NPRA ’08: Chem sector can reverse image - Drevna

31 March 2008 21:00  [Source: ICIS news]

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (ICIS news)--The US chemicals sector could reverse its negative image and forestall hostile legislation and regulation if it works hard to educate the public and marshal the industry’s workforce, a top industry official said on Monday.


Charlie Drevna, president of the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA), said that “It is my personal goal to make citizens of this country as familiar with the petrochemicals industry as they are with the refining industry.”


With gasoline prices at record highs, the general public is probably not well disposed toward the refining industry.  Perhaps unfairly, many blame refiners for high fuel prices rather than record oil prices and capacity constraints.


However, Drevna pointed out that most consumers do have a general understanding of how the refining industry works and how critically important the industry’s products - gasoline and other fuels - are to their daily lives.  Few among the general public have a parallel comprehension of the chemicals sector, he said.


“People understand the refining industry, but they have little or no understanding of the petrochemicals industry and how it drives our economy and how crucial chemicals are to so many aspects of their daily lives,” Drevna said.


It is in part due to that consumer disconnect, he said, that the US chemicals industry is facing a new barrage of what the sector regards as hostile legislation in Congress, such as climate change, ongoing limitations on domestic energy production and additional government control of industry operations.


Drevna said that NPRA is soon to launch a new grassroots campaign to raise public awareness and understanding of chemicals, an effort that will include a campaign to recruit chemical industry employees as local ambassadors.


Effecting a turnaround in public sentiment is very possible, Drevna said.  He cited, for example, the changing public fortunes of bio-ethanol.  Once the unchallenged darling of Congress, US production of corn-based ethanol has been subjected to a succession of critical attacks in the last year from government and private sector sources in the US and Europe.


Biofuels remain a popular cause in the US Congress, but, as Drevna noted, sentiment about ethanol has changed amid charges that ethanol’s fuel performance and environmental impact are less promising and that ethanol-driven corn prices are boosting wider food costs.


Drevna was speaking on the sidelines of NPRA’s annual petrochemicals conference.  The meeting began on Sunday and runs through Tuesday.


Bookmark Simon Robinson’s Big Biofuels Blog for some independent thinking on biofuels

By: Joe Kamalick
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