NAATBatt executive director responds to Trump election with calm


Shock waves throughout the environment industries over Donald Trump’s election win to become US president have been met with a calm and positive response by NAATBatt’s executive director Jim Greenberger.

Bloomberg called the election “a bad day for clean energy investors”, while Rhone Resch, former CEO of the Washington-based Solar Energy Industries Association, was quoted as calling it “a disaster” and the shares of renewable energy companies around the world slumped in the immediate aftermath.

Trump has pledged to ramp up production of oil, coal and natural gas, claiming climate change was a “Chinese hoax”, and to repeal Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which aimed to limit carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants.

In response, Jim Greenberger said it was still too early to discern what the energy policy of the Trump administration would be, with Trump “notoriously unpredictable”.

“There are reasons to believe that it might not be dramatically bad,” he said.

Greenberger cited the Federal Purchase Incentive, a $7,500 tax credit for each new plug-in electric vehicle.

“However, the credit phases out by its own terms once a manufacturer reaches 200,000 in unit sales,” he said.

“As of September 2016, 105,076 Chevy Volts, 98,829 Nissan Leafs and 84,017 Tesla Model S’s had been sold.  It is quite possible that by the time the new Congress gets around to revising the tax code, the tax credit for qualified plug-in electric vehicles will have already phased out for many manufacturers.”

Greenberger said fears Trump would repeal CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) regulations, enacted to improve the average fuel economy of cars and light trucks, “may already be too hard baked into the planning of major automotive OEMs and into the minds of consumers to make their repeal an easy task”.

“The majority of the American public believes that climate change is a concern and that greater fuel economy in automobiles is an effective way to address it,” he said.

“It is difficult to see president Trump making an unpopular fight against vehicle fuel economy a priority in his administration any time soon.”

Many programmes supporting the electrification of vehicles have been funded by the Department of Energy, and although Greenberger conceded these would likely be at risk, he said they had only been temporary measures to support fledgling battery and energy storage technology, and if the support disappeared, “we will just have to stand it up a little faster. Given the enormous progress the industry has made over the last decade with the support of DOE programs, we may just be able to do that.”

The Associated Press sounded alarm bells over two possible appointments that Trump could make in his administration — oil billionaire Harold Hamm and Kevin Cramer, an early Trump supporter from the major oil drilling state North Dakota.

However, Greenberger says there are others in the running, such as James Woolsey, an advocate of vehicle electrification who believes in diversifying fuel supplies.

Kevin Cramer, Greenberger says, is rumoured to be on the short list for the position as secretary of energy, and is actually in favour of a carbon tax to finance research and development into energy technology.

“We intend to fight like mad, both in the courts and in the streets, to resist any rollbacks by the Trump administration,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the environmental organization Sierra Club.

“But it is also too early for vehicle electrification advocates to retreat into wholesale doom and gloom,” said Greenberger.

“As the old Chinese curse goes, may you live in interesting times.”