Green Watch

‘Bonkers’ About Batteries: The Unauthorized Biography of Jennifer Granholm

Earlier this month the Doomberg page on Substack chewed up the news that Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm thinks every U.S. military vehicle will be electric powered by 2030.

“The position of Energy Secretary for the United States is a serious one,” wrote the Doombergers. “How bonkers is this idea? Let’s have some fun at Granholm’s expense.”

An Idea That Tanked

What followed was an entertaining hypothetical examination of a battery-operated M-1 Abrams main battle tank. Among the many concerns, what is currently a 60 metric ton vehicle would need to replace a 1.6 ton fully loaded fuel tank with a 40-ton battery and it would likely spend more time charging than moving.

Even Michael Dukakis wouldn’t be caught dead in that.

Doomberg is a quietly influential, subscriber-supported page written anonymously by talented investment consultants with deep knowledge of energy, economics, and logistics. They readily admit their eponymous pessimism can imply worst case scenarios that may not develop. But their facts and math never lie.

So, take whatever odds the casino will give you. We will not have an all-electric U.S. Army anytime in 2030 or remotely soon afterwards, if ever.

“The performance Granholm turned in before the Senate last week should have triggered calls for her resignation,” concluded Doomberg.

They didn’t examine the history that made her performance inevitable. As the InfluenceWatch profile of Jennifer Granholm makes clear, she has been “bonkers” about batteries for a long time.

In a July 2010 news release, then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D-MI) boasted of a visit by then-President Barack Obama to welcome construction of a lithium-ion battery plant to be built in Michigan by a subsidiary of LG Chem. The release promoted a handful of similar projects, leading off with A123 Systems and Dow Kokam.

Many of the governor’s news releases in those days prominently featured all three of these projects together. Each firm received hefty millions of dollars from the Obama administrations’ 2009 federal “stimulus” money gusher, plus preferential tax treatment from the state of Michigan, due to Granholm’s support.

Doomberg could have written up the rest of the story.

LG Chem

“It is a great day of celebration,” said Granholm, announcing the LG Chem project in July 2010. “I want the President . . . to really feel and know how grateful we are in Michigan for becoming the North American battery capital.”

According to a Washington Post account, the LG Chem Michigan project received $150 million from federal stimulus spending and was “also eligible for more than $175 million in tax relief from the state and local governments through 2025.”

This was contingent, the newspaper noted in February 2013, on the plant producing batteries for 60,000 electric vehicles by the end of 2013. Instead, according to the newspaper, a Department of Energy inspection found that this branch of Granholm’s “North American battery capital” had “yet to manufacture cells used in any vehicles sold to the public” and that its “workers passed time watching movies, playing board, card and video games, or volunteering for animal shelters and community groups.”

LG Chem’s hypothetical Michigan-made batteries were supposed to be used in the GM Volt EV, but sales were so awful that a plant in South Korea was already building enough to satisfy the paltry demand.

Two years later in October 2015, GM and LG Chem announced another battery agreement, this one for the Chevy Bolt EV. Unlike the weak-selling Volt, the Bolt caught fire—literally, the batteries caught on fire. By October 2021, LG Chem agreed to pay $1.9 billion so GM could recall and repair every Bolt built to that point.

Even before the Volt, GM’s first electric vehicle was the Impact, a tiny two-seat, aluminum subcompact built in the 1990s. Speaking to the unfortunate name, comedian Jay Leno asked: “Was crash-and-burn already taken?”

Last month, to the surprise of nobody paying attention, GM announced it would discontinue the Bolt.

A123 Systems

“These technologies are exactly what we envision in our drive to make Michigan the alternative energy capital of North America and the advanced battery capital of the world,” said Granholm of A123 Systems in January 2009. “Michigan is the state that put the America on wheels, and this project is a major step to making Michigan the state that helps reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.”

Like LG Chem, A123 was offered a smorgasbord of federal, state, and local incentives to build electric vehicle car batteries in Michigan. It is metaphorically cruel but fair to note that this outpost of the “advanced battery capital of the world” ran out of gas much sooner than LG Chem and went bankrupt by 2012.

In a Doomberg-ish foreshadowing of Granholm’s latest “bonkers” idea, A123 reemerged under Chinese ownership, necessitating a spin-off of its military contracts to a domestic firm. By 2019 the Chinese-owned firm was putting an end to its battery manufacturing in Michigan.

Dow Kokam

“It’s a revolution to lead the nation,” said Granholm in August 2009, at an announcement of the Dow Chemical lithium-ion battery partnership with Kokam America.

With then-Vice President Joe Biden in attendance, she chanted the familiar incantation: “We want to become the advanced battery capital of the world.”

Biden predicted the facility would soon produce “the Hemi engine of batteries.”

A local news report said Biden brought a “$161 million federal stimulus grant” to the party, while the president of Dow Chemical said his firm was eager to cash in $145 million of the $700 million in tax credits Granholm had recently signed into law to bring in battery manufacturing jobs.

Biden was back visiting the groundbreaking for Dow Kokam in June 2010, predicting it would be part of “the beginning of a revolution in the production of energy in this country.”

The battery plant opened in 2012, but the “revolution” ended faster than the time it took to build it.

“Exiting a business that didn’t live up to its promise,” began a December 2013 report in Chemical & Engineering News, “Dow Chemical has sold its majority stake in advanced battery maker Dow Kokam.”

Expected to employ “320 workers at full capacity” C&E News reported that “because of slow demand from vehicle manufacturers, only a fraction of the plant’s capacity was put on-line.”

Fouling Up

In between the 2009 Dow Kokam announcement and 2013 denouement, Dow Chemical did manage to bring Granholm’s personal capacity online.

She left office in January 2011, because Michigan’s term limits law precluded her from seeking reelection. Two months later, the same Dow president who cheered on the Dow Kokam venture was happy to announce Granholm had accepted a seat on Dow Chemical’s board of directors.

A local news report estimated the Dow board seat would pay her as much as $200,000 annually. This would have equaled or exceeded her $157,000 salary as governor. And it was only one of several “jobs” she held simultaneously.

Good things happen to well-behaved politicians.

Curiously, she didn’t last a year. In October 2011, Granholm abruptly resigned her Dow board seat and announced she was going to work as a host on Al Gore’s Current TV.

Gore, an outspoken enemy of American oil and gas production, predicted Granholm would “prove to be of inestimable value to Current’s audience.”

Then in January 2013, Current TV was sold to petroleum-rich Qatar’s state-owned media firm, reportedly putting $100 million into the pocket of the outspoken enemy of American oil and gas production. Sometime thereafter Granholm replaced this on-air gig with a $200,000 annual job as a commentator for CNN.

This and several other simultaneous jobs and income streams, such as a professorship at the University of California–Berkeley, netted her more than $2 million in the final year before she became the Secretary of Energy in the Biden Administration.

As adeptly shown by Doomberg, Secretary of Energy is the latest lucrative career stop where she daily demonstrates more ignorance of energy and electricity than the dumbest electrician you can locate.

Batteries aren’t magic, but they have been for her.

For more, read the InfluenceWatch profile of Jennifer Granholm, and a recent Capital Research Magazine report on Al Gore’s 30 years of climate errors.



Ken Braun

Ken Braun is CRC’s senior investigative researcher and authors profiles for and the Capital Research magazine. He previously worked for several free market policy organizations, spent six…
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