OK, we all know the two conversation taboos: religion and politics. However, although I do it cautiously, and with no intention of diving back into the divisiveness of the recently concluded presidential election, I would be remiss not to say something about our new president-elect and what a Donald Trump presidency might mean for the refrigeration industry.
And the bottom line is we really don’t know, because we really don’t know Donald Trump.
Way back in the days of the Republican debates (doesn’t that seem like a long time ago?) , I spoke with a number of friends both inside and outside the industry — many of whom are much further to the right on the political spectrum than I am. Some are lifelong Republicans and conservatives. And I kept hearing two things over and over again about Mr. Trump: “He’s not a true Republican,” and “He’s not a true conservative.” But even though the Republican party never really rallied around him, the people did — in part because although he might not have been a Republican or a conservative, he also wasn’t a Clinton ... and for many people that was enough.
So our 45th president is in some ways the hardest to figure out. We’ll learn more about him and his agenda over time, but until we do, here are a few thoughts that have been bouncing around in my brain since the election.
1. Mr. Trump hasn’t served in public office so we don’t have a record of what his true policy views are or will be. He has said he likes to be unpredictable. But business doesn’t like unpredictability. Business likes certainty, and the ability to plan and feel secure that those quarterly projections are going to be met.
2. Mr. Trump has said the Trans-Pacific Partnership is DOA, and he’d like to redraw established trade deals and impose tariffs on products from Mexico and China. He says those moves would protect American jobs, but some economists warn they could trigger a trade war and a recession. If nothing else, it all adds to the air of uncertainty and unpredictability, at least for now.
3. Mr. Trump’s environmental policies are a little bit in flux. During the campaign he said he’d “cancel” the Paris Climate Agreement and was a denier of human-caused climate change, but he appears to be softening his stance on that since the election. Again, we don’t really know him yet. However, the refrigeration industry has taken huge strides down the low-global warming potential (GWP) and energy efficiency roads, and is well-prepared to meet U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) standards taking place between now and 2020 and beyond. There’s really no going back for HVACR. And speaking of the EPA, Mr. Trump is no fan of the agency (he once said what the EPA does is a “disgrace”) and has indicated his desire to diminish and/or defund the agency. So what does that mean for Section 608 rules? If enforcement lags because of budget cuts, might that have an effect on compliance? Mr. Trump can “drain the Washington swamp,” but we should still recover the refrigerant!
4. This one isn’t refrigeration-industry specific, but it’s something I have thought all along: Does Mr. Trump really want the job? Obviously it was important to him to win, but the realities of the job are harsh. I had a funny conversation with a contractor friend from South Carolina recently. He summed it up like this: “I’m the boss at my business. If I want to change the way we do something, it’s changed. Donald Trump has been like that his whole life. He’s going to hate being in a position where everything he wants to do requires approval and everything he does is questioned.” My friend paused and added, “Of course, I don’t know who would want that job.”
In conclusion, I’m not trying to pick on Donald Trump. I know many people are fervent supporters of his and many people have deep misgivings about him. But that has undoubtedly been the case for each of the previous 44 presidents, too. President Obama has asked that we give the president-elect the opportunity to lead, and that seems like a reasonable request.
However, there’s one last thing bothering me, and I have to put in the “Say it ain’t so!” category. Mr. Trump allegedly has been accused of stiffing contractors who have done work for him. Donald, Donald, Donald ... that’s something no reader of The NEWS likes to hear!