InterviewUS ACC to press Obama on energy

06 November 2008 23:36  [Source: ICIS news]

ACC president Cal DooleyBy Joe Kamalick


WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--American Chemistry Council (ACC) President Cal Dooley said on Thursday he will press energy issues as the top priority for the chemicals industry with the incoming Obama administration and Congress.


“We hope that one of the first priorities of the Obama administration and the Democrat leadership in Congress will be to put together a comprehensive energy policy, and we would be most supportive of that,” Dooley said in an interview.


The US chemicals sector is heavily dependent on natural gas as a feedstock and energy source and has seen gas prices increase as much as four-fold since 1999.


The industry won a major victory in September when Democrat leaders in the House allowed the 27-year-old congressional moratorium on offshore drilling to expire.  The nearly three-decades old ban had prevented exploration and development of potentially vast oil and gas resources in the outer continental shelf (OCS) regions on the nation’s Atlantic and Pacific coasts.


“We plan to reiterate to Congress and the Obama administration the importance of advancing a comprehensive energy proposal, building on the lifting of the OCS moratorium earlier this year,” Dooley said.


He said a comprehensive energy policy should include offshore drilling with sharing of royalty revenues with coastal states.  “I think that is an important and critical component for moving forward there,” he said.


“In the context of a broader energy policy we should find ways to increase oil and gas production but also clean coal technology, greater conservation and energy efficiencies,” he said.


“We hope for quick action from Congress on this.”


Dooley disagreed with some in the chemicals sector and elsewhere in industry that the incoming Obama administration and the more Democrat-dominated Congress will necessarily be more hostile to business interests.


“If we look at the Democrat gains in Congress, the profiles of those new Democrat members are more of the moderate to conservative persuasion, and I think they and others in Congress understand that we need a balanced approach to growing the economy and creating an environment for US businesses to be competitive in the international market,” he said.


“Overall, I am reasonably confident that we have an opportunity to make our case to Congress and the Obama administration and see policies formulated in our interests,” Dooley said.


He also named climate change legislation and renewal of chemical site antiterrorism regulations as top items for the council’s policy wish list in 2009.


Democrat leaders in Congress are keen to advance an aggressive cap-and-trade climate control bill that would mandate an 80% reduction in US greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels by 2050 - a proposal that President-elect Obama also supports.


Such an emissions control mandate likely would trigger a wide scale shift among US electric utilities from coal as a power fuel to cleaner-burning natural gas, with the potential for driving demand and pricing for natgas still higher.


“A lot of members of Congress are aware of the need for a very judicious approach on how re respond to greenhouse gas emissions, and I hope they will give consideration to the chemicals industry and the fact that we use a lot of natgas and petroleum as feedstock in products that we make and that contribute to energy efficiency,” he said.


He said he would prefer to see the existing Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) law extended and made permanent in its present form. That law expires at the end of 2009 and Congress is due to write a new measure soon in the new year.


Some in Congress want a new chemical site security law to allow individual states to craft their own facility antiterrorism requirements and give federal officials authority to impose inherently safer technology (IST) on chemical plants in the context of security measures.


“We would contend that the interest of our economy is best served with one federal standard in terms of chemical security policy,” Dooley said.  


He said that site security replacement bill introduced in Congress earlier this year did not advance in part because members were not comfortable with that measure’s IST mandate.


“It is not appropriate to delegate that authority to bureaucrats,” Dooley said.


Dooley, who previously served seven terms as a member of the US House, took the reins of the ACC on 8 September.


To discuss issues facing the chemical industry go to ICIS connect

By: Joe Kamalick
+1 713 525 2653

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