Moderator: Good afternoon from the State Department’s Brussels Media Hub. I would like to welcome everyone joining us for today’s virtual press briefing. Today we are very honored to be joined by U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm.
With that, let’s get started. Secretary Granholm, thank you so much for joining us today. I’ll turn it over to you for your opening remarks.
Secretary Granholm: Great. Thank you so much. Hello, everybody. Thank you all for joining us.
This week, energy ministers and diplomats and business leaders are going to convene in Paris for the 2022 International Energy Agency Ministerial here in Paris. Our meeting obviously comes at a critical moment. Putin’s unjust and horrifying assault on Ukraine has roiled global energy markets that were already struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. And like much of the world, the IEA stands in solidarity with the Ukrainian people. We are all inspired by their bravery and their resolve, and we are prepared to take action in support of their cause.
Already, we have coordinated a series of releases of Strategic Petroleum Reserves to help stabilize energy markets. And as I’ve told our fellow IEA members, the U.S. is exporting every molecule of liquified natural gas that we can to alleviate supply issues in Europe. The Biden administration is urging the U.S. oil and gas industry to ramp up production to meet demand and to help lower prices for working families everywhere. And at the same time, as we can see, the tragic flooding along Australia’s east coast reminds us that the threat of climate change grows larger each day.
The world is sending us clear signals. We have to do everything in our power to address the immediate needs of our people, but the truth is, only clean energy offers us a viable medium- and long-term solution to these kinds of challenges.
Clean energy is reliable. It is diverse. It is affordable. Solar, for instance, is cheaper than fossil fuels in most parts of the world. It is the key to greater energy security, to greater energy independence. It’s the answer to both climate change and autocrats who are weaponizing fossil energy. The urgent need to speed up the clean energy transition obviously has never been clearer, that this meeting of the IEA is going to reflect that urgency. Our theme is the Year of Implementation: Accelerating Global Action on Clean Energy and Energy Security. And our conversations are going to center on immediate actionable steps that IEA members can take, both individually and collectively, to raise our ambitions, to advance our goals, and to create millions of good-paying jobs in the process.
We are going to be discussing opportunities, for example, to deepen clean energy research, development, and deployment. We are going to be discussing coordinated efforts to secure critical mineral supply chains. We’re going to be discussing policies that can harness the growing clean energy market’s power to lift people up, especially communities in transition, and so much more. Of course, we understand that the transition to clean energy is not going to happen overnight, and that while it unfolds, we need to keep a sharp eye on the IEA’s legacy work around fossil energy. And that’s a big reason that we’re going to have representatives from the oil and gas industry taking part in this meeting.
But this is truly an all-hands-on-deck moment. Everyone has a role to play, and that includes the oil and gas industry. That includes the IEA. And that includes the clean energy businesses that can help us transition as well. And there are really few other organizations that boast the capacity for analysis and thought leadership and information-sharing that the IEA has. This year and every year going forward we’re going to put those capabilities to use in driving clean energy and their innovation and deployment.
So with that, I’m happy to take any questions you might have.
Moderator: Great. Thank you very much. We’ll now turn to the question-and-answer portion of today’s briefing.
So our first question comes to us from Said Babazade with the Azeri News Agency: “Given the current situation, how can the EU reduce its Russian energy dependence? Which sources do you see as a real alternative to Russian gas?”
Secretary Granholm: Well, first of all, the IEA recently released their ten-point plan to reduce reliance on Russian oil, and if it’s, as they say, fully carried out in advanced economies, that – the measures there alone would lower oil demand by about 2.7 million barrels a day within four months, which is equivalent to the oil demand of all the cars in China. We’ve got to replace a lot of that Russian oil, and efficiency can be a great partner in that. And since most oil demand comes from the transportation sector, obviously the plan focuses on how to use less oil getting people and goods from A to B, and it – that plan draws on concrete measures that have already been used in a diverse range of countries and cities.
The short-term actions, I think, that it proposes include: reducing the amount of home – of oil that – excuse me – I’ll just say this: reducing the amount of oil consumed by cars through lower speed limits and measures like working from home for those who can – obviously, people who work in the service sector don’t have that luxury, but working from home where you can; occasional limits on car access to city centers, like some in Europe have done; cheaper public transport; more carpooling; greater use of high-speed rail – all of those initiatives that Europe is very familiar with. And we really value the IEA’s important thought leadership to help member countries enhance their energy security while assessing options to accelerate the transition to a clean energy future.
Obviously there has been a lot of discussions about how the U.S. can help, how other countries who are producing countries can help. Those discussions go on to see whether we can increase supply, as I mentioned. The U.S. is asking our oil and gas producers to do that. We have done these releases from our Strategic Petroleum Reserve in concert with the IEA. We have been exporting every molecule of liquified natural gas that we possibly can, and have asked other countries who are producing countries to do the same.
So we are working in tandem with the European Union, and we will continue to do so and try to both increase supply and increase efficiency measures.
Moderator: Great. Thank you very much for that. Our next question comes to us from Fabrice Node-Langlois with Le Figaro. His question is: “Given that natural gas is produced by private companies, what incentives can the U.S. Government provide for companies to ramp up production in LNG deliveries to Europe?”
Secretary Granholm: I mean, first of all, if the price doesn’t incentivize – right now, obviously, prices are very, very high. But let me say as well that the building of facilities – so we have – we just issued two permits last week that allow for oil – excuse me – liquified natural gas producers to send their production, their supply, to Europe even though we don’t have a free trade agreement with Europe, and that released some supply.
We have already permitted in the United States, the Department of Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, a very large amount of liquified natural gas terminals which have not – many of which – most of which have not even begun construction. There are some – there’s two facilities that are in construction right now; one of them is starting to bring more supply online this year. One will bring more supply on next year.
But the bottom line is we are exporting right now every molecule that has a terminal available to liquify it. And we understand the importance of this, and that’s why we issued these two permits that would allow the redirection of that supply to Europe last week.
Moderator: Great. Thank you very much for that. We have a question that was emailed to us from Dave Keating with France24. The question is: “Has the Ukraine crisis changed the U.S. thinking about nuclear power, either domestic or as a solution to Europe’s energy insecurity, especially considering the incidence of nuclear facilities being attacked in Ukraine and possible increased needs among the public as a result? Will nuclear plants need better protection from possible missile attacks in the future?”
Secretary Granholm: Great questions. The U.S. continues to view nuclear energy as really playing a key part of both our domestic and international efforts to enhance energy security and address global climate change. It is really important to note that despite Russia’s reckless military activity, there has been no near-term risk to public safety involving Ukraine’s nuclear facilities. The containment structures at the nuclear power plants are really very robust. They’re built to withstand nuclear accidents as well as external assault, and we continue obviously to monitor, along with the IAEA, everything that is happening.
But the safety risk here is really not from the presence of nuclear power. It is from Russia’s unjustified invasion and its violation of basic safety principles. We believe that nuclear power is part of the solution to this – to combatting climate change, and we will continue to work with our allies, who also see it as part of the solution.
Moderator: Great. Thank you very much for that. We have a question here from Emily Meredith with Energy Intelligence. “What’s your view about bans on Russian oil and gas from others, including Europe? Can global energy markets handle additional bans on oil and gas without exacerbating the pricing problems?”
Secretary Granholm: Yeah. This – obviously everybody’s watching this very closely, and we know that Russia’s – the ban, certainly, on oil, which is something we’ve been following very closely, obviously, and on natural gas, it’s different for every country. Every country has to answer the questions for themselves. No country wants to be funding Vladimir Putin’s war, and this is why the acceleration to clean energy and to other sources is so important for Europe. It’s why the IEA is focused on what are the immediate steps that can be taken as well as the investment long term in the clean energy infrastructure that will make us, our allies, everybody, safe and not reliant upon Vladimir Putin.
So this issue about the bans, I think it is truly a country-specific question. We know that Russia’s export of oil, for example – and natural gas supplies a very large amount of Europe’s imports. And we work with them and are very supportive of finding very quick solutions to energy – to their energy independence even as they grapple with how to manage the very difficult question of banning supply for Russia, given their reliance on that source of fuel.
Moderator: Great. Thank you very much for that, ma’am. Our next question comes to us from Jennifer Dlouhy with Bloomberg News. Her question is: “What prompted yesterday’s fresh warning about cyber-attacks, and is there any indication that Russia is actively eyeing or planning to target specific energy infrastructure?”
Secretary Granholm: As the President said yesterday, we have seen some reports of additional preparedness on the part of Russian cyber actors as though an attack could be coming. We have issued, for all of our companies – electricity companies, oil and gas companies – a Shields Up posture, asking them to be on hyper alert. It’s not a surprise to anybody who has been watching Russia’s activities that their expertise in this realm causes great concern.
So this is why it’s really important for individual actors and governments to be on Shields Up, as we say, posture to ensure that they are communicating with each other, sharing information, and that we are protecting, to the extent we possibly can, our cyber capabilities, our industry capabilities, our energy capabilities.
So I don’t have anything further to add to what the President said yesterday.
Moderator: Great. Thank you very much for that. Our next question comes to us from Martyna Maciuch with 300Gospodarka in Poland: “Do you see substantial areas for U.S.-EU cooperation in the field of clean energy, in other words, nuclear technology or other fields? If yes, how can the U.S. Government support that?”
Secretary Granholm: Yes. For sure. There’s huge amounts of cooperation in all manner of technologies. Poland, for example, and a few of the other Eastern Bloc countries are very interested in small, modular, nuclear reactors, for example, and we’ve been in discussions with Poland about that as well as Romania. Countries that are very aggressive on increasing their use of offshore wind, which is an area that the U.S. can learn from Europe on in addition to being supportive of. We’ve got – the Department of Energy has 17 national laboratories, and those laboratories are focused on the whole array of nuclear technologies and advanced nuclear technologies.
We know that, for example, there is a great interest on the part of Europe, but also of our Asian allies, in clean hydrogen, and our national labs are doing a great amount of work in clean hydrogen, as are a number of other countries already in Europe doing work on this. That is an area primed for cooperation and collaboration.
Carbon dioxide removal technologies, carbon capture sequestration, advanced solar technologies, long-duration storage for utility-scale storage – the advances that are being made both in the U.S. but also in laboratories around the world, that is – those are areas that are primed for cooperation and collaboration.
Geothermal, another area that the U.S. can learn a bit from other countries on because we’ve got – all of us, all countries, have geothermal; it’s just a question of how deep you have to drill for it. But that is clean, dispatchable, base load power.
The bottom line is for all these countries, both in the IEA and around the world, everyone is looking to address their climate change by finding the holy grail, which is clean, dispatchable, base load power. Nuclear is part of that. Renewables with storage is a part of that. Hydroelectric power is a part of that. Geothermal is a part of that. And hydrogen could be a part of that, and not so far off into the future.
So there’s – I describe this as addressing climate change. It’s really not a silver bullet, but silver buckshot. And it requires all of us working together on both the research, the development, the demonstration, and the deployment of these technologies to be able to arrive at that holy grail.
Moderator: Great. Thank you very much for that. Our next question is – we have a follow-up from Jennifer Dlouhy with Bloomberg. She asks: “You met with U.S. oil producers at CERA, amplifying the message that they should boost output. It’s been two weeks. How are they responding, and what do you think of the response so far?”
Secretary Granholm: You know, a lot of the discussion that we had at CERAWeek – behind the scenes, too – was an assurance that the oil and gas industry was ramping up. They had plans to invest, to ramp up. We’re watching the rigs come on, as I’m sure you are, and as you know
that rigs don’t – you can’t just flip a switch and have them come on overnight. But we feel that confidence that there will be a significant increase in supply by the end of this year, and we’re hopeful that they live up to that, that there certainly is – where they have existing rigs, existing lines, existing capacity to be able to ramp up, to do a service to the globe so that we are not – our allies are not feeling like they’ve got only one source to go to, which is from Russia.
We know we’ve got to replace millions of barrels of Russian exported oil products, and so seven and a half million barrels, but about five of that, of course, is from crude. Some of that will be off-taken and absorbed by some countries who still willing to purchase, but we know that we’ve got to replace at least three million barrels per day. And so we are going to do our part in the U.S. We believe our oil and gas producers will live up to their commitments to do their part. And for those who haven’t made that commitment, we exhort them to do so so that the world can ensure that we have – we can be powered.
And we also exhort them to continue their commitments to diversify their own businesses. Many of them have started to do that. Many of them have not. And we encourage the oil and gas industry to diversify, to produce clean energy or the products that can achieve clean energy. And hopefully, both can happen. We can increase supply right now to address an emergency, and we can step on the accelerator to produce clean energy solutions for the world.
Moderator: Thank you very much. We have time for one final question. That will go to Nico Portuondo with E&E News in the U.S. “Do you have any update on a potential Russian uranium import ban?”
Secretary Granholm: I don’t at this time.
Moderator: Okay. And I think that that will be a wrap. The Secretary has a very busy schedule. Thank you very much for joining us, https://www.energy.gov/person/jennifer-m-granholmhttps://www.energy.gov/person/jennifer-m-granholmhttps://www.energy.gov/person/jennifer-m-granholmMadam Secretary. Do you have any closing remarks before we close?
Secretary Granholm: No. I think I’ve probably said it all and more. Thank you very much for the opportunity.
Moderator: Great. Well, thank you so much, Secretary Granholm, for taking time to join us.