The Senate confirmed Jennifer M. Granholm to be energy secretary on Thursday, positioning the former governor of Michigan to play a key role in President Biden’s plans to confront climate change.
Ms. Granholm, a longtime champion of renewable energy development, was confirmed by a vote of 64 to 35, with support from both Democrats and Republicans. She will be the second woman to lead the Department of Energy, after Hazel R. O’Leary, who served under President Bill Clinton.
Ms. Granholm will oversee an agency that plays a leading role in researching and developing new energy technologies, such as advanced wind turbines or methods to capture carbon dioxide from industrial facilities before the gas reaches the atmosphere. Energy experts have said innovations like these could prove critical for slashing planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.
At her confirmation hearing last month, Ms. Granholm sought to allay fears by lawmakers that transitioning the United States away from fossil fuels and toward cleaner energy sources would devastate the nation’s economy. She pointed to her experience as Michigan’s governor during the 2009 recession, when the state invested heavily in electric vehicle technology and worker retraining programs amid efforts to rescue an ailing auto industry that had long focused on building gasoline-powered cars and trucks.
“I understand what it’s like to look into the eyes of men and women who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own,” Ms. Granholm said. But clean energy, she added, “is a sector that every single state can benefit from.”
Ms. Granholm could face challenges in managing the sprawling federal agency. Only about one-fifth of the Energy Department’s $35 billion annual budget is devoted to energy programs. The rest goes toward maintaining the nation’s nuclear weapons arsenal, cleaning up environmental messes from the Cold War and conducting scientific research in areas like high-energy physics at the department’s network of 17 national laboratories.