Former Michigan Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a long-time renewable energy development advocate, has been recruited to serve as secretary of energy under President-elect Joe Biden’s administration. Biden announced Granholm as his choice Tuesday evening.

If confirmed by the Senate, she would be the second woman to hold the position. Hazel O’Leary, appointed to the position by former president Bill Clinton, was the first.

Granholm was elected as Michigan’s governor in 2002, serving two terms and developing a strong relationship with the automotive industry. She had previously served as Michigan Attorney General and as an energy adviser to Hillary Clinton. 

As energy secretary, Granholm will oversee the United States’ store of nuclear weapon arsenal, as well as the development of renewable energy and fossil fuel production technologies. The Department of Energy will also have a heavy hand in reducing carbon emissions, a key part of Biden’s climate plan.

In 2009, during the Great Recession, she worked closely with the Obama administration to bail out the Michigan auto industry, advocating for  the inclusion of various clean energy and climate-friendly auto-related technologies. 

During her second term, Granholm also helped respond to an oil spill reaching the Kalamazoo river, a major waterway flowing into the Great Lakes. The spill resulted in over 800,000 gallons of oil leaking from a pipeline owned by Enbridge Energy Partners, coating many of the rivers’ fish and birds in oil.

Granholm criticized the company’s response as “wholly inadequate” and lobbied for more resources to contain the spill. 

Following her second term as governor, Granholm became a strong supporter of renewable energy development and was on 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s short list for secretary of energy. 

Biden has announced that the domestic economy and the climate change crisis are two of his top four priorities once he takes office, both of which Granholm has experience in. 

On Dec. 17, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer released a statement about Biden’s selection of Granholm, saying Granholm would balance the priorities of clean energy and economic growth well.

“This is great news for our country and for the generations of Americans who will benefit from a clean energy advocate at the helm of the Department of Energy,” Whitmer wrote. “Governor Granholm has been a fierce advocate for clean energy for decades. She spent eight years as governor working to build a more sustainable state, and focused Michigan’s economic recovery from the Great Recession on clean energy, which helped push national markets towards renewable technologies. … Governor Granholm also knows better than anyone how to make sure working people and organized labor are included in the clean energy transition.”

Engineering junior Leah Webber is a member of the Climate Action Movement at the University of Michigan, a group that frequently protests the University’s investment in fossil fuels. She said she was excited about Granholm’s nomination, mentioning her opposition to the Dakota and Keystone access pipelines as reasons to support the Biden administration’s choice. 

“I’m excited to see what Jennifer Granholm’s career at the DOE will accomplish, as I have very high hopes for her,” Webber said. “Gov. Granholm has also been advocating for a transition to renewable energy for many years, since her days as Governor of Michigan, which is essential for a just transition to carbon neutrality. Of course we would love to see more ambitious goals from a carbon neutrality perspective, however the Biden administration and Granholm will be taking large strides in a positive direction.”

Former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz was also reported to be on Biden’s short list, but has been publicly criticized by environmentalist groups for his close financial ties to the fossil fuel industry and support of natural gas. 

LSA sophomore Julia Schettenhelm, communications director for the University’s chapter of College Democrats, wrote in a statement to The Daily that she thinks Granholm is a good choice for the position. 

“Energy policy and climate change are important issues right now, particularly in the state of Michigan,” Schettenhelm wrote. “And we are pleased to see someone who understands these issues well in the cabinet, especially with former Governor Granholm’s zero-emissions policy stance.”

Ryan Fisher, LSA junior and chair for the University’s chapter of College Republicans, wished Granholm luck in the position in a statement to The Daily, but said he disagreed with Biden’s climate plan. 

Fisher said he thinks the plan would result in a tax increase without providing the benefits of reduced carbon emissions. 

“We support curbing carbon emissions, but believe that Biden’s plan may raise prices on those without the luxury to readily transition to newer, high-efficiency goods,” Fisher said. “Biden’s plan constitutes a significant federal expense. Granholm is a trusted Democratic insider who, if confirmed, will likely implement Biden’s plan without secondary consideration. We wish her and Biden luck and hope that they will think about all Michiganders in instituting these policies.”

In a November opinion piece, Granholm wrote about the need to shift toward clean energy alternatives and their role in economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic. She cited a growing number of renewable energy jobs in Michigan as an example of how investing in renewable energy could positively impact climate, the economy and public health. 

“The economics are clear,” Granholm wrote. “The time for a low-carbon recovery is now. Michigan is looking to its policymakers to support clean job growth and rebuild our state economy in a way that leaves no one behind. The health and well-being of our people, business community, state economy and future depends on it.” 

This article has been updated to include a statement from Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. 

Daily Staff Reporter Julia Forrest can be reached at 

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