Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm to face grilling on Biden energy policies, security threats
Republicans have a bone to pick with President Biden’s energy policies, and they’re about to get that chance with a top administration official for the first time since gas prices skyrocketed and war broke out in Ukraine.
Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm will appear before a congressional panel Thursday, and GOP members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will grill her on the administration’s actions that they say have contributed to record-high prices at the pump and weakened America’s energy security.
Ms. Granholm will make the administration’s case for moving away from reliance on fossil fuels to combat climate change, according to her prepared remarks.
Chief among Republicans’ security concerns is the country’s reliance on Russian uranium used to power nuclear plants, which account for roughly 20% of U.S. electricity. Republicans say that threatens America’s nuclear energy security and has been exposed by Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine.
The U.S. relies on Russia and two of its closest allies — Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan — for nearly half of its uranium, according to 2020 data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Republicans want Ms. Granholm to prioritize counteracting the perceived threats to the nation’s nuclear energy security, including by increasing domestic uranium production and enrichment. That request was laid out by GOP lawmakers in a letter sent Wednesday to the energy secretary, which was first provided to The Washington Times.
“These risks extend beyond our oil and gas assets to include supply vulnerabilities in our civilian nuclear sector,” the letter to Ms. Granholm stated. “This sector is essential for national and energy security, and for strengthening the geostrategic relationships necessary to compete with Russia, China and other adversaries.”
Along with the push for more domestic uranium, Republican lawmakers also plan to use the hearing to call for actions that they say would make U.S. energy consumption more available, affordable and secure, such as focusing on domestic production of all energy sources.
The letter was sent by GOP Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, ranking member of the House Energy panel, and Fred Upton of Michigan. The Department of Energy did not respond to a request for comment.
Republicans also will hammer Ms. Granholm on steps taken during the early days of the administration that they say put the U.S. in an energy crunch and contributed to high prices due to less domestic production.
Her appearance is part of the annual appropriations process for fiscal 2023, which begins Oct. 1. Ms. Granholm will lay out the rationale for the Department of Energy’s $48.2 billion budget request, an increase of $3.3 billion, or 7.4%.
The request is “necessary for the long-term transition of most of the economy from fossil fuels to domestically produced renewable energy,” Ms. Granholm will tell lawmakers, according to her prepared remarks.
She will emphasize the administration’s desire to more aggressively tackle a warming planet by funding clean energy initiatives.
“This will end our dependence on volatile fossil fuels to drive our cars, transport our goods, heat and cool our homes, and much more,” Ms. Granholm will say. “It will also help us slow the destructive impacts of climate change.”
Nuclear energy could be a solution to reducing climate-changing emissions and advancing Mr. Biden’s clean energy agenda. However, it often faces pushback from Democrats and tribal communities, who highlight the checkered environmental past of uranium mining and enrichment that has exposed populations to toxic waste.
Russian uranium has largely flown under the radar when it comes to banning energy imports to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine. Republicans have sought to expand sanctions against Russian oil and natural gas to also include uranium.
Congress allocated some $75 million in 2020 for the U.S. to begin stockpiling uranium, but purchases for the reserve have yet to be made.
Kathryn Huff, a senior Energy Department official who’s been nominated by Mr. Biden to lead the agency’s Office of Nuclear Energy, emphasized the need to reduce foreign energy sources — including uranium — during her confirmation hearing last month.
“It is critically important that we wean ourselves off unstable, untrustworthy sources of our critical fuels, including uranium,” Dr. Huff said.