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In the agencies

Granholm dishes on energy prices, why she's traveling with a GOP congressman and her favorite beer

Eleven Questions for … Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm: Welcome to our Friday interview feature. This week, we chatted with the former Michigan governor and longtime electric car superfan.

The Early: Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) sharply criticized President Biden this week for urging OPEC to increase production but also taking steps to limit the ability of U.S. oil and gas companies to drill on federal lands. How would you respond to the criticism that the administration is simultaneously seeking to boost oil and gas production abroad while cutting it at home?

Granholm: The president has called for an increase in supply all over. One of the reasons why he sent the letter to the [Federal Trade Commission] yesterday was because it is curious that the oil and gas companies themselves are not increasing their supply. The rigs have not been turned on despite the fact that oil is at over $80 a barrel. The oil and gas companies are sitting on millions of acres of public lands on and offshore — 23 million — and over 9,000 permits that have been issued that are just not being used.

[Biden] is really focused on middle-class and working-class people, and he completely gets why there is so much anxiety out there about the price of gas and the price of heating homes. And he is looking at every tool that we possibly have. I just got off of a call, for example, with [White House adviser] Gene Sperling and a number of governors to reinforce that we're sending new monies to states for [the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program], for weatherization and weatherization assistance program, for the rental assistance that can be used for bringing down the cost of energy and homes.

The Early: I think Barrasso was referring to provisions in the Build Back Better Act [BBB] such as raising royalties for drilling on federal lands.

Granholm: They've already got all of these permits and leases that they haven't even been using at all. They're sitting on [a] record amount of cash, not investing in capital, and instead using it to do shareholder buybacks. So let's get the supply out there to relieve the pain at the pump right now.

Not seeing red

The Early: You're headed to Chattanooga on Monday with Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.) as part of the administration's efforts to sell the infrastructure bill. How did you decide to travel to a deep-red district with Fleischmann, one of the Republicans who voted against the infrastructure bill?

Granholm: One of our largest national labs is there, Oak Ridge National Lab, and Congressman Fleischmann has been a huge champion of [it]. I've been to a lot of Republican states and districts, whether it's Texas or West Virginia. It's really important for the state to know what they'll be benefiting from, whether it's roads or bridges or the electric transmission grid, or what the [BBB] will [do] for them in terms of their clean energy future. It's important to tell the story in Democratic places and Republican places.

The Early: Are you concerned at all that Republican lawmakers who voted against this bill will try to take credit for some of the infrastructure investments in their states and districts?

Granholm: I can't say that I blame them for trying to take credit for something great.

The Early: What's the last book you finished? And what are you reading now?

Granholm: I am reading right now John Doerr's recent book, “Speed & Scale.” I just finished “The Story of Co2: Big Ideas for Small Molecule,” [which] one of my staff members lent to me. “Speed & Scale” [describes] the buildup of the clean energy economy and what we need to do to make sure we get to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The Early: Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) the other day criticized a provision of the [BBB] that would give $4,500 tax credits to buyers of union-made vehicles — including the Chevy Bolt, the electric car you drive — but not electric vehicles made in non-union shops. What's your argument to Manchin that such a credit is a good idea?

Granholm: The right to unionize has proven time and time again that providing wages and benefits to allow workers to support their families helps regions, helps communities. Obviously, it helps the families. And so I think it's an important statement about supporting family-sustaining wages by making sure that the support of the federal government encourages that.

The Early: Who would you say is your closest friend on the other side of the aisle?

Granholm: I'm new here, right? So developing friendships with people like [Sen.] Lisa Murkowski [(R-Alaska)], for example, has been really terrific. Developing a friendship with, for example, [Sen.] Shelley Moore Capito [(R-W.Va.)]. We had dinner the other night and it was just really so wonderful. I wouldn't be so presumptuous to say that they're best friends of mine. I'm just developing these relationships here in Washington, but they certainly are wonderful people and I look forward to working with them.

The Early: You tweeted a photo of yourself with Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) last month with pints of beer in hand, and you mentioned before heading to Glasgow that you were planning to have a beer with family members who live there. What's your beer of choice?

Granholm: I honestly like a good cold Dos Equis.

The Early: Did you end up having a chance to go for that beer in Glasgow?

Granholm: I did. It ended up being a glass of wine in their home — and an Irn-Bru, which is notable of late! They gave me several to take back with me.

Methane emissions

The Early: You've been a vocal advocate of cutting methane emissions. Are you concerned at all that the methane fee in the current version of the [BBB] will cause already rising natural gas prices to spike even higher?

Granholm: I think it will incentivize the gas industry to do what they need to do, which is to tighten up. Many in the industry are already moving in that direction. We want the U.S. natural gas industry to be the cleanest in the world. We've got a lot of work to do, though. So the point of this is to incentivize what needs to happen, which is to prevent the leaks of the most potent greenhouse gas from escaping.

The Early: Is the administration considering new restrictions on exports of oil or liquefied natural gas in response to rising energy prices?

Granholm: The president is evaluating the full range of tools that he has. Some are more likely than others. But I will leave it to the White House to make any announcements on what further action they plan on taking.

On the Hill

Kevin McCarthy's record-breaking speech forces Democrats to delay Build Back Better vote

Let's call the whole thing off. 

After months of internal wrangling and discord, House Democrats almost adopted a sprawling, roughly $2 trillion package to overhaul the country's health care, education, climate, immigration and tax laws last night. 

That was until House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) took to the chamber floor to make the most of his magic minutes, speaking for a record 8 hours and 32 minutes (and topped the previous record set by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2018).

“McCarthy’s winding speech attacked Democrats over a broad range of issues, including border security and Afghanistan policy, and repeatedly mischaracterized their exact spending ambitions,” our colleagues Tony Romm, Paul Kane, and Marianna Sotomayor report. 

“The GOP leader’s ongoing remarks often drew jeers and laughs from Democrats, some of whom left as he spoke. But it ultimately had some effect, even if temporarily: Once the speech lapsed past midnight and into its fourth hour, Democratic leaders made the decision to hold off on a vote on the spending bill until later Friday.” 

Timing: “We’re going to recess, and we’ll come in at 8 a.m.,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told PK and CNN's Manu Raju. “He wants to do it in the middle of the night,” Hoyer said of McCarthy’s motivations for speaking for so late. “We’re going to do it in the light of day.”

In the room: Tensions between the two parties — and Democrats' disdain for McCarthy — was palpable, as they answered phone calls, tweeted, and carried on conversations in not-so-hushed voices throughout his stemwinder. 

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), slumped in his chair in the corner of the chamber, carried on a full conversation with lawmakers as McCarthy spoke. McCarthy paused, waiting for Democrats to quiet before Ryan pulled down his mask and shouted, “No one's listening — keep going.”

We're leaving you, Kevin,” another Democratic lawmaker shouted, interrupting McCarthy on his way out of the chamber.

“It's okay — I'll be here,” McCarthy retorted.

The Media

Weekend reeeads: 


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