Trump administration ‘a pleasure to work with,’ Ricketts says after White House meeting

Source: By ZACH PLUHACEK, Lincoln Journal Star, • Posted: Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Nebraska’s Republican governor says he’s had plenty of access to the nation’s first-year Republican president and his cabinet.

President Donald Trump has been “forward-thinking” in engaging governors on policy issues, Gov. Pete Ricketts told reporters Thursday. “That never happened in the last administration.”

Trump hosted Ricketts and three other governors Wednesday at the White House for a roundtable discussion on energy issues. The same day, Ricketts joined the Chicago Cubs, which his family owns, on their second White House visit since winning the 2016 World Series.

During the energy meeting, Ricketts touted Nebraska’s ethanol industry, which he said is responsible for 1.5 percent of the U.S. energy supply.

“At a per-capita basis, we are punching way above our weight,” he said Thursday.

The Trump administration is “very committed” to ethanol, Ricketts said, adding that he also met with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and discussed updating federal emissions data to “show how much more carbon-friendly ethanol is,” along with ways to increase usage of E15 ethanol-blend gas.

Nebraska is also requesting a waiver from the federal government to test E30 ethanol blends in state vehicles.

“The EPA and Administrator Pruitt has been very open to working with us on all of those issues,” Ricketts said.

In his meeting with Trump, Ricketts also noted that the carbon black manufacturing plant being built by Monolith Materials near Hallam will make Nebraska a “clear innovator” in clean energy, the governor said.

Carbon black is a fine, flour-like powder used in tires, plastic, inks and smartphones, and Monolith says it has developed a first-of-its kind technology to manufacture carbon black from natural gas instead of oil. Byproducts of the process are hydrogen and water, and Monolith will sell the hydrogen to Nebraska Public Power District to use as fuel in one of its burners at nearby Sheldon Station.

“We are going to use that to create the first utility-scale hydrogen burning plant in this country — maybe in the world,” Ricketts said Thursday. “When you burn hydrogen, the emission is water vapor. It’s completely clean burning, and we are a leader here in Nebraska in implementing that technology.”

Ricketts said his meeting with Pruitt was the third time the two have spoken since Trump took office. He has also spoken three times each with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Seema Verma, administrator of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“At the end of the day, the policy that is passed in Washington, D.C., does not get implemented in a generic place called the United States,” Ricketts said. “It gets implemented specifically in our states.”