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Congress gets bill to promote jobs in major sectors

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On the Grid

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Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011

Legislation to stimulate clean energy, manufacturing and transportation sectors with grants, loans, tax credits and rebates could create millions of jobs or be a big waste of taxpayers' money, supporters and critics said on Tuesday.

U.S. Rep. Michael Doyle, D-Swissvale, a co-sponsor of the bill introduced yesterday in the House of Representatives, said it has the potential to create jobs through improvements to the nation's deteriorating infrastructure.

"This is not some kind of make-work program," Doyle said at a news conference at the United Steelworkers Building, Downtown. "We desperately need a plan like this. ... It will speed up the recovery and build jobs for decades to come."

But Nick Loris, a policy analyst for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative policy institute in Washington, said similar government interventions into the economy have failed.

"It's proven that they are ineffective," Loris said.

There were only 225,000 clean energy jobs created or saved from an $80 billion investment into that sector through President Obama's economic stimulate package in 2009, Loris said. "That's $355,000 per job."

Such government subsidies into "(energy) companies that are not market-viable," only take the money from another part of the nation's economy, Loris said.

"The taxpayers should not be on the hook for a bad investment," he said, noting that solar company Solyndra LLC filed for bankruptcy owing the government $535 million.

The cost of implementing the bill, dubbed the American Energy, Infrastructure and Manufacturing Act, has not yet been determined by the Congressional Budget Office. That typically occurs after a bill is introduced, Doyle said.

The nation needs a jobs act to stimulate the economy, said USW President Leo Gerard, who noted that his members would benefit. Doyle's bill and Obama's American Jobs Act together will form a "comprehensive jobs strategy," Gerard said.

Rather than relying on the government to provide incentives for the private sector to create clean-energy jobs, private industry should do it and bite the bullet, without the taxpayers taking the losses," said Jake Haulk, an economist and president of the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy, a think tank in Castle Shannon.

Rather than spending money on technology the market has not supported, the government would be better served to spend money on clean-coal technology because coal provides so much more energy in the United States, Haulk said.

While Doyle said he expects to get bipartisan support for such job-creating legislation in the Republican-controlled House, Haulk doubted that the bill will gain GOP backing.

"I don't think there will be any appetite in Washington to do this," Haulk said, because of the clean energy companies that have gone bankrupt or closed their doors.

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