President-elect Joe Biden has nominated two-term Michigan governor and UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy (GSPP) faculty member Jennifer Granholm to lead the U.S. Department of Energy.
“I’m so grateful to Berkeley and the Goldman School of Public Policy for giving me the ability to access great research talent and fabulous grad students passionate about clean energy,” said Granholm. “I will carry their hopes for a clean energy future with me to Washington, and if I’m confirmed, will focus with zeal on deploying clean energy in every pocket of the country, with an emphasis on communities that have been hardest hit by economic, racial and environmental injustice.”
Granholm is an expert on politics and clean energy policy who teaches Berkeley courses on clean energy, policy innovation and communication. She is also a senior research fellow at the Berkeley Energy and Climate Institute and the Berkeley Center for Information Technology Research in the Interests of Society (CITRIS). If confirmed, Granholm will oversee 17 national laboratories, a wide range of energy research initiatives and the National Nuclear Security Administration, which is the agency within the DOE that oversees the nation’s nuclear stockpile.
“I’m very pleased to see that Gov. Granholm has been nominated to be secretary of energy in the Biden administration,” said Henry E. Brady, dean of the Goldman School. “At the DOE, she will be guiding one of the major engines for innovation in the United States. She is smart, experienced, caring and committed to creating a clean energy future with lots of high-paying manufacturing jobs.”
“The Department of Energy is going to be central to almost everything in the Biden-Harris plan, from energy transformation to re-entering the Paris Climate Accords,” said Goldman School professor Dan Kammen, chair of the Energy and Resources Group. “We’re also going to need a huge infusion of attention and effort to be put into creating jobs. You need someone who can integrate all that together. That fits Jennifer Granholm to a T. I’m just so impressed that they made this choice. I think she’s ideal for the job at this time.”
If confirmed, Granholm would be the second Berkeley scholar to be named to a Biden administration cabinet post, after Berkeley Haas Professor Emeritus Janet Yellen, who was tapped for treasury secretary.
Granholm served as governor of Michigan from 2003 to 2011, during a deep recession that resulted in 50,000 factory closures in the state from 2000 to 2010. The collapse of the manufacturing economy led Granholm to the question she described in her 2013 Ted Talk: How do you create good-paying jobs in America? The answer, she argues, can be found in clean energy innovation that would both address the climate crisis and create desperately needed jobs, especially for those once employed by traditional manufacturing.
In 2014, Granholm launched the American Jobs Project, a “think-and-do” tank that conducted research in 24 states over five years on clean energy and job creation.
“Gov. Granholm has always been a forward thinker,” said Mary Collins, who was managing director and co-founder of the American Jobs Project. “She’s really looked at how we might capitalize on clean energy industries to create good-paying jobs. With the current state of our economy, we certainly need somebody that has that forward-looking vision.”
“The American Jobs Project was a really thoughtful effort to understand the employment and the justice opportunities in what is core to the Biden-Harris transition, both analytically and politically,” said Kammen. “The goal of going to all clean energy by 2035 will require a truly all-hands approach.”
In the classroom, Granholm is known as a knowledgeable and invested teacher, generous with her time and genuinely interested in sharpening how her students think about public policy.
“Gov. Granholm has been a terrific mentor for our students while at GSPP,” said Brady. “She initiated a number of innovative courses and research efforts, including the idea of producing innovation ecosystems where, for example, high performance battery producers would be located near automobile manufacturers to push forward electric vehicles, while creating jobs.”
“She was always concerned with implementation, how we actually make things happen,” said Spencer Bowen, who worked as Granholm’s graduate student instructor. “She’d ask, ‘What are the strong points of this policy idea? Where can you make it more convincing? What level of government (country, state, federal) will this policy be best carried out by?’”
Bowen noted that he and his fellow graduate students found Granholm accessible and kind, despite her “impressive and pretty intimidating” accomplishments. She made time to meet with students, Bowen said, did her share of grading and even lugged a large cooler of snacks and drinks to class at the end of term to feed the students.
“There wasn’t a lot of hierarchy in her class,” Bowen said. “She was very much a partner in the policy conversation.”
If confirmed, Granholm would join two other Goldman School faculty members who have served in presidential cabinet posts: Robert B. Reich served as secretary of labor in the Clinton administration from 1993 to 1997, and Janet Napolitano served as secretary of homeland security in the Obama administration from 2009 to 2013.
She is an honors graduate of both Berkeley and Harvard Law School.
She and her husband, Dan Mulhern, have three children.