US chemical, other leaders critical of stimulus bill

28 January 2009 17:22  [Source: ICIS news]

US industry want more stimulus spending on infrastructureWASHINGTON (ICIS news)--US chemical and other business leaders on Wednesday urged Congress to focus on energy and tax cuts in the $850bn (€646bn) economic stimulus bill as opponents of the measure warned it will do little for the economy.

Cal Dooley, president of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), welcomed the $50bn that the draft stimulus bill would invest in clean energy and efficiency projects but said that level of spending is not enough.

“In a nutshell, we believe the $50bn plus of clean energy investments is a good start, but we are urging the Congress to increase the government investment devoted to energy and physical infrastructure programmes,” an ACC spokeswoman said in summary of Dooley’s remarks to legislators.

The draft stimulus bill circulated by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Democrat-California) has come under criticism from other business quarters for doing far too little to stimulate work on the broad US transportation infrastructure, such as highway and bridge repairs and improvements.

The stimulus package specifies $30bn for highway construction, which Pelosi said will create 835,000 jobs.  But critics have pointed out that even if all that funding went only to construction workers - to say nothing of materials and equipment - it would pay only about $36,000 per worker.

Another $10bn of the stimulus bill is targeted for rail transit improvements.

However, the American Society of Civil Engineers said the bill’s combined $40bn on road and rail projects is woefully short.

The society said on Wednesday that $2,200bn is needed over the next five years - from all sources, government and the private sector - just to keep the nation’s infrastructure up to par with the country’s growth.

ACC’s Dooley also urged Congress to devote more of the stimulus plan’s billions to “investments in gasification technologies and carbon capture and sequestration systems”. 

The council says that industrial gasification processes “have unique characteristics that enable or advantage high levels of carbon capture” and would reduce demand for natural gas - a principal feedstock for US chemicals production - and cut natgas volatility and prices for consumers.

The US Chamber of Commerce urged Congress to commit more of the stimulus package to tax relief for business and consumers, saying tax cuts would do more to restore liquidity, spur economic activity and stimulate job growth.

The chamber also urged a permanent $7,500 tax credit for first-time home buyers, a reduction in capital gains taxes and reduced taxes for repatriation of corporations’ foreign subsidiary earnings.

Republicans in Congress have criticised the Democrat majority’s stimulus bill for being larded with government give-aways. 

Congressman Mike Pence (Republican-Indiana), chairman of the House Republican Conference, challenged the stimulus bill’s inclusion of social or entertainment projects at the expense of infrastructure improvements.

“What does $50bn for the National Endowment for the Arts, $200m to plant sod on the National Mall, $400m for climate change research and $200m for contraception have to do with creating jobs?” Pence said in a statement.

The House and Senate are expected to vote on the stimulus bill later on Wednesday. It is expected to pass but largely on the strength of Democrat majority votes in both chambers.

($1 = €0.76)

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By: Joe Kamalick
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