COMMENT: Are environmental issues An Inconvenient Truth?

05 February 2007 00:00  [Source: ICB]

Like it or not, the environment is taking centre stage. What happened? Just a few years ago, nobody would have guessed that the environment would be such a key talking point. And in the chemical industry, green was hardly a blip on the radar.

The shift towards environmental awareness is owed in no small part to soaring energy prices. Crude oil and natural gas costs have risen exponentially in recent years, denting consumer pocketbooks and the overall manufacturing economy. Thus, the ethanol and biodiesel boom was born, with government incentives adding fuel to the fire.

Also, former US vice president Al Gore's best-selling book and hit movie An Inconvenient Truth elevated the issue of global warming in the public mind, influencing political debate. The impact has hit home, with major reverberations in the legislative arena. In California, US, governor Arnold Schwarzenegger passed the Global Warming Solutions Act, the first bill putting caps on greenhouse gas emissions on US industry.

But, while the chemical industry may worry about the impact of more stringent regulations and magnified scrutiny from the public, it must not lose sight of the huge opportunity. The chemical industry must be seen as a big part of the solution rather than the problem. From solving the global clean water crisis, to catalysing the creation of new biofuels, and to blanketing the next generation of roofs with solar panels, the industry can be the engine to drive real, practical solutions.

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