Dave Mistich Published

Granholm, Manchin Tout Clean Energy, Innovation During Morgantown Tour


U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm visited Morgantown this week for a series of tours and other events highlighting clean energy initiatives. With President Joe Biden touting clean energy as a priority, Granholm’s visit focused on various technologies to use coal and natural gas for a host of innovative products that would reduce the nation’s carbon footprint.

Granholm — joined by U.S. Senator Joe Manchin — visited the National Energy Technology Laboratory in Morgantown and West Virginia University’s Energy Institute for Rare Earth Elements Lab.

Following the stop at WVU, Granholm said the Biden administration hopes to switch to cleaner energy without leaving coal-producing communities behind.

“It is important for us — and especially for the administration and Congress — to put their money where their mouth is and say we’re going to invest in communities that have powered this nation in the past but to [also] enable them to power the nation into the future using cleaner sources,” Granholm said.

Manchin, who chairs the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, also said the energy market has shifted dramatically in recent years, causing the drop-off of the once-dominant coal industry to fuel the nation’s energy needs.

“West Virginians have all come to realize that the transition from coal-fired plants has changed — and 50 percent of that market has gone away in the last decade,” Manchin said. “It’s gone away under a Democratic president and under a Republican president.”

Manchin noted former President Donald Trump’s popularity in the state, but said Trump’s promise to save the coal industry couldn’t be fulfilled — especially given market forces and increased attention on issues related to climate change.

“As much as this state supports Donald Trump, he could not save the [coal] market because the market has changed — and the demand for products has changed,” he said. “We’re getting energy in different ways now and people are asking for that alternative.”

However, Manchin said transitioning away from coal entirely is not a viable option. He said he thinks the market exists for innovative products that don’t harm the climate.

“We’ve got products that can show that we can capture that [carbon dioxide] versus emitting it — and use it for added-value products,” Manchin said.

At the end of Granholm’s visit, the Department of Energy announced $5 million for the West Virginia University Research Corp. to help thermal power plants generate low-carbon power.

Another $1 million is being directed to the Morgantown-based United States Research Impact Alliance, a group that will support startup companies in energy and manufacturing.

“Those are just a down payment — the tip of the iceberg on what could happen — if we get the American Jobs Plan passed, which provides huge investments in coal and power-plant communities,” Granholm said.