US industries welcome Obama with caution

05 November 2008 20:10  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--Major US industry groups on Wednesday vowed to work with President-elect Barack Obama but warned that aggressive Democrat environmental and energy issues must be tempered by the economic crisis.


John Engler, president of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), offered his congratulations to Obama and hailed his election as “a mandate and sweeping victory with a result that could only have been dreamed of just a few years ago”.


However, Engler noted that the overwhelming concern among voters who have sent the Illinois senator to the White House was the faltering US economy.


Engler, a former governor of Michigan, said economic worries and the developing US recession were key factors in Obama’s win and must compel the new administration’s attention.


“We believe President-elect Obama is serious about the economy and so are we,” Engler said.


“We believe Obama is sensitive to trade and manufacturing issues because he comes from a manufacturing state, Illinois, and our goal is to work with Obama in many areas of potential cooperation,” he added.


“But there is a desperate need right now for the US to strengthen its economy as fast as possible,” Engler said.


Engler noted, however, that Obama has championed an aggressive proposal for a federal cap-and-trade law to bring US emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, a policy that would greatly increase demand for natural gas as a lower-emissions fuel for electric utilities and even broader automotive and other transportation use.


Natural gas is a primary feedstock and energy source for chemical manufacturers and crucial as well to the broad spectrum of US manufacturing.


“President-elect Obama has moved somewhat on a number of issues since the primary elections of last year,” Engler noted, “and I hope he gets some good counsel on energy matters as he considers a cap-and-trade policy.”


“I was recently in Europe and heard many EU ministers talk about slowing their own cap-and-trade mandate because of the slow economy and the concern that emissions controls can have impact on getting a recovery,” Engler said.


“I hope Obama will proceed cautiously on this [cap-and-trade] because of the need to restore our economy,” he added.


“In fact, if we are going to move forward on these environmental issues, our energy issues have to be resolved before we can put a cap-and-trade plan in force,” he said.


Noting that a cap-and-trade emissions mandate would create major challenges for US coal-fired power plants, Engler said that “We can’t shut down the 50 percent of our electric utility capacity powered by coal unless we first make major alternative energy resources available”.


NAM vice president Jay Timmons also hailed Obama’s election victory, led by the campaign’s slogan of “Change We Need”.


“Change is good and even inevitable,” Timmons said, “but progress is optional”.


Joined by the Business-Industry Political Action Committee (BIPAC), NAM called on Obama to expand US energy development, especially on the US outer continental shelf (OCS), lower corporate taxes and ease the burden of federal regulations on business.


NAM’s 14,000 member firms include a large number of US chemical and resin manufacturers and downstream consuming industries.


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By: Joe Kamalick
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