Here is a lightly edited transcript of the interview.
Will Englund: This country is going to have more electric cars and trucks, and by 2035, it won’t be universal, but it is happening quickly. What is the oil sector in America going to look like when that happens?
Jennifer Granholm: Well, I would say that it’s going to be up to them. A lot of them understand that. They are now diversifying to be energy companies rather than oil and gas companies. I think Chevron just announced … that it was going to be investing $300 million in a fund to advance low-carbon technologies. So that’s a super important piece of an opportunity for them. But clearly, it’s going to be up to them to be more responsive to this. They could be investing in battery technology. They could be investing, obviously, in biofuels, which is different.
They can see where this is going. They can see that the globe is going to be demanding clean-energy solutions and carbon-zero solutions by 2050.
What are the means for diversification of their energy portfolios that will allow them to still be profitable? I think there’s plenty of opportunity if they are willing to go there.
WE: Is there a role for the Energy Department to guide or direct or, you know, nudge the companies and the sector as a whole?
JG: From a technology point of view, we are eager to deploy a lot of the research that has been happening in the labs. So, for example, carbon capture and sequestration technologies, particularly, are being advanced out of the [National Energy Technology Laboratory] in West Virginia.
They are working on all of this. Not just reducing the carbon emissions from coal, which they are doing, but from natural gas as well. The ability to do natural gas in a way that is even carbon negative is a huge opportunity for these companies. We want to partner with anyone that wants to be able to deploy these technologies. We’d just like to see more of it.
There’s an analogy here from my own experience in Michigan. We built a vehicle, a product that relied on gasoline. And we still do. And the question is, you know, as GM announces an all-electric fleet, they saw where this was heading, and they decided to diversify in the same way.
WE: If we go to clean energy, what’s the grid going to look like? Will we still have a grid the way we know it?
JG: Clearly the grid, its reliability and its capacity are a huge focus. I think you’ll see in the next package that [the White House] presents to Congress — right now, obviously, they’re focused on the covid rescue package — but there will be a jobs package next. And I fully expect that there will be a significant commitment to investing in the national grid, both expanding the lines for transmission, as well as investing in the resiliency of the grid. Both of those need to happen if we’re going to be adding all those electric vehicles and the demand for clean energy to our national grid.
WE: You tweeted the other day that what happened in Texas,…
Read More: Granholm tells oil companies to diversify