fonz, is a fan of the show. His question is, it’s a very narrow, simple question to answer, Henry Winkler writes, “Will we, as a country, come to our senses?!!!” That’s a very, very good question. And it’s the question that I think we occupy ourselves with every week on the show, going on almost five years. It’s one of the reasons why we started Stay Tuned and the Insider podcast and why I tweet a bunch on that platform because I wonder the direction our country is going in. So I always have to be hopeful that the country will go in a better direction and things will get better, or as Henry Winkler puts it, “Come to our senses.” I think one solution in that regard is voting for better people, whatever side of the aisle you’re on.

Preet Bharara:

You’ll hear me at the end of the show talk about voting a little bit and some trends give me hope. I think our country can only come to our senses if we come together as a country. And I don’t have the answer to how you do that in the short term. I do think that the work of lots and lots of good people, and in particular young people, which I emphasize on the show on a regular basis can cause folks who’ve had their head in the sand to take their head out of the sand.

Preet Bharara:

Henry Winkler’s question is broad enough that he could be talking about many different things, but I’ll give you a note of optimism. On climate change, that question could easily be directed to that one policy issue. And in that regard, the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act as advocated for and beautifully explained by Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, and other polling that shows that people are in fact, in this country and elsewhere, coming to their senses, gives me some hope. So if we can make the kind of progress we’ve made on that issue, not bringing everyone along, but enough people along that real change can take place, real transformative legislation can be passed, then I think, yeah, we as a country can come to our senses. And I have this thought that if Henry Winkler is listening to this, he’s nodding and saying…

Arthur Fonzarelli:

Correctamundo.

Preet Bharara:

We’ll be right back with my conversation with Jennifer Granholm.

THE INTERVIEW:

Preet Bharara:

As governor of Michigan during the financial crisis in 2008, Jennifer Granholm was widely credited with turning around that state by investing in alternative energy resources. Upon nominating her to lead the Department of Energy in December 2020, President Biden said of Granholm.

Joe Biden:

She faced the collapse of the defining industry of her state and our nation. But I saw firsthand how she responded. She bet on the autoworkers. She bet on the promise of a clean energy future.

Preet Bharara:

Madam Secretary Jennifer Granholm, what an honor to have you on the show. Thanks for doing this.

Jennifer Granholm:

Oh my gosh, such a treat to be on with you, Preet. Thanks so much for the invitation.

Preet Bharara:

Oh, and you rhyme, treat and Preet. I love it. I was going to ask you about one of your personal habits. Am I correct that you drive or used to drive a Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle?

Jennifer Granholm:

I do. In fact, I have had an electric vehicle… So this is my third. I lease it, so it’s my third Bolt lease. And before the Bolt, I had a Chevy Volt with a V. And I had two of those again, on leases. Of course, being the former governor of Michigan, I actually drove the first Chevrolet Volt off the assembly line and I’ve been a fan ever since.

Preet Bharara:

That’s a privilege.

Jennifer Granholm:

Yes.

Preet Bharara:

Does Elon Musk know that it’s not a Tesla?

Jennifer Granholm:

I don’t know that he’s keeping track, honestly, but…

Preet Bharara:

You don’t care. You don’t care.

Jennifer Granholm:

I don’t care. I love this car. I mean, I love… Now, I’m not selling any particular brand, but I’m just saying… Do you drive an electric vehicle?

Preet Bharara:

Oh, goodness.

Jennifer Granholm:

Come on.

Preet Bharara:

I don’t.

Jennifer Granholm:

Come on, man.

Preet Bharara:

I don’t yet. I don’t yet.

Jennifer Granholm:

Okay. But, well, and there’s a waiting list.

Preet Bharara:

First of all, you can’t get any vehicles anymore.

Jennifer Granholm:

I know. Right. Right. There’s a waiting lists and all of that. And now, with the new bill, the new Inflation Reduction Act, you can get a used one with a $4,000 credit, but you have to be under certain income. You have to be $75,000 a year in income or less. The car has to be-

Preet Bharara:

I’m a little higher than that. [inaudible 00:13:25]

Jennifer Granholm:

Yeah, I know. So you don’t qualify, but you don’t need it. You don’t need it.

Preet Bharara:

I don’t. So I was going to give you the choice, interactive. Do you want to first talk about gas prices or about climate change?

Jennifer Granholm:

I love climate change, but I’m totally happy to talk about either one. Everybody wants about-

Preet Bharara:

Let’s do a few questions about gas prices.

Jennifer Granholm:

Yeah, for sure.

Preet Bharara:

And then the larger questions. So people have come on this show and I’ve heard other experts say, who are not sort of part of partisan politics that a president, in at least the short term, doesn’t really have the ability to affect prices at the pump. And so this is a political football that is thrown back and forth, depending on who’s in charge when the gas prices are up and who’s in charge when the gas prices are down. Do you disagree with that?

Jennifer Granholm:

Well, here’s what I would say. It is true that gas of course comes from oil, and oil is treated on a global market. And so the question is, how do you affect globally the price of oil? And the reason why, of course, the gas prices are so high and the oil prices per barrel are so high is because Russia has been a major exporter of oil. And countries like the United States and Canada and the EU all are saying, “We don’t want to take Russian oil.” So therefore, you pull all of this supply off the market, that creates an upward pressure on prices, which is why the president has one tool that is extraordinary at his disposal, and that is releasing barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Jennifer Granholm:

He’s releasing a million barrels per day and has been for months now. And so that has helped to stabilize even as he’s calling for increased supply on the part of our domestic oil and gas producers, as well as international oil and gas producers, to try to replace those barrels of Russian oil that were pulled off the market.

Preet Bharara:

Can you draw a straight line between that release and the cost of gas at the pump or no?

Jennifer Granholm:

Well, I don’t know how straight. I can tell you that increasing supply, just as plain old economics, right? Increasing supply reduces price. And so he has been at the forefront and he’s orchestrated our allied nations to also release from their strategic petroleum reserves. So that increase in supply has a downward pressure on prices. But I will say this, we are all, all these leaders across the globe are all experiencing the same thing. We are tracking all the prices of oil and gasoline across the country. And right now, the U.S. is in a better position than other countries, because we’ve also called for increase in refining capacity in the United States. A lot of refineries have been pulled off the market. And now, we’re speaking in the summer and the price of gas has dropped every single day during the summer. But if there’s another pressure placed because of global problems, like China opening up dramatically after their lockdown on COVID, that will create again, more upward pressure on prices because you’ll have an increase in demand.

Preet Bharara:

I should note for the audience that you and I are speaking and recording this on Thursday, August 18th. The public won’t hear this for another week. Are you prepared to predict that the price of gas will be less than it is now when this releases?

Jennifer Granholm:

On this day that we are speaking, the price of gas is $3.93. I can tell you this, that our, don’t believe me, our Energy Information Administration, which does all of the projection, has all the modeling. They’re an independent source. They are saying that by the fourth quarter, that gas prices will be down to 3.78 a gallon. But again, with all the attenuating caveats, meaning that if there’s some dramatic action globally that will create problems either on supply or demand, that will change.

Preet Bharara:

That’s fair enough. So you heard it here, gas prices are going to continue to go down. Do they give you the equivalent of a Fitbit or something that marks not your steps, but the price of gas penny by penny every second of the day?

Jennifer Granholm:

Well, I get an email twice a day, once in the morning, once at night that says the price of fuels, including gasoline so that I am monitoring it all the time.

Preet Bharara:

So you can quote that at any time?

Jennifer Granholm:

Yes.

Preet Bharara:

A question I have more broadly, but it relates to this. Because at various times, members of the government have asked oil and gas companies to increase production. How do you think about, generally speaking, what the relationship should be in the world of energy between the government and private industry?

Jennifer Granholm:

Well, obviously the ability to be energy secure is an issue of national security. And so calling upon the private sector players who impact upon our national security is a natural relationship. I mean, we’ve had long conversations with members of the oil and gas industry to make sure supply is flowing, that they are increasing supply. But we don’t own the oil and gas companies. That is just a fact. So it is the private sector that moves on it, but they respond to supply and demand as well.

Jennifer Granholm:

So for example, by next year, we will be at record levels of oil production. Now I say all of that knowing that we want to move into this clean energy space. So there’s this immediate tension between needing to increase supplies of oil and gas and of course, natural gas. We’re seeing what’s happening in Europe, the price of natural gas is through the roof. And people want to be able to be assured that when they turn on the lights, the lights come on, that they can get to work by filling up their car one way or the other.

Jennifer Granholm:

So we are going through a transition and we know that fossil fuels will play a role in this transition. But on the other side of it, we want to be at 100% clean electricity, meaning zero carbon emitting technologies for electricity by 2035, and then net zero carbon pollution by 2050. And that means a full on transition.

Preet Bharara:

We’re going to come to that, but I’m just curious if you could explain what goes on behind the scenes. So the president of the United States might make a public statement, oil and gas folks raise your output, but then do you get on the phone?

Jennifer Granholm:

Yeah.

Preet Bharara:

And do you coax? Do you cajole? Do you yell? What’s the tone of those conversations when the government doesn’t own the industry?

Jennifer Granholm:

Yeah. We are pushing, they know. Honestly, they understand they have a responsibility to provide energy as well. They’ve got customers, they’ve got employees. They want to be able to have supply and demand meet. However, let us be very clear, they are clearly enjoying record profits right now because of the pricing. But to be fair to them, they did pull down a lot of production during COVID and that means rigs. That means they weren’t pumping for oil because there wasn’t demand. Nobody was driving. And so turning on those rigs after they’ve been off for a couple of years is not just flipping a switch either. And so we’ve continually been asking them to increase supply. Most of them are, and we’ve also pressured them, and most of them are, to help with this transition to clean energy.

Jennifer Granholm:

And so, for example, if you have workers who understand what’s beneath the surface, because they’ve been drilling for oil and gas, they would be terrific to help us pull geothermal from beneath the surface, the heat beneath our feet, to be able to provide clean and renewable energy. So there are lots of parallels like that. If you’re building offshore oil rigs in the Gulf to pull up oil, you can build offshore platforms for wind turbines. You have the skillset and the workers who know how to do that. So there’s an awful lot of parallels that we are also cajoling them on.

Preet Bharara:

Are you one of the folks who criticizes that industry for reaping windfall profits as the prices have gone up?

Jennifer Granholm:

Well, certainly we have asked for them to reinvest in production rather than reinvesting in shareholder buybacks. There is no question about that. The full administration has been doing that.

Preet Bharara:

This is maybe a question that’s hard to answer because you’re not keeping billable hours, I presume like-

Jennifer Granholm:

No, definitely not.

Preet Bharara:

… folks in law practice. But roughly speaking, if you can divide it this way, if this is a fair question, what percentage of your time as energy secretary do you spend in one way or another focused on the climate crisis?

Jennifer Granholm:

95%

Preet Bharara:

All of it.

Jennifer Granholm:

Yes, I spend a huge amount of my time. Well, now when I say that I-

Preet Bharara:

You have to do nukes. You to take care of the nukes too.

Jennifer Granholm:

Of course, but that’s of course national security and the national security folks will say that climate crisis is a really important part of that. But I have unbelievable expertise inside the department on the nuclear stockpile. While I have visited all of the labs and all of the facilities who are engaged in that, I also allow the experts to take that on and I focus most of my time by far on climate energy, clean energy. And of course, the component of that includes making sure we have enough energy. And that might mean fossil fuels as well.

Preet Bharara:

Right. Do you have a sense of how your 95% compares to the percentage with respect to the prior energy secretaries under the earlier administration?

Jennifer Granholm:

95 probably is a little bit higher. As I hear myself talking, I’m like, “Come on, you spend time… A lot of time with them too.” But I here’s what I would say, my immediate preceder, there were two people. One was Rick Perry. Of course, he was former governor of Texas, was energy secretary. And then he left three years in, and the last year was a fellow named Dan Brouillette, and he had deep experience in the department. But it is clear to say that the Trump administration was focused more on oil and gas and drill, baby drill, that kind of production, as well as nuclear. They wanted us to push nuclear as well than they were on clean, but there are great components within the Department of Energy that are there permanently.

Jennifer Granholm:

For example, we have a whole team that is focused on energy efficiency and renewable energy. It’s called EERE, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. And they’re a very big component of the department and have been throughout administrations. So there is always been an effort in every administration to focus on energy security, both through clean energy, as well as through fossil fuels.

Preet Bharara:

You mentioned nuclear. This is a fact I did not really know until I was preparing for this interview. So reportedly about 100 nuclear power plants provide 20% of the nation’s power, which is also 50% of the nation’s zero carbon emitting energy, half of the nation’s zero carbon energy. So for that reason, you and others are pronuclear, right?

Jennifer Granholm:

Absolutely.

Preet Bharara:

Now, what do you say to people who are worried about safety or other issues related to nuclear?

Jennifer Granholm:

Yeah. I’d say first the United States has a gold standard regulatory regime, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. They are extremely focused on safety. We have not had a serious nuclear incident in the United States period. Not one where anybody was actually hurt. But we are all over this. This is not something that you mess around with. You don’t cite a nuclear plant in a quick amount of time. It takes you a long time. It takes you a long time to get a license for even a nuclear design. So that’s number one, is that we have an extremely serious and rightfully so regulatory regime more than any other country. And everybody looks to us as the gold standard. Number two, people understandably are concerned about it when they see issues like what happened with Fukushima, Chernobyl, other countries, et cetera. We are not citing or using the practices that would get us into that position.

Jennifer Granholm:

But number three, what’s really, I think hopeful about next generation nuclear. These are called small modular reactors. The designs, the safety, and the waste stream, and people are also very concerned about nuclear waste, of course. And we want to make sure that there is minimal waste as possible, but that when we do produce waste, that it is stored in a way that is permanently safe. And so that issue. I understand people’s concerned about and we are engaged in a whole consent based citing process to be able to store our nation’s nuclear waste in a safe way that will not pose any danger to any state or community that raises their hand and says that they’d be willing to take it.

Preet Bharara:

Who are the constituencies or subsets of constituencies that give you the hardest time about nuclear?

Jennifer Granholm:

Let’s just say, I think there has been a lot of our allies. I say our allies, meaning people who have been very focused on green, the green economy, who have been nervous about nuclear for the reasons we just discuss, either safety or waste. But I will say that this discussion is becoming a lot easier when we start to look at energy security. If you look at what’s happened in Germany, you see they shut down their greens who have come into power, shared governance, but they had plans to shut all of their nuclear power plants down. But when you do that, you lose this massive source of clean baseload, dispatchable, zero carbon emitting power. And so now, they are faced with having to contemplate keeping those nuclear plants online.

Jennifer Granholm:

All of these countries around the world are very interested in these small modular reactors and in starting up nuclear, because they see our collective goals of getting to net zero carbon pollution. We need baseload, clean power to be able to do that, and that’s why nuclear is absolutely on the tops of minds of energy ministers across the world.

Preet Bharara:

Now, is nuclear, in your mind, part of the long term permanent solution, or is it an intermediate step to getting to change a reverse course on climate?

Jennifer Granholm:

No, I think it is a piece of the long term solution. I mean, I often refer to this as the solution, as silver buckshot, not a silver bullet. Nuclear plays an important role, but so does obviously, wind and solar combined with storage of wind and solar, since those are intermediate resources. The sun doesn’t always shine, the wind doesn’t always blow, and we have to really focus on the technology for long duration utility scale storage of those resources. Geothermal is a potential resource that could be exploited. That is again, simply clean baseload power. So is hydropower through dams, the movement of water. There’s a lot of interest in next generation technologies to decarbonize. So maybe taking carbon pollution from the air and sequestering it, taking carbon pollution from the point it is generated and putting it underground safely using hydrogen, clean hydrogen as a form of baseload power, using waves, movement of waves off the shore as a form of power. There’s so many solutions that we are looking to, and I’m excited about almost all of them.

Preet Bharara:

Which ones are you not excited about?

Jennifer Granholm:

Now, I knew you were going to ask me that. I’m excited about all of them. The ones I mentioned, I’m excited at all-

Preet Bharara:

Maybe 95%. Maybe 95% of them.

Jennifer Granholm:

Yes.

Preet Bharara:

That’s your go-to number for the purpose of this interview. Do you think net zero carbon by 2050 is realistic?

Jennifer Granholm:

I do. I do. In passing the Inflation Reduction Act and signing into law last week, the U.S. is in this position to lead by example the world. It is the biggest climate bill that has ever been signed into law in the world by far, and certainly in the U.S. by a factor of 10. So now we have the resources to be able to invest in these technologies. And as I like to say, deploy, deploy, deploy. As we move in this direction, this bill alone, combined with the actions that are happening in the private sector already, and the states will get us to this 50% reduction in carbon pollution by 2030. And then we have another 20 years to get the rest. And these technologies will snowball. Once we take new technologies even to scale, obviously, that will perpetuate momentum, that perpetuates momentum. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. There’s going to have to be a lot of activity and investment in this, but I definitely think we are so much more able to do it now than we were before last week.

Preet Bharara:

Speaking of new technologies, I’m not a scientist and the worst grade I got in high school was in physics. So maybe this is totally off base, but do you have folks working on or who are optimistic about the possibility of power from nuclear fusion?

Jennifer Granholm:

Yes. Yes, we do.

Preet Bharara:

How far away is a breakthrough there, do you think?

Jennifer Granholm:

Well, interestingly that you asked this because in August, one of our labs, so the Department of Energy has 17 national laboratories. One of them is the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and they have a major fusion project. It was just validated that at that lab, they achieved last year, what is called ignition, which means that it is the first step to achieving nuclear fusion. And for your listeners who may not be so involved in nuclear energy, fusion is sort of pushing atoms together and fusion is tearing them apart, splitting them up, right?

Preet Bharara:

Yeah.

Jennifer Granholm:

And so the fusion option, and the president has put a big plan together, a decadal vision to achieve fusion at a commercial scale, at a scale that will actually be usable. Because what happened, that experiment at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab, that is a big experiment. It’s the first step, but that’s not a commercial project. That will not lead to commercialization, at least of that facility, but it is a huge step forward. There’s a similar step that’s been taken in England.

Jennifer Granholm:

We know that there’s a lot of steps between now and commercialization of fusion, but for folks who are listening, why do you care whether it’s fusion or fission, because fusion does not have the waste problem that I was describing as the current suite of nuclear technologies produces, and that would be a game changer. Plus, it’s so powerful.

Preet Bharara:

Can you assure us that in the run up to developing fusion capability, we’re not going to blow up the planet?

Jennifer Granholm:

Yeah.

Preet Bharara:

Okay, because…

Jennifer Granholm:

Obviously, we are not going to blow up the planet, no. We want to obviously do this. This is why it’s a decadal vision. We want to make sure that this is done in the right way. Any new technology, you want to make sure that you do not create obviously a danger for people. So because it is such a big aspiration, this will be done in an extremely cautious manner.

Preet Bharara:

We’ll be right back with more of my conversation with Secretary Granholm after this.

Preet Bharara:

Now, let’s get to the Inflation Reduction Act that I know you’re dying to talk about. Although, maybe it’s better called the Carbon Reduction Act. I don’t know.

Jennifer Granholm:

I know.

Preet Bharara:

The way you’re talking about it. My first question about it though is a broad one, and that is, this got passed in the House, passed in the Senate. Some people were surprised by that and it’s becoming law, but the way it’s going about making all this progress in the areas that you’ve mentioned is through tax incentives rather than tax penalties. It’s almost all carrot and no stick. So my question is, why don’t we always do that? Does that make it a better policy and a more acceptable policy?

Jennifer Granholm:

Well, here’s what I’d say. I like the carrot approach because you get much more buy in from people. People see it as an opportunity rather than a punishment. There is a little bit of a stick in here. It’s not just a little, there is the first time we’ve ever put a fee on methane. Methane, of course, being a very potent greenhouse gas that often results from the extraction of, for example, natural gas and oil. So there is a penalty. That piece of things, there’s a penalty. And the regulatory side is important. But when you are talking about the level of investment and deployment that’s necessary, having carrots that incentivize the investments is very effective. And we’ll see, the proof will be in the pudding, but these are very generous incentives to be able to get there. This is why we’ll be able to see the level of carbon pollution reduction and the addition…

Jennifer Granholm:

I mean, we’ve got to triple, essentially, almost triple the size of our electric grid with clean energy by 2050 to reach these goals. You know that this is going to be, by 2030 alone, it’s going to be a $27 trillion global market for the products that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Oh my gosh, what an amazing opportunity for businesses. And so incentivizing the business community to really dive in to clean energy deployment is an effective strategy. And we will see, I think massive improvement in adding clean energy to the grid as a result of this bill.

Preet Bharara:

What about other countries?

Jennifer Granholm:

And other countries have got to do the same. For example, in Australia, in August, they are doing a similar thing, incentivizing the production of clean and really setting high goals to be able to get to 100% clean electricity. They’re doing a very bold bill. Others, as we go, for example, to the conference on the parties, the COP meetings globally, that really encourage countries to meet these high aspirations. When the United States says, “We’re going to do this and we’re going to help you with technology. We’re going to help you achieve your aspirations because we do have these, for example, 17 national labs that can help roadmap what the best ways is for countries to meet their aspirations.” Many countries have already done that. All these countries signed on to the Paris Agreement and they just now need to make sure they can deploy enough clean energy to get to those aspirations. So it is a global effort, and the U.S. is now really in a position to lead by example.

Preet Bharara:

So forget about other countries for a moment. Let’s bring it back domestically. How do you get members of the Republican Party who are elected to Congress to believe the same things?

Jennifer Granholm:

Honestly, many of them will tell you that they believe in all of the above. I mean, so many of them will tell you that. And that means, yes, they want to continue to invest in fossil fuels, but they also want to move in the direction of clean energy. Many of the-

Preet Bharara:

Where are their votes?

Jennifer Granholm:

Well, right, because they’ll find many reasons not to give Joe Biden a victory, right?

Preet Bharara:

Yeah.

Jennifer Granholm:

But they know that this… I mean, for example, in Wyoming, Senator Barrasso, who is obviously a very strong Republican, and Wyoming has been a coal producing state, but there was a recent announcement that there was going to be a small advanced modular reactor, nuclear reactor put adjacent to, or on a former coal plant and hire people in Wyoming to run that plant. That is called TerraPower. It’s being funded by Bill Gates. And Senator Barrasso is all in on that. Those states that produce a lot of wind. Texas is a Republican state. Amazing production of wind and solar out of Texas.

Jennifer Granholm:

So they see the opportunity in their states for people to be employed and they see the opportunity to be able to invest in this next generation technology. You better believe that all of these senators, for example, in that Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, there are $62 billion there for next generation technologies that are clean. There was a reason why it was bipartisan. It’s because they see the opportunity of investing in clean hydrogen and creating hydrogen hubs across the country. So there is bipartisan support for a lot of these technologies. There just wasn’t bipartisan support for the Inflation Reduction Act.

Preet Bharara:

Can you clear something up for us, since you mentioned it and it just popped into my head. Windmills cause cancer or no?

Jennifer Granholm:

No. No.

Preet Bharara:

Look, we had to have a cabinet member come and debunk the myth.

Jennifer Granholm:

I appreciate you asking, yes. The ridiculous myth.

Preet Bharara:

Okay. With much laughter. I note for the record. When you talk about this movement away from legacy energy industries, there are a lot of people who in good faith are connected to those industries and are worried about loss of jobs. And so this is not a policy question, it’s a language question. How do you talk about it to people who wonder what’s going to happen to their communities, what’s going to happen to their jobs, and how did you do that in Michigan?

Jennifer Granholm:

Yeah. It’s a great parallel because when I was governor of Michigan, of course, the domestic auto industry went into bankruptcy. There was market forces doing that, but it was a huge problem. And we produced a product that relied upon fossil fuels, which is the internal combustion engine for the auto industry. What we were saying to folks who could see it happening on the ground, and this is true in West Virginia. People see what the market is doing. They see where their kids are telling them they’d rather work.

Preet Bharara:

Yeah.

Jennifer Granholm:

So it’s not even the government has to go in, the market is moving in a direction toward clean. All of the efforts on ESG by companies to make sure that they’re investing in clean and energy efficiency. It’s not a mystery. What we say to them is we are so grateful that you have powered this country for the past 100 years or more, and we want you to power this country for the next 100 years using clean energy. And there are skills matched jobs that you can be fully employed in and your family can be, your kids can get jobs in this sector, and we want you to see yourself.

Jennifer Granholm:

So in these hydrogen hubs, we want you to be able to work in that industry because it’s comparable. We want you to be able to install the equipment that removes carbon from the atmosphere and live in it. We want you to be able to extract geothermal from beneath the surface. We want you to be able to work on installing the offshore and onshore wind turbines. We want you to be able to manufacture the products that will get us to that clean energy future. From this bill, from what the Biden administration has done in clean energy, there will be one million jobs a year created for the next 10 years or 900,000 jobs created is what the projections are for the next 10 years. So nine million jobs created and they’re going to be in all pockets of the country. And we want people who have powered our nation to feel and see themselves in that future.

Jennifer Granholm:

And that’s why part of the effort is to make sure there’s apprenticeships attached to these clean energy technology. So people can move and get paid while they learn what that technology is and how to work in that sector. So it’s a huge opportunity for people. I mean, one other thing I would say, Preet, is that fossil fuels are going to be around. This is called the transition for a reason. And even by 2050, the reason why the goal is net zero is because some areas will always be dependent upon fossil fuels. The question is, can we decarbonize those fossil fuels? Are there ways to be able to get to net zero? And even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said, “You can’t get there unless you have carbon pollution capture and sequestering it beneath the Earth.”

Preet Bharara:

Is there somewhere on your desk or in a drawer in your desk, a pie chart that someone has put together that allocates or purports to allocate the ideal energy sources for the country or for the world as between wind, solar, geothermal, nuclear, et cetera, et cetera? Is that not something that people think about? What the ideal-

Jennifer Granholm:

People do think about it. I mean, there’s projections based on what we know now. We know that the growth, for example, of solar in particular is just huge and it has to be coupled with storage, with batteries. And the question is, on the batteries, what goes into those batteries, or can it be abundant materials that are not precious, that are not critical minerals, for example? And that technology is being worked on now and it’s just starting to come into the deployment or demonstration space from the labs. But clearly, the renewable clean power that the sun is shooting at us every day or the wind is providing every day are the cheapest form of power. It’s the preferable form of power, but it’s not just end up being that. It’s going to be this suite of technologies that you can toggle between, depending on how the resource is providing. If it’s a rainy day and we’re not getting as much sun, if it’s during the winter and the days are not as long, what can we toggle in to be able to supplement and make sure that we have 100% clean electricity all the time?

Preet Bharara:

We always have to be diversified.

Jennifer Granholm:

Yep, we do.

Preet Bharara:

Is there any worry? I don’t want to alarm people, but to the extent that this is not in the constitution. Laws have been passed and incentives that will be put into practice. If a different guy with a different agenda and different policies gets elected in 2024 or reelected, and you know who I’m talking about. What, if anything, in this Act, the Inflation Reduction Act is at risk?

Jennifer Granholm:

Yeah. I mean, you’d have to have obviously, a supportive House and Senate. I mean, I would venture to guess that, that’s not likely. And the reason why is because Democrats and Republicans across the country support this bill. Republicans support it over 50%. I want to say it’s above 50 significantly. Obviously, independents and Democrats do as well. It would be, I would imagine, a political disaster for somebody to come in and undo it. Especially once these projects have been awarded, you can’t undo that from a legal perspective because people have taken actions based upon that promise.

Preet Bharara:

Yeah. So let’s award those contracts quick.

Jennifer Granholm:

Yeah, we’re working on that.

Preet Bharara:

You’re working on that. You have talked about one of your top priorities is what you refer to as energy justice. What does that mean?

Jennifer Granholm:

Yeah, so it is really important that we acknowledge that there are communities that have been disproportionately negatively affected by carbon pollution. We want to make sure that we do right by those communities. So the president has committed that 40% of the benefits of these investments from both the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, as well as the Inflation Reduction Act and on the climate space, that’s $420 billion worth of investments. That 40% of the benefits from those investments accrue to those communities that have been left behind. And it could be communities as well that are in transition. So coal communities. We can’t leave those workers behind. If there is a movement away from oil and gas, we can’t leave those communities behind either. So the president really wants to make sure that we give opportunity in all pockets of this country, but especially prioritizing communities that have been negatively affected.

Preet Bharara:

Final question. We have a lot of listeners and they are consumers also, and you mentioned one example of this at the start of the interview. But under the Inflation Reduction Act, what are the particular kinds of things that people who are listening right now can do get by with those incentives or those subsidies?

Jennifer Granholm:

I love this question.

Preet Bharara:

A couple of things that literally, they can stop listening to this interview and they can go out and get some stuff.

Jennifer Granholm:

Yeah, well, so first of all, there’s a big emphasis on being able to retrofit your home with energy efficient appliances and to put solar on your roof. So if you want to put solar on your roof, you can do it today and you’ll get a 30% tax credit. If you are a low-income, if you come from a low-income household, you can go to the Weatherization Assistance Program in your area, through a Community Action Agency, and have your whole home retrofitted with efficient appliances, insulation, light bulbs, even in some cases, solar. And that will not cost you anything.

Jennifer Granholm:

If you are somebody who can wait for a few months until we write the rules on the rebates. Because there will be rebates for consumers if they purchase, for example, an electric heat pump, if you want to replace your HVAC system with a much more efficient electric heat pump. That will be available. Similarly, with energy efficient and electric stoves. So there’s all sorts of stuff coming in related to your home and reducing the cost, reducing your energy bills every month.

Jennifer Granholm:

And then the second piece, quickly to say, is there is an awful lot of incentives about electrification of your transportation. And that means there’s a $7,500 direct off the top credit. I mentioned the $4,000 one for used electric vehicles. There’s also one for new electric vehicles. If your income is less than 150,000 and the vehicle is less than $55,000, you can have a credit starting in January for electric vehicles. Now, the catch on that is that the electric vehicle companies, the manufacturers have got to ensure that the content of that car is largely produced in the United States. And that may take them a little bit of while to catch up, to bring home, to reassure some of the manufacturing capacity that they have sent overseas. And that’s part of the purpose of this bill is to get a whole manufacturing supply chain around the building of the products that get us to this clean energy future as we create a whole new economic sector in the United States.

Preet Bharara:

Well, people have their marching orders. Listen to the end and then go get some stuff. Madam Secretary Jennifer Granholm, what a pleasure was to have you. I hope I can say of myself, longtime fan, first time caller. Thanks for being on the show.

Jennifer Granholm:

Love it, Preet. Thanks so much for having me on. All right. Take care.

THE BUTTON:

Preet Bharara:

I want to end the show this week by talking about something that struck me from the world of sports. Now, it wasn’t news about a big game or player. It was the news that the NBA will hold no games on election day this year in an effort to encourage their players, staff, and fans to go out and vote in the midterms.

Preet Bharara:

The NBA usually doesn’t change its schedule to accommodate events like election day, but this year, the league decided to do so. A statement from the league on Twitter read, “The scheduling decision came out of the NBA family’s focus on promoting nonpartisan civic engagement and encouraging fans to make a plan to vote during midterm elections.” And while the league hasn’t taken an action quite like this before, they have tried in the past to promote voter turnout, notably by converting a handful of their arenas in devoting locations for the 2020 election.

Preet Bharara:

Initiatives like this matter. Whether it’s one person, one league, or one company encouraging others to vote and taking the necessary actions to ensure they actually can vote, it makes a difference. The midterms, as you know, are in full swing. We’ve just had our second primary election here in New York this week. I voted early on Sunday. And there are only a few primaries left across the country ahead of the November 8th election. We’ll have more robust election coverage coming up. But in the meantime, I wanted to make one note. I know there’s a lot of anxiety about the midterms and whether Democrats can hold onto the House or the Senate, but I’ll say something folks, the tides keep changing. A lot of people had assumed a red blowout, but there may be more reason to remain hopeful and work for the outcome you want.

Preet Bharara:

We saw that in Kansas recently, where unexpectedly large voter turnout in the traditionally conservative state chose to protect abortion rights. And after many recent polls, there’s a slight blue tilt to the key Senate races. Mitch McConnell himself is lowering expectations for GOP domination in November. He said last week in Kentucky, there’s probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate, signaling that the quality of the Republican Senate candidates just may not be strong enough to turn it red.

Preet Bharara:

This is all to say, do not give up, get involved. And of course, get out and vote. And more than that, you can help your friends and family vote. Volunteer to call voters in swing states or donate to key races if you’re able. Let’s commend the NBA for its commitment to promoting civic engagement, and I hope it inspires others to find ways to get involved in this crucial election cycle. There’s a lot of work to be done to preserve our democratic institutions, and it’ll take all of us.

Preet Bharara:

Well, that’s it for this episode of Stay Tuned. Thanks again to my guest, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm. If you like what we do, rate and review the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen. Every positive review helps new listeners find the show. Send me your questions about news, politics, and justice. Tweet them to me at Preet Bharara with the hashtag Ask Preet, or you can call and leave me a message at 669-247-7338. That’s 669-24-PREET, or you can send an email to letters@cafe.com.

Preet Bharara:

Stay Tuned is presented by CAFE and the Vox Media Podcast Network. The executive producer is Tamara Sepper. The technical director is David Tatasciore. The senior producer is Adam Waller. The editorial producers are Sam Ozer-Staton and Noa Azulai. The audio producer is Matt Wiener, and the CAFE team is Matthew Billy, David Kurlander, Jake Kaplan, Namata Shah, and Claudia Hernandez. Our music is by Andrew Dost. I’m your host, Preet Bharara. Stay Tuned.