House Republicans Launch Probe Into Jennifer Granholm’s EV Road Trip Fiasco

Energy sec failed to make 'serious, practical decisions' on summer trip meant to promote green driving, letter says

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
September 26, 2023

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm is facing an investigation over her gaffe-filled electric vehicle road trip, which saw an aide to the Biden administration official use a gas-powered car to block the public from using a crowded charging station.

House Oversight Committee chairman James Comer (R., Ky.) announced the probe in a Tuesday letter to Granholm, which admonished her for embarking on a "taxpayer-funded publicity stunt." Granholm's summer road trip was meant to promote the wonders of green driving but instead showcased the problems with electric vehicles—the energy secretary's team struggled to find enough working chargers to accommodate its fleet of EVs, prompting one staffer to use a gas-powered car to horde a charging space for Granholm as she approached a station in suburban Georgia. One family was so upset with the move that they called the police.

The investigation could provide a window into the Biden administration's private evaluation of electric vehicles, which President Joe Biden has spent billions to subsidize and promote. Comer's letter requests internal communications regarding the Energy Department's "assessments of the EV road trip," as well as documents that show the trip's cost and detail the electric vehicle problems Granholm encountered on the trip.

"This taxpayer-funded publicity stunt illustrates yet again how out of touch the Biden administration is with the consequences of policies it has unleashed on everyday Americans," the letter states. "We request documents and information to understand the purposes, costs, and consequences of your summer 2023 EV road trip."

An Energy Department spokesperson said Biden is working to make electric vehicle charging "convenient and reliable" and did not answer questions on the probe.

Granholm's charging fiasco occurred during the energy secretary's June 27 drive from South Carolina to Athens, Ga., which included a charging stop at a public station outside Augusta. Before Granholm's arrival, the energy secretary's advance staff determined the station would not be able to accommodate Granholm, as one charger was broken and others were in use. After a staffer used a gas-powered vehicle to reserve the only available charger for Granholm, a family that was waiting to charge called the police.

"Hi, I'm calling because I'm in the Grovetown Walmart at the charging station, and there's literally a non-electric car that is taking up the space, they said they're holding the space for somebody else, and it's holding up a whole bunch of people who need to charge their cars," the caller said, according to a 911 call first reported by the Washington Free Beacon.

Granholm confirmed the ordeal during a September 14 congressional hearing but refused to take responsibility for the incident, instead blaming "somebody" on her "young staff" for showing "poor judgment."

Biden has nonetheless spent big to launch a green transition to electric vehicles—the Democrat's flagship climate bill, the Inflation Reduction Act, allocates hundreds of billions of dollars to spur electric vehicle use. Eventually, Biden's green push is expected to bring mandates, not just subsidies. The Democrat's Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are considering new regulations that would effectively force automakers to ensure that two-thirds of the vehicles they sell are electric by 2032.

Update 3:50 p.m.: This piece has been updated to reflect a comment from the Energy Department.