WASHINGTON, Jan. 26, 2017 - Top political experts who were assembled on stage at the National Biodiesel Board’s annual meeting last week offered a mixed bag of perspectives on what to expect in the new Trump administration and the 115th Congress.
“My hope is this new president is a success and does well for our country,” said Byron Dorgan, a Democrat who represented North Dakota in both the House and Senate for 30 years. “But Lord only knows what is going to happen next. We’ve never had a president who – before he gets out of bed – starts tweeting.” Dorgan currently serves as a senior policy adviser for the Washington, D.C., law firm Arent Fox LLP.
Yet, Dorgan noted that Trump has supported the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). “If he wants to embrace success, in jobs and economic expansion and provide major benefits for our country… the RFS is a strong success story.”
Tom Hance, a biodiesel expert with Gordley and Associates, sees “a range of potential outcomes and possibilities.”
“Almost anything we could say would not seem outlandish,” he said. “Trump keeps no formal structure. He relishes competing interests on his team. The only one who knows the outcome is him. It will be a disaggregated process.”
Former Missouri Republican congressman Kenny Hulshof, now with Kit Bond Strategies, described the Trump administration as “a novel that’s not yet written” and suggested that “maybe a tweet is the new fireside chat,” referring to how Franklin D. Roosevelt communicated to the public via radio.
Hulshof also discussed how Congress has become more relevant on key industry issues. “Yes, the (biodiesel) tax credit is gone, but we have done the spade work for years and years. We are in a good place.”
Tim Urban, a member of the Washington Council Ernst & Young practice of Ernst & Young, said that it is extremely likely that tax reform will be debated and possibly enacted this year.
“For tax nerds, this year is potentially a Super Bowl,” he added. “This year is fundamentally different with GOP control of the White House, House and Senate. That makes it possible.” He said that Congress could use budget reconciliation to advance tax reform. NBB has already identified members of the House and Senate who are supporters, Urban said.
“We should not overlook the opportunities available. Tax reform is always a dangerous game and it could change the effect of taxes on every part of our economy. Because there are all those different players at the table, there will be a tremendous amount of competition for those members. So this year will put a lot of pressure on NBB to compete and win the attention of our champions.”
Jim Massie, a principal with Jim Massie & Partners, advised biodiesel leaders to keep their eyes on RFS critics like Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., and Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., as well as Trump advisers with ties to the oil and gas industries.
“Carl Icahn’s voice is resonating in the president’s executive suite now,” he noted, referring to the business magnate and refinery owner whom Trump has named as a special adviser on regulatory reform.
“We are going to be challenged whether it’s the RVO (Renewable Volume Obligations) or numerous other ways,” Massie added. “I sense a lot of wiggle room between what he said on the campaign and what he might do. We have to hold his feet to the fire.”
Still, Massie is confident that the rural voters who elected Trump can make the connection between investments in renewable fuels and rural economic success.
“I think the president is a businessman who listens. I believe he’s a man who can be educated,” Massie emphasized.
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