HBCU students crucial to energy future, Granholm says

Feb 23, 2022
The U.S. energy secretary speaks at S.C. State. (Panther photo by Terry Benjamin)

The U.S. secretary of energy visited the campus of South Carolina State University in Orangeburg on Feb. 17.

Secretary Jennifer Granholm looked at presentations by S.C. State nuclear engineering students and then spoke at a press conference about the importance of moving to forms of energy other than oil and gas.

“Nuclear power emits no carbon pollution, which causes climate change. Fifty-two percent of the country’s clean energy is produced by nuclear power, so it’s a huge part of the solution of what President Biden would like to get to, which is clean energy by the year 2035,” Granholm said. “When I mean clean, I mean 0 carbon-emitting. It could be nuclear but could also be wind or solar or decarbonizing the existing system.”

Granholm said electric-powered vehicles are important.

“Those vehicles are so much cheaper to operate than gas-powered vehicles. The average price of gas, you would have to pay $52 to fill up a 15-gallon tank and that 15-gallon tank might take you about 330 miles. If you powered your car with electricity and went those 30 miles, it would cost you $12 dollars vs. $52,” Granholm said.

She said the infrastructure bill is critical.

“It’s clear that the infrastructure bill will help position America well into the future. We want people to see the benefits of the votes cast by them and their communities. We want them to know that the next step of the Build Back Better is also really important of communities across the country, including bringing down cost for people. Right now, we’re facing a lot of inflation. Forty percent of the inflation is due to the high cost of energy and the next step is to build a country that isn’t reliant on the volatility on fossil fuels. We want to build a country where transportation is electrified. People can plug their car and charge with the cheapest energy, which is solar and wind,” Granholm said.

“We will make it cheaper for people to live their daily lives.”

Granholm announced that millions of dollars will be funded to HBCUs and other minority universities. $3 million will be used to improve opportunities for minorities in engineering fields.

“The Biden administration is really committed to his whole-of-government approach to supporting HBCUs for their Department of Energy,” Granholm said.

“Congressmen (James) Clyburn was instrumental in passing that bipartisan infrastructure law. That infrastructure law for the Department of Energy means $2 billion to push out these technologies we’re describing. We also need to hire people for that, and we need to make sure we got a workforce that looks like America. Expand the diversity of our talent pool because we will not be able to achieve our goals if we are missing tons of society,” Granholm said.

“We want to make sure we include and really focus intentionally on expanding access to scientists and engineers of color, which is why I want to partner with HBCUs for that hiring opportunity as well. The Department of Energy has announced a goal of hiring 1,000 people for a climate energy core to be able to help us fulfill the climate energy infrastructure law. That means nuclear, that means decarbonizing the existing sector, that means wind and solar, that means geothermal power, that means people who are interested in clean hydrogen,” Granholm said.

The conversation then turned back to the presentations by the students and Granholm’s assessment. She spoke about how she would want them to be a part of the U.S. government due to their showings.

“Those students were amazing, and it was so exciting for me because we are looking at the very problems that they are addressing, and they had it. They know exactly where they were going, there were very technical aspects of their work, they were confident. This is one of the reasons why I was feeling so strongly about encouraging them to be a part of the federal government, because whether it’s cybersecurity or nuclear, we are looking for exactly what they have to offer,” Granholm said.

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