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Secretary of Energy visits Idaho Falls to talk gas prices, climate change and zero-carbon emissions

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IDAHO FALLS – U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm made her first in-person visit to Idaho Falls on Wednesday to take a tour and learn about the work being done at Idaho National Laboratory.

Granholm said she was excited to finally be here.

“This is my first visit to the lab in person. I had done a virtual tour of the lab last year, but sometimes you have to be there to see it,” Granholm tells EastIdahoNews.com. “(The tour is) such a foot-stomp on how great INL is. It’s such a center of excellence on what a partner INL is going to be in assuring that we can get to 100% clean electricity by 2035.”

During her tour, Granholm witnessed the innovative work that is happening at the lab to reach its goal of zero carbon emissions by 2031.

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“Nuclear is a really important part of the 100% clean, zero carbon-emitting goals because it’s dispatchable and base-load power. We are excited to incorporate these new designs as well as making sure the existing fleet stays online,” says Granholm.

Granholm also visited the new MARVEL reactor, the EBR-II dome, which will soon be used to demonstrate new nuclear reactors, and spoke with INL staff, including Director John Wagner, on the future of renewable energy.

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Secretary Granholm meets with INL staff including Director, John Wagner, Congressman Mike Simpson, Chief Research Officer, Marianne Walck, and DOE-ID Manager, Bob Boston. | Photo Courtesy of Idaho National Laboratory.

“I think a lot of the innovative work that’s being done in testing and in making sure that we’ve got these next-generation nuclear facilities safe and ready to go is very exciting,” says Granholm. “The EBR-II dome and the ability to be able to test these next-generation reactors like the Molten Chloride Fast Reactor (MCRE) and the MARVEL reactor — it is super exciting technology that I think is going to benefit the country not just in the next few years but over the long haul as well.”

Gas prices

Granholm spoke with EastIdahoNews.com about some of the biggest energy crises that Americans are experiencing right now and what the current administration is doing to help.

With million of Americans experiencing high prices at the gas pump, Granholm says that the Biden Administration is doing all it can to make sure that Americans will soon see lower prices when filling up their cars.

“Because the invasion of Ukraine pulled all of those barrels off the market, Russia being such a large exporter of oil, when countries like the U.S. or Canada said we are not going to buy Russian oil, that pulled a whole lot of barrels off the market, so that decreased supply and that created that problem with the shooting up of gas prices,” she says.

She says the president is focused on increasing supply.

“The president has used the biggest tool in his arsenal to try and stabilize and reduce gas prices … and that’s the strategic petroleum reserve,” says Granholm.

By using the strategic petroleum reserve, President Biden will, over the next six months, be releasing 1 million barrels per day, which Granholm says will increase supply and lower rising gas prices.

“He’s also called upon domestic and international oil and gas producers who also increase supply, and that has happened,” says Granholm. “The president has done more, I think, than any other leader to be able to increase supply, and of course, those producers who are increasing supply too.”

Granholm says by the end of 2022, the United States will be at record production for oil and gas.

Another issue Americans are facing is energy consumption with the rising temperatures caused by climate change, she says.

“We need to double basically the size and capacity of our electric grid,” says Granholm. “That’s No. 1, and No. 2, we’ve got to add clean capacity to the grid. The reason we need to do this is for the things we’re seeing every day. It’s these extreme weather events not just accelerating but becoming more severe. So we as a globe have to hurry to get to these net zero goals by 2050 if we are just going to slow the warming of the planet.”

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