Senate approves Biden's pick Granholm to head Energy Department

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate approved President Joe Biden’s nominee, former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm, on Thursday to serve as secretary of the Department of Energy.

FILE PHOTO: Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm testifies before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee during a hearing to examine her nomination to be Secretary of Energy, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., January 27, 2021. Jim Watson/Pool via REUTERS

The 100-member Senate backed Granholm by 64 to 35, more than the simple majority needed. Several Republicans from states that produce fossil fuels, including Kevin Cramer and John Hoeven, both of North Dakota, and Steve Daines, of Montana, joined Democrats in supporting her.

Granholm wants to boost jobs in manufacturing of electric vehicles (EVs) and wind and solar power, and is likely to play a big role in Biden’s goal to put the country on a path of decarbonizing the economy by 2050.

She said during Senate hearings that critical minerals, used in batteries for EVs and to support the electric grid, in wind turbines and solar panels, can be mined responsibly in the United States.

Some Republicans who voted against her, including Senator John Barrasso of top coal producing state Wyoming, said Biden’s green push would harm high paying jobs in fossil fuels.

Biden “has declared war on American energy and American energy workers and I just can’t stand by as this administration tries to crush Wyoming’s economy,” Barrasso said shortly before the vote.

Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from coal- and natural gas-producing West Virginia, said Granholm, when governor, helped save the auto industry during the Great Recession.

“She brought in new investment in new industry and she created new jobs, leaving no worker behind,” said Manchin, the chairman of the Senate energy committee.

The energy secretary oversees the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile and the emergency petroleum reserve, and is a member of the president’s cabinet.

Once sworn in, Granholm, 62, will be the second female U.S. energy secretary after Hazel O’Leary served in the Clinton administration in the 1990s.

Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Peter Graff