America's next President Donald Trump

What surprise Trump victory means for engineering and technology

Image credit: Reuters

The unbelievable has happened once again and magnate Donald Trump is set to become the 45th President of the USA. Here we provide a brief outline of his positions on key areas related to science, engineering and technology.

1. Energy

Years before becoming a Republican Presidential nominee, Donald Trump said global warming was a hoax created by China to make the US non-competitive. During a Presidential Science Debate, he said the world should focus on fighting malaria and securing access to clean water, instead of investing into battling climate change. In the same debate, however, he also said that “we should be focused on developing energy sources and power production that alleviates the need for dependence on fossil fuels”. What exactly that means, remains to be seen.

Energy analysts from S&P Global Platts said statements uttered by Trump during his campaign indicate he may actually want to expand fossil fuel production, ease regulations on the industry and roll back President Barack Obama’s clean air policies.

Trump’s vision, according to S&P Global Platts, is to let the market decide which form of energy it wants. His presidency is expected to boost the oil and natural gas industry, as he promised to open all federal lands and waters to fossil fuel production.

It is expected he would ease greenhouse gas limits for petroleum refineries or at least refuse to make them stricter. He may also push to weaken future fuel economy standards for light-duty vehicles.

On the regulations’ side, Trump has promised to dismantle or overhaul the US Environmental Protection Agency as he believes that congress has granted it too much leeway in interpreting legislation.

He is expected to abandon, or weaken, efforts by EPA and the Department of the Interior to regulate methane emissions from oil and gas operations and also could weaken future car and truck fuel-economy standards.

He is also expected to try to scrap the Clean Power Plan and end incentives for renewable energy development.

2. Infrastructure

Donald Trump wants to fix America’s ailing infrastructure including roads, ports and airports but has given little detail about how he wants to do that. He said he wants to build “the greatest infrastructure on the planet Earth - the roads and railways and airports of tomorrow” and promised to spend twice as much as budgeted by rival Hillary Clinton. Clinton proposed an extra $55bn a year in federal spending on infrastructure over five years and the establishment of a National Infrastructure Bank to tap more private-sector funding.

3. Internet

According to website Arstechnica.com, Trump has been rather vague about his telecommunication policy, but some said he may want to scrap net neutrality rules established by the US Federal Communications Commission. “Trump seems likely to take a deregulatory approach to telecoms, benefiting Internet service providers who protested various new rules implemented under Democratic FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler,” Arstechnica stated.

4. Cyber-security

Trump referring to the problem of cyber-security as ‘the cyber’ has become notorious. What policies he may push for in the field, however, remains to be seen. In the Presidential Science Debate, he promised his administration would not spy on the US citizens.

5. Water

In the Presidential Science Debate, Trump pledged to make access to drinkable water a priority of his administration. He said he would support investment into fresh water infrastructure and desalinisation technologies.

6. Innovation

Trump has again been a bit vague regarding his plans about investment into science and research. In the Presidential Science Debate he said that “we must make the commitment to invest in science, engineering, healthcare and other areas that will make the lives of Americans better, safer and more prosperous”.

7. Space

Space is one of the few areas where Trump outlined his plans with a greater detail. He believes that past investments in space exploration have produced ‘brilliant returns for our economy, our security, and our sense of national destiny.

He wants to support the commercialisation of space activities and let Nasa focus on deep space exploration and science, providing inspiration for future generations. According to Trump’s advisers Peter Navarro and Robert Walker, “human exploration of our entire solar system by the end of this century should be Nasa’s focus and goal”.

Navarro and Walker explained Trump’s space strategy in an article in Space News in October.

The International Space Station should become a quasi-public facility supported by international contributions and resupplied by using commercially available services.

The advisers said Trump’s administration would ‘end the lack of proper coordination’ and reinstate the ‘national space policy council’.

The situation of Trump’s wall, now that he has won the election, remains uncertain.

Trump’s Wall

By Rebecca Northfield

In our November issue, we discuss what it would actually take to build Donald Trump’s Wall if he became president. Now that he has won the election, the state of the Wall is still unclear. 

A big part of Trump’s promise to America to was revive the country’s dwindling infrastructure, focusing on ‘homemade’ trade for construction of his future endeavours through commitment to the Rust Belt – the once powerful industrial region.

According to the Bernstein Research report Bernstein Materials Blast: who would profit from the Trump Wall? by Phil Rosenberg, Nick Timpson and Alexandra Schegel, high temperatures at the US/Mexico border means pre-cast panels supported by steel pillars –  the Wall’s ‘bricks’, as it were – would be set in cool factories, because pouring concrete directly at the site would not be effective. Therefore, it would seem economically unfeasible to transport concrete from more than 200 miles away, due to costs and practicality.

In theory, this means that concrete and steel manufacturers in the surrounding areas stand to benefit from the construction of the Wall.

However, the materials may come from somewhere else.

According to Newsweek, the president-elect chose to avoid US corporations, instead using Chinese-imported steel and aluminium, in at least two of his last three construction projects. Furthermore, Trump allegedly chose to buy concrete from some companies linked to the Luchese and Genovese crime families.

This could spell trouble for US and Mexican steel and concrete manufacturers, who probably believed they could get a good deal from the construction of the ostentatious new border. China, however, could stand to benefit highly, as Bernstein Research Report says the Wall could actually cost as much as $15bn for materials alone.  

To add balance to this however, one must remember that Trump chose to import resources for his previous construction projects, such as the Trump International Hotel Las Vegas, as it benefited his family and his business, not the US itself. Perhaps, as he settles into presidency, he will choose the more American way, and remain loyal to his followers.

It was also reported that exit polls from Tuesday voting resulted in 54 per cent of voters saying they were opposed to the idea of a wall.

 

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