UPDATE 1-White House's Summers nudges Congress on energy law

Tue Apr 6, 2010 8:10pm BST

(Recasts with comments on energy legislation)

WASHINGTON, April 6 (Reuters) - White House economic adviser Lawrence Summers pressed Congress on Tuesday to pass comprehensive U.S. energy legislation as a way to bolster an economic recovery that looks likely to be sluggish.

In a speech at a U.S. Energy Information Administration conference, Summers said passing legislation would help reduce uncertainty that may be discouraging businesses from investing and hiring.

"The cheapest stimulus program in the world is enhanced confidence," Summers said.

The U.S. Senate has struggled to strike a compromise on a bill that would reduce the country's greenhouse gas emissions and boost alternative energy without unduly burdening businesses that are slowly recovering from a recession.

Some Democrats hope a compromise will be unveiled by April 22, which is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.

Summers said uncertainty over the timing and scope of energy legislation was hindering businesses from making major investments in projects, such as building new power plants, restraining hiring when the economy desperately needs jobs.

"Clarity brings certainty, certainty brings confidence and that is what moves the economy forward," he said.

Summers did not comment on specifics that might be included in legislation and also sidestepped a question on the point at which rising oil prices might hurt economic growth. Oil traded above $87 per barrel on Tuesday, the highest since October 2008.

He did say the U.S. economy has started creating jobs, but noted it is far short of potential growth or full employment.

"The economy has begun to create jobs again. While we have a long way to go in an economy that has 9.7 percent (unemployment) and a trillion dollars short of potential, we are at last moving in the right direction," Summers said.

U.S. employers, led by the private sector, created 162,000 jobs in March -- the highest in three years, a government report showed on Friday. (Reporting by Emily Kaiser and Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Jan Paschal and Dan Grebler)

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