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Climate tech downplays Trump shadow but braces for impact

CEC Commissioner Patty Monahan and CARB Chair Liane Randolph speak at the BNEF SF Summit

CEC Commissioner Patty Monahan and CARB Chair Liane Randolph speak at the BNEF Summit in San Francisco. Photo courtesy of BNEF

Climate tech companies and investors are trying to downplay the impact of a potential Donald Trump election while bracing for the possibility at the same time.

Why it matters: The fate of the presidential election could swap a champion of climate legislation for a leader who previously weakened and repealed laws to boost clean energy and EVs.

What they're saying: At the BloombergNEF Summit in San Francisco last week, companies and investors in the clean transportation sector said the election is a factor but not leading to changes in business decisions.

  • "Political risk is always something. I don't think it's front and center" in terms of influencing investment decisions, said Richard Hawwa, a managing director at Nomura Greentech. "We've learned it's pretty tough to turn things around in the federal government."
  • "It's going to be quite difficult for policy in the U.S. to fail hard enough to move the focus of investment in production elsewhere," said Matthew Wittman, chief commercial officer of ammonia engine maker First Ammonia Motors, noting "the IRA was such a clear and strong signal."
  • Many at the event pointed to how the IRA has been bringing jobs and investment to red states.

Yes, but: While repealing the IRA might not end up being feasible, the conservative energy braintrust is crafting plans to blunt IRA tax credits without needing a repeal in Congress.

  • Trump has also said if elected he would immediately undo some policies like Biden's pause on liquefied natural gas export terminal approvals.

Zoom in: The states, namely California, could end up playing a leading role — again — if Trump won the presidency.

  • Matt Jansen, chief operating officer, North America, of circular feedstock company Darling Ingredients, pointed to important policy that has come out of California: "[The California Air Resources Board] has done an exceptional job in leading the charge in the policy space."
  • California lawmakers are bracing for a fight. "I expect if there is a change in government there will be a lot of lawsuits and California will be more important than ever," said Patty Monahan, California Energy Commissioner.
  • "We will do all we can, no matter what happens, to continue the work we're doing," said CARB Chair Liane Randolph.

Big picture: While companies and investors appear ready to navigate a change in administration, climate advocates and legislators are sounding the alarm.

  • John Kerry, who joined the Biden reelection campaign, has said that a Biden win is the "single biggest" difference that can be made this year for climate progress at home and globally.
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