Market intelligence: Chemical and energy associations appeal to US president Obama to relax rules

09 November 2012 11:33  [Source: ICB]

More in hope, perhaps, than expectation, US chemical, energy and ­general business interests have appealed to newly re-elected President Barack Obama to scale back his administration's regulations, restrictions and taxes.

Jay Timmons, president of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), noted that "it is no secret that the business community has had reservations about the president's agenda of the last four years".

Barack Obama Rex Features

Rex Features

Industry appeals to Obama to relax rules, taxes

"But the election is over, and now American competitiveness is truly at stake," Timmons said.

In a conference call with reporters, Timmons said that it is irrelevant whether the business community is disappointed that Obama won a second four-year term in the White House.

"It is what it is, and hindsight is irrelevant," Timmons said. "The bottom line is that we have to grow jobs, and now that the political season is over, we have an opportunity to start working with the administration to focus on a blueprint for growth."

But Timmons argued that the US tax environment and regulatory burdens are making domestic firms less competitive in the global marketplace.

"Businesses have to operate in an environment of certainty, and our competitor nations are attracting investment to their countries because it is 20% more expensive to manufacture products here in this country, and that is even after taking out higher US labour costs," he said, adding that part of that increased cost comes from regulations.

John Engler, president of the Business Roundtable and former governor of Michigan, said that US federal taxes impede the potential for domestic businesses.

"We are competing with countries around the world, and we have the highest statutory corporate tax rate in the world," Engler noted, citing the US business tax rate of up to 35%.

Other industrialised nations have corporate tax levies as low as 11%, although some are only marginally lower than the US rate.

The US chemical sector was quick to offer congratulations to Obama for his electoral victory, but the process industries and others also expressed concern about the possible regulatory role of a second Obama term.

"We look forward to working with President Obama and bipartisan leaders in Congress to advance an agenda that will enable strong economic growth, domestic energy security and rational, science-based approaches to regulation," said Cal Dooley, president of the American Chemistry Council (ACC). "Sound policies and regulations will be critical to continuing the recent growth our industry has experienced."

Since Obama has been in office, Dooley and other chemical and energy industry leaders have been critical of policies, legislation and regulations they contend could choke development of new US natural gas supplies and stifle manufacturing innovation.

"With the right approach to economic, energy and environmental policy from the administration and Congress, the chemical industry can serve as an engine that drives growth throughout the country," Dooley said.

Larry Sloan, president of the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA), also congratulated Obama on his electoral win and said: "We look forward to working with the Obama administration and Congress to find common ground on advancing our industry's priorities."

Sloan urged that the administration and Congress pursue "policies that help our members remain competitive and expand their markets".

Charles Drevna, president of the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), said: "We hope that in his second term, the president will truly work to advance an 'all of the above' energy strategy that recognises the importance of domestic energy resources and fuel and petrochemical manufacturers in rebuilding our nation's economy."

During Obama's first term, Drevna had often charged that the president and his administration were conducting a campaign against fossil energy resources in favour of non-hydrocarbon alternatives.

"President Obama should take actions in his second term to ensure our nation becomes a major force in the global energy picture," Drevna said. "Such actions should include regulatory reforms necessary to maintain a strong American energy sector and immediate approval for the Keystone XL pipeline, which will create thousands of domestic jobs."

The American Petroleum Institute (API) also offered congratulations to the president and said it is looking forward to working with Obama in his second term.

But API president Jack Gerard urged the president to "avoid the temptation to impose duplicative and unnecessary regulations on hydraulic fracturing" and to "follow through on his own executive order to eliminate overly burdensome regulations".

Gerard also asked Obama to "rein in [the Environmental Protection Agency's] plans to impose regulatory burdens that could cost businesses hundreds of billions of dollars and chill economic growth".

NAM said that while it welcomes the opportunity to work further with the Obama administration, "We will also continue to make our case for pro-growth energy and tax policies and for common-sense regulations."

NAM, API, SOCMA, ACC, AFPM and a broad range of other business interests have previously been harshly critical of Obama administration policies and proposals affecting energy, electric power generation and manufacturing.

NAM's Timmons noted that "for the manufacturing community, it was heartening that during the election campaign everyone in both parties was talking about manufacturing and the importance of a strong manufacturing base being necessary to economic growth".

Engler said that he believes Obama was awarded a second term by voters "because he pledged to grow the economy and create jobs".

"But there are a lot of federal regulations that are pending, tons of regulations, and the impact of various pollution rules and many others could have significant impact on manufacturers and impede their ability to invest and hire workers," he said. "I hope the Obama administration now takes a fresh look and does a true cost-benefit analysis of its regulations."

Timmons said "the first thing that the administration and Congress must do is to work on a growth package."

"Until you figure out how to grow the economy, business is at a standstill," he said. "We don't know what the future holds." Timmons added that NAM staffers were already working with Obama administration officials on trade and energy issues.

Citing the newly abundant US natural gas resources being developed from shale formations, Engler said that the second-term Obama administration "doesn't need to do anything. Just stay out of the way."

By: Joe Kamalick
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