Trump is in, What Now?

By Anna Simet | November 11, 2016

I was a coffee-slugging zombie on Wednesday morning. As I’m sure many of you did, I stayed up until the bitter end. Well, bitter for some. Extraordinarily victorious for others. My husband was actually at a conference in swing state North Carolina at the time, and the crowd at the pub he was at was boisterous (we Facetimed so I could see), and erupted like mad when the state was called for Trump.

Me, I watched with my dog Gus Gus, who I’m pretty sure was rooting for Clinton.

Jokes aside, when I jumped into work for the day, our team began gathering reactions from the industry, thoughts on what Trump as the president-elect might mean for biofuels, biomass, bioenergy.

And…comments were slow to come. Frankly, the silence was deafening. Because let’s be honest. Nobody expected this unlikely outcome.

But, it’s reality. And some are still digesting it, waiting to see who Trump will bring on board.

But here’s what we know.

Trump has expressed support for the renewable fuel standard numerous times while on the campaign trail. This is a good sign. Back in January, he actually spoke (fast-forward to about 4:30) at the Iowa Renewable Fuel Summit. He said, “It’s an important tool in the mission to achieve energy independence for the U.S…I will do all that is in my power as president to achieve that goal. As president, I will encourage Congress to be cautious in attempting to charge and change any part of the RFS. Energy independence is a requirement of America to become great again.”

This is good for first- and second-generation ethanol and biodiesel. Good for biogas-based liquid fuels. Obviously, there’s a lot more to this picture. But it’s a promising start.

For biomass power. Without finger pointing, the industry has not flourished under Obama’s presidency. In fact, we’ve seen it struggle, particularly in places like California and Maine. When the Clean Power Plan emerged, there was hope, optimism that biomass could play a substantial role in helping some states achieve mandates. Over time, however, that excitement dulled a little. The U.S. EPA Scientific Advisory Board has taken much, much too long to come to a conclusion on how biogenic carbon emissions should be treated, and when they might come to a conclusion is anyone’s guess. Maybe years from now, which would be much too late for the states to take it into consideration in their compliance plans. It’s likely none of this matter now, though, as the Clean Power Plan’s fate is grim under an entirely red administration.

BUT. As our friends at the Biomass Power Association pointed out, biomass power—and biomass thermal, for that matter—create a significant number of direct and indirect jobs. That is something Trump has campaigned vehemently for—job creation, boosting the economy, etc.—and in these forestry communities that are severely depressed as a result of the pulp and paper industry downturn, it could make a difference. Not to mention, it’s reliable, homegrown energy, which aligns with national security and the energy independence mission Trump has proclaimed he’s a champion of.

The biomass thermal industry, particularly in the Northeast, has done a great job of educating our congresspersons on the amazing benefits the industry there has and could have, and there is good support there from state senators, Republicans included. While the both the House and Senate are now Republican-controlled, not a lot has changed there.

And then there is tax reform, tax credits. As the American Biogas Council pointed out in its reaction statements, the long-awaited opportunity to tackle tax reform could come to fruition. “Both President-elect Trump and GOP House leadership have listed this as a priority…a tax package could include a longer path to development and technology neutrality for renewables. In short, biogas, AD and the ABC all have an excellent opportunity to move forward on a number of significant policy opportunities with the new Administration and Congress.   But we've got some work to do…”

Congress’s Lame Duck session starts next week. We’re watching what happens there.

You can bet on a longer story exploring Trump’s appointees once they’ve been made (and a sidenote, I didn't cover wood pellet exports here, but we're looking into it--USIPA's annual conference, which assicate editor Katie Fletcher was at, wrapped the day of the election).

In the meantime, let’s all beg Old Man Winter to throw us a friggin’ bone here, and bring in cold weather.

Finally, thank you veterans, for your service to and sacrifice for our great country.