U.S. elected Trump as president

Uncertainty remains about his stance on science

Cheryl Hogue

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Trump speaks at a rally in North Carolina.
Credit: Timothy/ZUMA Press/Splash News/Newscom

After a long, hard-fought campaign, voters handed Republican Donald Trump a presidential victory in November. Republicans also retained control of Congress, meaning GOP lawmakers are planning legislation to fulfill pledges to shrink the federal government and its regulation.

What the new balance of power in Washington will mean for the chemistry enterprise and how policies might change is just beginning to take shape, says ACS Executive Director and CEO Tom Connelly.

Many in the scientific community fear that budget trimming could significantly curb federal funding for academic research. Grant money from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and other agencies has dwindled in recent years as Republican lawmakers have trimmed spending.

Scientific organizations, including ACS, which publishes C&EN, called for the newly elected Trump to pick a science adviser. He has yet to do so. Connelly says, “We are optimistic that the incoming administration will seek input from the science community as it moves forward.” ACS President Donna Nelson says of Trump, “We should be patient and prepare a list of science issues and goals, so that when he requests information from us, we will be ready.”

The pharmaceutical industry, meanwhile, is eager to work with Trump’s Administration to implement a new law designed to speed drug approval. But the President-elect may have given pharma heartburn after he told Time magazine recently, “I’m going to bring down drug prices.”

For the chemical industry, the prospect of less regulation under Trump could lower costs and raise profits. But this top U.S. exporting sector faces policy uncertainties too. Questions remain about whether or how Trump and Congress will address efforts to boost international trade. Trump said during the campaign that he opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would create a free-trade zone among 12 Pacific rim countries.

Meanwhile, many observers say Trump, in conjunction with Congress, is likely to reshape U.S. energy policy. He pledged during the campaign to restore the U.S. coal mining industry, which has seen job losses as a result of mechanization and stiff competition from a flood of cheap domestic natural gas in recent years.

Observers say a main focus of Trump’s efforts on coal will be dismantling the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. Designed to curb emissions of carbon dioxide from power plants, that regulation is a vehicle for the U.S. to meet its pledges under the Paris Agreement.

Trump’s pick for EPA administrator, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, has sued EPA to stop the Clean Power Plan. Pruitt is also among 11 state attorneys general opposing EPA’s plan to tighten safety requirements for chemical plants and refineries that use high-hazard substances such as chlorine.

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