PESA’s Government Affairs Committee led by Todd Ennenga, Halliburton, hosted a panel of policy experts from FTI Consulting for a discussion of key issues facing the energy industry post-election and into 2021. Bob Moran, Senior Managing Director, Co-Chair Government Affairs Practice; Sonja Nesbit, Government Affairs, Managing Director and Shannon Bañaga, Energy & Natural Resources, Managing Director, analyzed how each potential presidential administration could impact the oil and gas industry.
Moran set the stage with an overview of mass disruptions in 2020, including the collapse of oil prices, hurricanes, bankruptcies, international tensions and the impeachment of President Donald Trump. With millions of votes already cast by mail-in ballot and early voting, including in battleground states, Moran advised listeners to prepare for either outcome.
Bañaga and Nesbit said Vice President Joe Biden has shown moderate leanings in the past and analyzed how a potential Biden administration may operate with the differing wings of the Democratic party. Should Biden win, Nesbit expects the first 100 days to include many executive actions aimed at bringing things back to a “baseline” by peeling back orders implemented by Trump.
A potential Biden administration will likely have a better organized transition team than Trump’s team in 2016, Nesbit said. She said progressives would press Biden on cabinet appointments, but that moderates historically have held sway.
“Biden will want to appoint secretaries who can work with congress,” she said.
Bañaga and Nesbit focused on the current narrow margin in the Senate and the 23 seats Republicans are currently defending. Democrats are defending 12 seats in 2020. Leadership will change regardless of election outcomes because many Senate Republicans chairing committees face term limits in the next Congress.
Among these are the Energy and Natural Resources, and Budget committees. Leadership within these committees has a strong role in crafting policy affecting the oil and gas industry. They said that if Democrats take control of the Senate and the Budget Committee, they would likely pass a reconciliation bills to fast-track tax legislative priorities. Such legislation could include energy relevant provisions and a possible carbon tax.
Another issue front and center during the last four years of the Trump administration has been tariffs, which have caused supply chain issues and impacted OFS businesses in a variety of unexpected ways. Nesbit and Bañaga said that while the current strategy would change if Biden were elected, it might be difficult to fully reverse course.
Changes to the corporate tax structure would be expected in the first 100 days.
Bañaga and Nesbit urged the energy industry to “… educate, educate, educate …” and to develop coalitions that would resonate with a potential Biden administration. This includes brining in many third-party advocates — the people that use the products to emphasize the industry’s importance.
“You’ve got to train policymakers to understand your issues and understand the ramifications of bad policy decisions,” Bañaga said. “We don’t anticipate Biden being curt or restrictive about who they talk with. Don’t expect vendettas. They’ll listen.”
The panel discussed prospects for Trump to win a second term and its impact on OFS. They agreed that trade tensions with China would continue and perhaps even escalate, while energy-related regulations would continue in much the same fashion as the first term.
If you are interested in joining the Government Affairs Committee, please reach out to Vice President Government Affairs Tim Tarpley.