(From the April 30, 2012, issue of Rubber & Plastics News)
HILTON HEAD, S.C.—Barring a third-party presidential run by a viable candidate, Mitt Romney will almost certainly be the next president of the U.S., according to Roy Littlefield, executive vice president of the Tire Industry Association.
This was the boldest of the predictions Littlefield made in his speech at the 28th annual Clemson University Tire Industry Conference.
In addition to Littlefield's political analysis, Tracey Norberg, senior vice president and corporate counsel for the Rubber Manufacturers Association, gave the RMA's insights into the current federal and state regulatory picture for the tire industry. She also made recommendations on how the industry can shape its own regulatory and legislative future.
In predicting a Romney victory, Littlefield cited a recent visit with Louis Harris, a well-known pollster and a Democrat.
“He (Harris) stated that his polling reveals that Obama has a solid 44 percent (of voter support),” Littlefield said. “That means that if Ron Paul or any credible candidate runs on a third-party ticket, Obama will be elected—remember the victory of Bill Clinton in 1992.
“If there is no credible third-party candidate, like Ron Paul, Donald Trump, or Newt Gingrich, Harris says that it would be virtually impossible for Obama to jump from 44 percent to over 50 percent, and that Mitt Romney will win.”
A Romney win would probably be a good thing for American business, according to Littlefield.
“A moderate-conservative Republican like Romney may not engage the Republican Party conservative base, but could very well lead to more effective governing in Washington,” he said. “It should be easier for Romney, as opposed to Obama, to reach across party lines to produce voting blocks that can move legislation. It may not be an ideal solution for either the liberal base or the conservative base, but it could be exactly what America needs at this time.”
TIA has worked hard in the past year to expand its government affairs activities, according to Littlefield. It has developed position papers and become active in coalitions on a vast number of issues important to TIA members, he said. A short list includes the small business mandate in the Obama health care package, complete and permanent repeal of the estate tax, the National Energy Bill, the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, the Motor Vehicle Owners' Right to Repair Act, highway reauthorization, scrap tires, tort reform and the retroactive liability provisions of Superfund.
“We have made a difference and we are making a difference,” according to Littlefield.
In her speech, Norberg said U.S. industry is facing a formidable regulatory environment in 2012.
The safety and performance standards promulgated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are the most stringent in the world, according to Norberg. Meanwhile, environmental rules from the Environmental Protection Agency are becoming ever more demanding, and the agency continues to issue new regulations at a record pace, she said.
However, industry is also investing considerable time and resources to comprehending the regulatory environment, participating in regulatory processes, advocating initiatives and educating government and the public about the needs and contribution of industry, according to Norberg.
“The good news is that all industry is working cooperatively in a manner I have not seen since I began working in Washington nearly 20 years ago,” she said.
A short list of pending legislation and regulations include the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, “card check” legislation involving union elections, the Motor Coach Safety Act, the EPA Regulatory Relief Act, the tire fuel efficiency consumer information and labeling final rule, updated truck tire testing standards and various EPA regulations affecting manufacturing and chemicals, she said.
It is unclear whether any of the legislation will pass Congress before the November election, or which regulations will be promulgated before the election, Norberg said.
The tire fuel efficiency rule, establishing test methods for the standard, was issued in March 2010, according to Norberg.
But the proposed final version, including labeling and consumer information provisions, will not be issued until sometime later this year, she said.
The agency wanted to complete consumer and tire retailer surveys, as well as rolling resistance, wet traction and treadwear test repeatability studies, Norberg said.
A public workshop held in San Francisco on Feb. 3, 2012, was the last of the steps NHTSA took in gathering information toward writing the rule, she said.
According to Norberg, the RMA supports “five-bin” rating systems for traction, treadwear and rolling resistance; rolling resistance ratings based on the rolling resistance coefficient, not rolling resistance force; the use of the words “traction” and “treadwear” in place of “safety” and “durability” in consumer information; and establishment of a reference machine for rolling resistance testing per the requirements of ISO Stan¼¼d¼¼¼¼ard 28580.
Among other pending regulations, the RMA is particularly concerned about the re-proposed EPA rule on air emissions from industrial boilers, which once again could imperil the wide use of tire-derived fuel, Norberg said.
The tire industry breathed a sigh of relief in June 2011, when the agency said it would not define TDF as a solid waste, she said. Doing so would have placed restrictions on TDF that would have priced it out of the energy market.
But the reconsideration opens the door to TDF being rejected in comparison with other alternative fuels, according to Norberg. TDF burns very cleanly in comparison with coal, she said, but would have a harder time in competition with wood or biomass.