In May 2021, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm faced criticism for her financial stake in Proterra, an electric car company, while U.S. President Joe Biden touted the same company during a virtual tour of its facilities.
Conservatives also criticized the secretary after a comment she made during a White House press briefing on May 11. In response to a journalist’s question regarding fuel shortages in the wake of a cyberattack on a pipeline, Granholm said, “If you drive an electric car, this would not be affecting you, clearly.”
One commentator on the Russian state-run RT criticized Granholm's comment and called her a "green Marie Antoinette" for seemingly lecturing Americans on buying electric cars during a gas shortage.
A full transcript of the exchange can be read below:
Q Yeah. I just have a question for each of you. I’ll start with you, Secretary Granholm, because ladies first. Obviously, we have the acute issues with the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack. But looking more holistically in a macro view, how does this speed up the efforts at DOE to move in more of a renewable direction since this is going to have an impact on people at the pump?
SECRETARY GRANHOLM: Yeah, I mean, we obviously are “all in” on making sure that we meet the President’s goals of getting to 100 percent clean electricity by 2035 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. And, you know, if you drive an electric car, this would not be affecting you, clearly.
But it’s just — it’s another — it’s — I don’t want to — this company is acting in a responsible way. They took their pipeline down so that the ransomware would not spread. And so, up to this point, they have — they’re carefully reviewing so that they’re doing this in a responsible way.
The ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline occurred on May 7 and crippled fuel delivery across the southeastern United States, resulting in thousands of gas stations running dry. The FBI blamed criminal hacking group DarkSide for the attack. Soon after the attack, the group announced it was shutting down because of unspecified “pressure” from the United States.
Granholm added that Colonial Pipeline was expected "to substantially restore operations by the end of this week."
Granholm has been previously criticized for promoting electric cars since joining the administration. She has said she is divesting her stock options from the electric car company within 180 days in the ethics agreement she signed when joining the administration. But within that 180 days she stands to earn a likely significant pay day as Proterra is scheduled to go public in the first half of 2021.
An Energy Department spokesperson told CNN, “Secretary Granholm has acted in full accordance with the comprehensive ethical standards set by the Biden administration. She is in the process of divesting all holdings in the company within the 180-day period permitted by her ethics agreement."
Regarding Biden’s tour of Proterra, a senior administration official said, “Proterra was selected for the virtual visit that day because it is the leading U.S. manufacturer of electric buses, employing 600 workers at its South Carolina and California plants. Neither Secretary Granholm nor the Department of Energy were involved in selecting the Proterra plant."
Given that Granholm’s words are recorded in a White House transcript, we rate this claim as “True.”