Helping Trump Help Bioenergy

May 15, 2017 |

By Douglas L. Faulkner, “The Cleantech Conservative”

Special to The Digest

Mr. Trump won the Presidency by promising to get government out of the way of rejuvenating American manufacturing, energy production and agriculture. He is now repaying those constituencies by asking them to do just that – – help him help them.

But, after eight years of increasingly desultory support for the bioenergy industry by the last Administration – – and then, a tumultuous national election and fractious first hundred days of the new Administration – – it may be hard for C-suites making bio-fuels, chemicals and power to miss or misunderstand the importance of some recent Presidential actions.

The Trump Administration’s two recent Executive Orders on “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth” and especially, “Promoting Agriculture and Rural Prosperity in America” (March 28 & April 25, respectively), not only highlight renewable energy/fuels, but also explicitly seek input from the private sector on breaking down legislative, regulatory and policy barriers. ( Presidential actions/Executive Orders)

A 10-Point Plant

So, my strong recommendation would be to give the President exactly what he really wants: a basic roadmap for a bioenergy renaissance. Surely, companies, separately or in league with their associations, can readily offer up creative suggestions to cut government-imposed red tape and for new, innovative assistance by:

  • Focusing broadly on removing obstacles across the whole supply-chain, from feedstock production to feedstock logistics to conversion, distribution and end use.
  • Considering changes in approaches by not only the prime federal civilian agencies for the industry (Energy, Agriculture and Environmental Protection), but also Defense, National Science Foundation, State, Food & Drug, etc.
  • Digging into needed changes in their rule-making, funding practices and even fundamental priorities in farmer support; research & development; technical & commercial assistance; and, procurement programs.
  • Building upon existing structures and frameworks with proven track records, like the 2000 Biomass R&D Act.
  • Seeking new partnerships with academia; farmers; foresters; equipment, auto, truck, food and feed manufacturers; chemical, oil, gas and renewable energy producers; as well as state & local governments.
  • Highlighting competition and technology innovation in the new biorefineries making fuels, power, chemicals, food and feed.
  • Promoting the health and safety of American workers and rural communities, their quality of life and job prospects. Training and education should not be ignored.
  • Pushing the Administration to use all its tools for: encouraging developing countries to modernize their agriculture sectors and boost biofuels production; and, lowering global trade barriers to exports of U.S. expertise, equipment and fuels.
  • Overlaying environmental, economic and social sustainability collaborations on all recommendations to ensure the widest political support.
  • Prioritizing those recommendations that give the most bang for the least buck the fastest.

While one should always be skeptical about the federal government’s ability to deliver on its promises, this is still too rare and unique a moment for an industry still struggling to regain its early momentum and confidence. Ironically, this is government handing the private sector the tools to break free of the restrictions on growth imposed by government.

Seizing the Day

The bioenergy industry should bombard the new Administration and its elected representatives with ideas, underscoring its entrepreneurial animal spirits and acknowledging its responsibility to promote rural development and national security. C-suites big and small, foreign and domestic should compete for creative proposals. Related trade associations should see this as an embryonic private-public partnership, seizing the initiative with fresh new media messages and with efforts to break down their own internal barriers to cooperation. Dovetail these with efforts to update similarly the upcoming Farm Bill and help ensure its smooth passage.

The industry has nothing to lose by offering its best ideas – – and, then holding the Administration’s feet to the fire. At a minimum, this can only underscore the vitality and promise of a critical industry. The time for complaining publicly about government’s inattention or lack of support is past. And, unless you inhabit la résistance to the Trump Presidency, it’s also time to put partisan politics aside and meet this Administration half-way on this issue.


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Category: Thought Leadership

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