A New Long-Range Plan Every 4 Years

When America talks about long-range planning that typically means until the next election. For example, the renewable fuels standard (RFS) is in place until 2022. This column appears in the May issue of EPM.
By Mike Bryan | April 13, 2016

When America talks about long-range planning that typically means until the next election. For example, the renewable fuels standard (RFS) is in place until 2022. While on the surface that may provide some comfort and a bit of breathing room for ethanol producers, it is not, by any definition, long-range planning.

The Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare), meant to be a long-term solution to broader health care for millions of uninsured people, may be dismantled, depending on who wins the November election. The Iran nuclear deal, like it or not, was intended to be a long-term solution to dealing with Iran’s nuclear capabilities. A change in administration could scuttle the whole deal. The acceptance of Syrian refugees into America was imposed as part of an international solution to millions of people fleeing oppression, but some candidates have suggested the elimination of that program all together. The winner on Nov. 8 could turn these long-term polices upside down.

Some will take great delight in seeing all of these policies done away with. Others will wish to see them kept in place or even expanded. The point here is that America seems to be stuck in a four- to eight-year planning cycle. During the debates, candidates talked endlessly about planning for the future—our children’s and grandchildren’s futures—but, in reality, almost all of that policy bravado is only as good as the next election cycle.

China has a 100-year plan broken into five-year segments. I’ll be the first to admit that it is easier to have a 100-year plan when the country’s leader may actually stay in power for 30 years or more and, in fairness, most democratic countries operate on election cycle planning. But wouldn’t it be great if Democrats and Republicans got together and did what they are supposed to do, which is come up with strategies that actually put in place real long-term solutions that would foster economic growth, energy security, a cleaner environment, strong agricultural policies and combat poverty?

We can’t even seem to agree that global warming is a threat and come up with a long-range plan to deal with it when the worst thing that could happen is that the naysayers are right and we end up with a cleaner environment for naught. Now that would be a real shame.

It’s impossible for America to have even a five-year plan like China because as soon as the election is over, the planning and bickering begin to unseat the current administration four years from the date it is sworn in. That cannot possibly end in any productive long-range planning. It can only end in policies that are short-sighted and designed to discredit the current administration with the focus of unseating it at the next election.

So when potential investors look at new technology that could make a significant difference in our lives and the lives of future generations and then see that Congress’ long-range plan is only for the next four years, it gives investors little, if any, confidence to invest. If we want real growth, for example, in renewable energy, we need to have a Congress that puts aside the petty politics and looks at the future, not just to 2022, but to 2050 and beyond.

We can take no solace in an RFS that ends in 2022. That’s at a minimum, 30 years short of what a real long-range plan for renewable fuels should encompass.
That’s the way I see it.

Author: Mike Bryan
Chairman, BBI International