Energy Secretary: ‘Big polluters’ want us to focus on our carbon footprints

Executive Editor

The world needs systemic change, not undue focus on individual carbon footprints, to effectively tackle climate change, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in an exclusive interview with Cipher.

“I think that only focusing on individual responsibility is what the big polluters would want us to do. That is not the answer. The answer is, we must get policy and systemic change in place. Policy is the way you get systemic change,” Granholm said in the virtual video interview.

She was responding to a question about what she thinks the role of individual responsibility—such as eating less meat or flying less—should be compared to systemic change. Here’s the rest of her answer:

Me individually eating less meat is not going to do anything. And boy, wouldn’t they love for us all to be distracted on our individual recycling plans. It is not what we need. We need big change, and that big change happens with policy. So, if anybody wants to do something on an individual level, vote.”
Secretary Granholm

Although Granholm didn’t specify whom she meant by “big polluters,” she’s likely implying the fossil-fuel industry. Media reports, particularly this deep-dive by Mashable in 2020, said the oil industry—specifically BP—coined the term “carbon footprint” decades ago in an expansive marketing campaign. A recent New York Times oped also made this connection. BP didn’t immediately provide a comment.

Elsewhere in the interview, Granholm tackles the following topics:

  • How the administration aims to bring back cleantech manufacturing from China and elsewhere: “We’re never going to be able to win the war of low wages, nor do we want to. We want to have people be paid a decent wage, a family-sustaining wage at the same time as we are building those products here.”
  • On how opposition could slow the administration’s goal to quickly build out massive amounts of wind and solar power: “We want to make sure that it’s done quickly and that it is done respectfully, and that we triage our build-out efforts in areas where we have the least amount of resistance.”
  • How this summer’s climate-fueled extreme weather makes her feel: “It makes me feel determined and energized. And my hair is on fire to try to get policy change to be able to address this.”

Watch the full interview on Cipher’s YouTube channel here.