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My Trump Moment and Our Path Forward

Executive Editor Tim Portz shares a memory of his Trump moment and offers some early thoughts on how the biomass industry can and should approach our path forward under a Trump administration.
By Tim Portz | November 15, 2016

In January of this year I was invited to moderate a panel discussion at the Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit by Monte Shaw, the Executive Director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association. When he invited me to speak, Monte shared that he had already heard from a handful of Republican presidential hopefuls that wanted to address the audience and build some support among an important Iowan constituency. Monte couldn’t tell me who exactly would be there, but that he was certain he’d have at least two.

On the morning of the event, it was evident that there were going to be VIPs on stage. Conference attendees had to pass through metal detectors and purses and bags were inspected. The green room where speakers would gather had an armed detail by the door. It was that morning that I learned that my panel would unfold immediately after Donald Trump, now President-elect Trump. At the time, I believe Trump was considered a front runner and as a result was afforded Secret Service protection. As the morning progressed I learned that I likely wouldn’t be able to watch Trump speak from the side of the stage and that I would likely miss all of his remarks as I had to be prepared to take the stage once he’d finished greeting folks on the rope line. That morning Carly Fiorina and Mike Huckabee both spoke, but Trump was clearly the marquee presenter and the buzz just continued to grow as his turn at the podium got closer and closer.

“He’s on site,” someone said and no one had to ask who “he” was.

I didn’t hear a word of Trump’s remarks. I heard the boisterous applause that he generated however. I heard music begin to play and Monte appeared from somewhere and told me that in 2 minutes I was supposed to take the stage and attempt to wrestle everyone’s attention back from the mayhem that surrounded Trump working the rope line.

A secret service agent waved me towards him and asked me to stand next to him until he got the OK from another agent. As I took the stage Trump was at the tail end of the rope line and I thought I’d probably better begin my remarks by thanking him for joining the conference agenda.

“Please join me in thanking Donald Trump for being with us here today,” I offered. Trump must have heard it over the din because he turned, looked back at me, gave me two thumbs up and that now classic closed mouth Cheshire grin.

That was my Donald Trump moment.

So what now? I’m encouraged by the commitment to a smooth transition from the Obama administration to the Trump administration. Pleasantly surprised actually. From a professional perspective, I’m curious to see who ends up in two key positions; Secretary of Energy and Secretary of Agriculture. I’ve heard Harold Hamm’s name mentioned a few times for the energy seat. In 2012 our team profiled likely cabinet picks for a potential Romney administration and Hamm was a Romney cabinet short-lister as well. Anna Simet’s profile of Harold Hamm can be found here.

In that same series I wrote a profile of Adam Putnam, the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture as a potential Secretary of Agriculture and this is just a hunch, but I’ll bet he’s being vetted by the Trump team as well. My profile of Putnam can be found here.

I think it is fair to say that Trump’s appetite to address climate change with a “moon-shot” approach is nowhere near where our industry would like it to be. I’m betting he moderates his campaign rhetoric about the issue once in office, but I think our industry is wise to align what we say about our industry and what it does for the country with the cornerstones of Trump’s platform.

Jobs. We need to talk about jobs, a lot. We put people to work manufacturing and building and innovating. I think also we need to help the Trump team understand the connections between renewable energy and infrastructure. Our jobs story is a good one and I know our association leaders are already recalibrating their messaging to place more emphasis on jobs.

We’re looking forward to covering the transition to a Trump administration and how it impacts our business.