Energy Sec. Granholm on how infrastructure bill will ease inflation, supply jam

The bipartisan infrastructure bill, a key part of President Joe Biden's legislative agenda, passed Congress last week and is headed to the White House to be signed into law. The trillion dollar plan will bring historic investments to roads, bridges and public transit, as well as other major projects across the country. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm joins Judy Woodruff with the details.

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    The bipartisan infrastructure bill, a key part of President Biden's legislative agenda, passed Congress late last week and now headed to the president's desk to be signed into law.

    The $1 trillion plan will bring historic investments to roads, bridges and public transit, as well as other major projects across the country.

    Joining me now on all this, someone closely involved in the push for infrastructure, the secretary of energy, Jennifer Granholm.

    Secretary Granholm, very good to have you with us again. Thank you for being here.

    A lot of parts to this legislation. And I want you to remind the audience of just a few of the major parts of this where the public may see something in the near term, and maybe in the next six months?


    Well, certainly, there are different parts of this legislation that will go quickly and some that will take a little bit more time to develop.

    The ones that will go quickly are the ones that are pursuant to formula, the things like weatherization assistance, which goes to the states and they have a formula for doling it out, perhaps the road funding which you have heard about, the bridge funding which you have heard about.

    But there are also, Judy, I think some things that might be more midterm, but that are very consequential, for example, the investments in the transmission grid, which we are going to need to expand significantly if we're going to triple the amount of renewable energy on that grid, which is necessary to get to the president's goals of 100 percent clean energy by 2035, or the broadband expenditures. Every single state will get $100 million to be able to build out broadband, especially in areas that don't have access to it now, poorer areas, rural areas, et cetera.

    I think you will see quick movement on the erection of charging stations for electric vehicles across the country. There will be between 250, 500 and 500,000 electric vehicle stations, again, in areas that the private sector hasn't already taken action, along highways, for example, or in rural areas, or in poorer areas where there are not a lot of electric vehicles yet, but could be.

    So there's a lot to love in what we're seeing. And I'm very enthused by the bipartisan nature of this and the fact that we seem to actually have a deal, which is great.


    And it took several months, but here we are.

    I'm asking you about when Americans are going to see results from this, because we know many Americans increasingly worried about the price of gas, about the cost of goods that are being shipped, the so-called supply chain problems.

    And it caught our eye that, over the weekend, the White House said this bill is going to ease inflationary pressures, strengthen supply chains by making these long — these long-overdue improvements.

    How exactly is that going to happen? When are prices going to come down in connection with this legislation in a way that Americans can see that, touch it?


    Yes, I mean, first of all, we know that a lot of the mismatch between supply and demand is the world and the economy coming out of COVID. The quicker we can ensure that everybody's vaccinated, the quicker we get back to normal, right?

    But there's also 17 Nobel economists who said that this bill will, in fact, address inflationary pressures, especially in addressing some of the physical bottlenecks that we have seen, so the investment in our ports and in our airports, in our railway systems. So that's important as well.

    There is no doubt there will be some natural evening out of prices and inflation, as soon as we get through this COVID. But it is going to take a few months before that — before that settles out.


    I was struck by that, because the administration is saying that this is going to have an effect on prices.

    I want to ask you about the criticism that the bill is not as effective as it might have been, if it hadn't had to have been watered down. We know, in order to get the bipartisan support you mentioned, watering down in this bill. We know there's going to be more watering down or whittling down, whatever you want to call it, in the Build Back Better bill that's still before the Congress, has not passed yet.

    I mean, how much difference do you think all that compromise which you had to make is going to make in the effectiveness of this legislation?


    Honestly, Judy, this is — especially with the two pieces, these are such historic investments in our country.

    But just even the infrastructure bill alone, I mean, it is the kind of investment that we have not seen in generations. So we're very positive about it. Yes, I mean, in all cases, compromise has to happen. And the president has always said that compromise is not a dirty word.

    But he feels very good about the combination of things that came out in this bill. For example, one thing we didn't talk about is making sure that we remove lead pipes from older building stock across the country, so that children are not lead-poisoned, or the investments in resilience for communities that may be adversely experiencing the impacts of these extreme weather events.

    We want to make sure we have got not just a grid that's resilient, but seawalls, et cetera, to protect communities from what we are seeing on climate change. So there is really a lot in this bill that is helpful to everyday citizens that they are going to start to see in near term, and then it is a multiyear bill, so it will stretch out over a few years.

    But, again, this is to build the future, the bones, the infrastructure of our nation. That will happen over several years. And that is, I think, a very good statement about us — setting us — us being set up for competitiveness in the 21st century.


    Just quickly and finally, you are the secretary of energy. And I do want to ask you about concerns about the price of gasoline, concerns at home heating oil with a cold winter coming.




    People are going to be dealing with that.

    You said in an interview yesterday the president is looking at the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, dipping into that. Is he going to do that or not?


    It's one of the tools that he is looking at. The president is all over this. He wants to make sure that people are not adversely affected by fuel costs, whether it's home fuel or gasoline at the pump.

    He recognizes, of course, as every president is frustrated, that they can't control the price of gas, because it's on a global — oil is sold on a global market. And that market is controlled by a cartel. And that cartel is OPEC, largely.

    But this is why he's doubling down. This is the short-term issue and he's doubling down on the long-term investments on making sure that we're investing in clean energy, so we don't — we aren't disproportionately reliant on fossil fuels, especially from areas of the world that don't have our best interests at heart.

    So he's looking at whatever short-term tools he has to be able to relieve the pain that people may be feeling at the pump. The American Rescue Plan put a lot of money, $4 billion, into low-income heating and home energy for propane, for natural gas, for home heating oil for this winter.

    So there is a lot of money that went into that went to the states to be able to relieve people. The question of the pump is one that we're going to learn more about tomorrow, Judy, when our Energy Information Agency will put out its short-term projections for the next couple of months.


    And we will be watching for that.

    The secretary of energy, Jennifer Granholm, thank you very much.


    You bet, Judy. Thank you.

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