Trump Wins, Now What?
I believe I was not alone in being surprised with the results of the 2016 elections. President-elect Trump alongside a Republican majority Senate and House—a far cry from the outcome predicted by so many—is what we are now preparing for. There are some clear opportunities for biomass under the new circumstances, but also many questions about how the new government will impact bioenergy.
While the new administration takes shape, here are a few of the key issue areas we at Biomass Power Association are watching closely:
Investments in infrastructure and rural America. “It’s the economy, stupid.” This pearl of wisdom has stood the test of time, and applies well to 2016. Trump based much of his campaign on the need to address the uncertainty of rural working Americans, and they responded by voting for him. He has promised billions of dollars in investments for infrastructure improvements, and in his acceptance speech announced a program to put unemployed Americans back to work within his first 100 days in office. With biomass facilities located primarily in rural areas, we are making our case that biomass investments should be part of any infrastructure package.
Trump has also criticized trade deals as part of his platform. We expect to see a new emphasis on securing American borders and on American-made products, including energy. On his transition website, he has listed energy independence as a top priority under “Making America Secure Again,” with the goal of making full use of domestic energy resources.
New environmental regulatory regime. For much of the Obama administration, the biomass industry has been working toward full recognition of our environmental benefits by the U.S. EPA. We have spent considerable time and energy talking up the carbon benefits of biomass. While this is still important work, we do not anticipate that the Trump administration will place nearly as high an importance, if any, on carbon emissions. This is a mixed bag for biomass. For the time being, we can shift our emphasis from carbon onto other biomass benefits, like rural jobs and support for the forestry supply chain. On the other hand, the Clean Power Plan’s chances for success have now been downgraded considerably. That means that any potential investments in biomass as a baseload replacement for coal and natural gas are less likely.
New Congressional priorities. With the Republicans now enjoying a majority in both Congressional houses, there are new possibilities for some of its top priorities that had previously been considered DOA. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell mentioned comprehensive tax reform in his first post-election interview. Few specifics have been discussed, but the outlines of tax reform traditionally proposed by Republicans often include a lower corporate tax rate and the elimination of tax credits. This could potentially place the Section 45 Production Tax Credit in jeopardy, but could open up other opportunities for biomass.
USDA and U.S. Forest Service priorities. Under the Obama administration, the USDA has been a staunch advocate of investing in farms, forestry and rural locations, and we expect that to continue. The U.S. Forest Service has begun a program to emphasize the benefits of building with wood, which the agency is hoping to continue under President Trump. On a related note, the Forest Service has teamed up with the Softwood Lumber Board to curate an exhibit at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. The exhibit addresses the role of biomass in using the whole tree harvested, and is worth checking out!
We will be keeping a close eye on all of these developments and will share them with our members and here at Biomass Magazine. If you are interested in joining the association to ensure that your interests are being heard on Capitol Hill, please contact Carrie Annand at email@example.com.
The Biomass Power Association wishes all involved in biomass a happy and healthy holiday season. We look forward to working with all of you in 2017.
Author: Bob Cleaves
President, Biomass Power Association