The US Department of Energy Jennifer Granholm talks about the Weatherization Assistance Program and the roles of farmers in helping the Energy Department with their climate change and clean energy strategies.
Full transcription of interview below:
While Wednesday it was announced that the Federal Weatherization assistance program will receive a $3.1 billion infusion from President Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law to provide energy efficiency upgrades and more utility costs for homeowners. Today we talk more about that program and where farmers and rural residents will fit it in the US Department of Energy Strategy, is US Department Secretary Jennifer Granholm. Madam Secretary, welcome into the program.
Granholm: Thank you so much for having me.
Brent: This program really focuses on the whole home from heating and cooling systems to installations, to lights and appliances. If you could tell us a bit about..
Question 1: Why now is the right time to extend the reach of the existing weatherization assistance program?
Answer: Yeah. Thank you so much. Great question. I mean, first of all we all have left and right energy bills and so the Biden administration really wants to ensure that the people have access to every bit of help possible, so that they can keep their homes warm in the winter and cool in the summer. And that they’re not wasting money! That’s the most important thing, so for example, if the family is eligible for the weatherization program and it’s about somebody who has a family that has an income of about $55,000. They can fall in their weatherization program in their areas, usually a local community action agency, which across the country does this weatherization program. They’ll come and will do an energy audit of their, just see where, whether it’s leaking, whether it’s leaking heat out your window or through the cracks because you have a lousy installation. And they will then come back and put in all the installation necessary. Maybe replace windows that might be leaking. Replace lightbulb that may be inefficient, replace appliances that might be inefficient. Depending on what it is that’s causing you to have to spend so much money. A lot of times, families are spending up to 30% of their income on just the utility bills. So this will help sustain money and if somebody gets their home weatherized like this, they will save between 20 and 30% on their utility bills every month and that’s money in people’s pockets.
Brent: And this program is intended to put money back on homeowners pocket but I understand it’s also intended to have a significant environmental benefit as well.
Granholm: Yeah. I’ve mean what they really say is that energy efficiency is essentially the fifth yule that if we don’t have to, you know the best form of energy is the energy that is not spent. So if you can save energy because you have lots, your house button up your house and make it efficient. Then, that obviously has benefits for the climate, the building sectors have huge carbon pollution and so this is good for the climate, it’s good for people’s wallets and it’s good for people’s health honestly. And also it creates jobs for the local community to be able to do this work.
Brent: And we understand that this program also fulfills the Biden administration’s Justice 40 commitment which aims to ensure that at least 40% of benefits from certain investments are delivered to disadvantaged communities and the most administration closer to its goal of net zero emissions by 2050.
Granholm: That’s exactly right. I mean, the Biden administration really wants to make sure that folks who are in rural areas and folks who are in poorer areas, disadvantaged communities have access to this funds they likely that the communities that are more rural or lower income will be eligible to this services and as I say, it certainly helps as well to tackle climate change.
Brent: Well, climate change and environmental sustainability has been widely talked about lately in the agriculture industry. If you could just give us a brief update on.
Question 2: What is the Department of Energy doing to address these issues?
Answer: Yeah. We’ve been. I mean everybody has seen the impact of climate change because we have to pay to clean up, we, meaning the US, the tax payers, and the citizens were have to pay the clean up after all this extreme weather events that we’ve been seeing every year. The record year whether the record number of hurricanes, the record heat wave, the record drought, the record number of wildfire. Last year we had to spend about almost a $150 billion cleaning up after these extreme weather events. So we need to do our part to that carbon pollution that put up in the air that causes climate change and you know, from my perspective not just mine, but everybody’s perspective knows anything about energy sector it’s also it’s a huge opportunity to create great job all kinds of jobs of all kind of people and all kinds of Americans to build up this clean energy sector. The President has a goal of getting to 100% clean electricity by 2035. And if we do that by the way that just means that we will be energy independent as well and not have to rely upon countries whose interest adverse to ours or own energy,
Brent: Well, many of the folks who listen to this program are corn and soybean farmers and they’re quite interested in any new developments in renewable fuels at the present time.
Question 3: Where do those farmers fit in overall into the nation’s clean energy strategy?
Answer: Yeah the President has been very supportive of the renewable fuel standard and making sure that we have, we’re taking advantage of what the farmers have to offer in getting us the clean energy future. So for example, we have a goal of having a 100% of our aviation fuel be sustainable, sustainable aviation fuel and it is our farmers that are gotta be able to help deliver that, we’re gonna have to build another for example, 400 refineries to get to the goal of having us the 100% on sustainable aviation fuel by 2050. So it’s an exciting moment for any sector to diversify, to include the opportunity in this clean energy economy. Farmer’s know this, first of all farmer’s feeding impacts climate change more than anybody. They also, many of them are taking advantage of solar and wind as additional income streams so we see the growing of crops as giving us biofuel that will help us to get there as well.
Brent: Well this is an ever evolving strategy and we’ll be here to cover the latest developments. Secretary Granholm, surely we appreciate your time and we invite you to come back anytime to share with us the latest happenings in the Department of Energy.
Granholm: Alright I will love to do that. Thanks so much for having me.
Brent: Again we’ve been speaking with the US Energy Secretary Granholm.
**End of interview**