Published in Bio-based World News, December 5, 2016
In 2016, the US presidential elections followed the UK’s Brexit lead, delivering stunning results as anti-establishment voters upended traditional candidates and platforms throughout the campaign process. In the weeks since president-elect Trump earned a narrow victory, the US has seen thousands take to the streets in protest and great consternation among media and pundits attempting to predict the outlines of a Trump presidency. For large, entrenched Washington interest groups, especially those serving broad stakeholder groups, this is an uncertain time as power is shifting in a big way and traditional alliances are by no means guaranteed.
That said, those of who have worked on Capitol Hill, with the White House and across the enormous expanse of the US federal government know that drastic change will come far more slowly than anti-establishment enthusiasts might hope. In every transition after a US presidential election, there is some degree of turbulence – this one is certainly garnering more headlines than most. However, barring a rebellion in the follow-on US Electoral College process, or any real traction in the effort to recount votes in key states, things should begin to settle in coming weeks as key policy officials are appointed and agendas begin to emerge. With the election of a Republican president, backed by Republican majorities in the Congress, it will come as no surprise to observers of US politics that business and economic growth will likely drive legislative, regulatory and administrative actions.
As all this is sorted out, those which are most nimble will be most effective in getting things done. At the Renewable Chemical & Materials Alliance (re:chem), we are particularly well-positioned to leverage opportunities in the midst of change. We have a discrete policy agenda, laser-focused on the renewable chemical sector, unencumbered by other priorities which could complicate the policy asks. Since our launch in 2013, in every policy discussion, re:chem has focused relentlessly on the economic argument that underpins the renewable chemicals sector. From our vantage point, it is – and has always been – about innovation, performance and the chance to grow advanced manufacturing in the US. We see clear opportunities for the renewable chemical policy agenda can align with the likely priorities of the new Congress that has given early signals they will tackle tax reform, infrastructure and jobs.
Among other things, we believe the time is ripe to move a top sector priority – enacting a renewable chemical production tax credit (PTC). Tax reform has been called out as an early priority in the new Administration and Congress. We also see openings to pivot around US jobs and pro-growth incentives in potential infrastructure and energy bills.
At the same time, the Republican control across the policy-making functions in Washington is likely to have a strong de-regulatory bent, targeting a number of agencies which have helped facilitate the growth of the bio-based economy in the US, such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy. Trump’s campaign rhetoric rejecting the notion of combating climate change has alarmed many seeking to develop alternatives to incumbent petroleum-based products.
As the transition gets underway in earnest, the Republican House Majority has indicated they will table any further action on spending bills, opting instead for a continuing resolution that will fund the government through March 31, 2017. This allows for the seating of a new Congress and the Trump Administration to exercise influence over spending as early as 2017 budgets. Now is the time to shore up support. We can’t disengage or wait to see what happens. Despite the turmoil surrounding this – or any – transition, the US government remains open for business.
Those who have business interests in the US would be well-advised to engage – and engage early – as the outlines of a new Trump Administration begin to take shape. While there are opportunities, there are also risks. Consider this a call to action – it’s a new world in Washington DC and across the pond. It is no time to sit on the sidelines.