During the AHR/ASHRAE week in Las Vegas, Danfoss' Mark Menzer offered a few thoughts on what recent politics may mean for the industry. As I mentioned in the current editor's note, Menzer is director of public affairs in North America for the manufacturer, arriving a few years ago after a tenure in a similar DC-oriented capacity for AHRI.
With the inauguration of President Trump, "uncharted territory" seemed to be the most succinct phrase to sum up the outlook. Menzer was glad then-nominee Scott Pruit had gone on record saying that climate change is real and that humans influence it. However, in recent days, the new EPA administrator has revealed that he does not believe CO2 contributes significantly to climate change and nor do humans.
Regarding trade agreements, Trump made clear his disdain for deals like NAFTA during the campaign, and Menzer concurs that it needs changes, although "around the edges." Menzer also noted that the president has more leeway than one might expect when it comes to tariffs.
As for the recent rejection of the Paris Treaty, Menzer did not see it as all that consequential, other than it will damage U.S. leadership in that area and ultimately cede more influence to China.
Like many of us who keep an eye on politics, Menzer seemed a bit startled by the advancement of the Congressional Review Act. This has been dusted off by the current Congress as a means not only to review/cancel any regulation or agency, but to set in legislative stone that the topic in question could never be regulated in that way again. (Which doesn't seem very respectful to future legislative bodies, does it?)
While the news-watching general public may hear a reference to "SNAP program" and think food assistance, SNAP regulations refer to the EPA's Significant New Alternatives Policy regarding the Clean Air Act of 1990 and potential substitutes for ozone-depleting substances. Menzer could not be sure that there would be any progress/movement on the SNAP front this year. I don't think recent indications from the EPA since that press breakfast -- most notably, dropping the phrase "science-based standards" from its mission statement in favor of arguably more business-friendly wording -- would compel him to change those odds.
In the realm of refrigerants, he also mentioned that California has begun their own rules considerations ahead of any federal phaseout schedule. That's not surprising, but as always, a patchwork of potential patchwork of different regulatory environments represents a headache for manufacturers of any type.
All in all, you can see plenty of support for the theme that the only thing certain is uncertainty. The U.S. business community in general is surely waiting to see what comes of stated GOP desires to tackle some tax reform in this Congress, but as of this morning, reports are that the White House will not shift focus to taxes until the current health care intiative is completed. So my free health care tip about corporate tax reform: don't start holding your breath quite yet.