INSIDE VIEW ’09: A Whole New Ball Game?

24 December 2008 20:24  [Source: ICIS news]

ACC president Cal DooleyBy Cal Dooley
President and CEO
American Chemistry Council

Editor’s note: US chemical industry association leaders were given the opportunity to express their views on the challenges and opportunities for 2009.

WASHINGTON--For a generation of leaders and managers in business and government, the current recession is a spectacular and largely unprecedented challenge.

In these deeply troubled times of lay-offs, foreclosures and bail-outs some pundits suggest the economic world will never be the same. “It’s a whole new ballgame,” they say.

For the members of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), one thing is clear - new ball game or not, policymakers, industry and the public must start playing on the same team. America needs a public policy approach that treats the chemical industry as an asset and not a threat, an essential vehicle of change and not an obstacle, a partner and not an adversary.

In turn, the industry is expected to do even more in crucial areas of chemicals management, plant security and product safety.

The changes we face are indeed real. Last year, the $664bn (€478bn) chemical industry supported 4% of the US workforce including our 863,000 employees plus 4.8m indirect jobs.

Chemical products accounted for 10% of the nation’s exports and touched 96% of US manufactured goods.  Clearly, as industry plant closings grab their share of headlines, the numbers next year likely will reflect reduced production, lower sales, fewer jobs, and diminished exports.   

Restoring the economy and our industry’s global position will require stronger cooperation between government and industry.

Yet, in the face of economic upheaval, the industry’s public policy goals for tomorrow are very much those of today.

We seek:

1) an effective national energy policy;

2) permanent, risk-based chemical facility security standards;

3) a reliable and competitive rail transportation system; and,

4) chemical regulations, based on science and real-world health information, which ensure the safety of the products our industry provides consumers.  What is different today is not what we seek, but how urgently we need it.

Energy and Climate Change - America Needs a 21st Century Energy Policy

The dramatic swings in energy prices over the last two years, and the rise in energy prices over the last decade, are proof positive that America needs a comprehensive national energy plan that will continue to increase energy efficiency and conservation, promote alternative and renewable technologies and expand access to domestic energy supplies. 

Access to energy, and price, are crucial factors in the chemical business. The Obama Administration and Congress should encourage the responsible development of offshore US natural gas and oil supplies. 

Last year’s lifting of the moratorium on off-shore energy development reflected a growing consensus that America needs to utilise these significant resources. Alternative and renewable energy development also are vital, and given the abundance of coal within the US, we should develop and utilise clean coal technologies as well.

While energy is crucial to the chemical industry, the business of chemistry is essential to the nation’s efforts to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. 

Chemistry makes possible the next generation of energy-saving products including building insulation, lightweight vehicle parts, solar panels, wind turbines, compact fluorescent light bulbs, low rolling resistance tires, automotive and industrial lubricants, thermal roof coatings, energy-efficient appliances and much more.  

ACC members are doing their part to improve energy efficiency and reduce GHG emissions in their own operations, and they are publicly reporting on their performance.  Since 1974, the business of chemistry has reduced its fuel and power energy consumed per unit of output by nearly half.

Since 1990, it has improved nearly 29%, the equivalent of a 1.9% annual gain in efficiency.

And the chemical industry’s GHG emissions fell 13.2% in absolute terms between 1990 and 2007, a reduction that would have exceeded the Kyoto Protocol target.

The industry and Washington already work together to achieve meaningful policy changes that advance energy and climate goals.  Now, we must do even more.

Chemical Plant Security - Time for Permanent Standards

ACC and member companies are committed to safeguarding America’s chemical facilities. To date, members have invested more than $6bn in security enhancements, and we worked with Congress and the US Department of Homeland Security to establish national, risk-based chemical security regulations (CFATS or Chemical Facility Anti-terrorism Standards).

Under those rules, facilities that use or store chemicals must meet specific security obligations and the federal government can shut down facilities that do not comply.

Looking ahead, we will work with Congress to make the CFATS system permanent. We know a strong federal role is necessary to attain homeland security and here too, we continue to be part of the team.   

Freight Rail Reform - A Quest for Fairness 

Chemical companies, their customers, and many other industries depend on railroads to provide reliable and competitive service. We need and want a strong freight rail system. Unfortunately, ACC members and other shippers face exorbitant and unpredictable rail transportation costs and poor service, the result of an outdated and broken freight rail policy structure that shield railroads from fully competing with one another.

ACC believes Congress must pass reform legislation to promote competitive rail service, end rail monopolies and restore a healthy, reliable, competitively-priced freight-rail system.

Chemical Regulation - Quality Decisions Require Quality Science

Many products of chemistry are under public attack, the result of misunderstood science, the politics of fear and significantly, industry’s failure to convince the public that its products are safe for their intended use. But proposed product bans reflect neither good science nor good policy.  

Under ACC's Responsible Care programme, member companies implement appropriate management and product stewardship systems that reduce the risks of chemicals to human health and the environment. Our companies invest more than $14bn per year in health, safety and environmental efforts and $26bn per year on research and development, and we are not resting on our laurels.

Let me be clear - as a parent, I want to protect the health and safety of our children. While Americans are fortunate that we have a strong regulatory framework to do this, ACC recognises we need improvements that incorporate industry performance, sound science and public accountability.

We believe:

Sound science is the best foundation for effective chemical regulation.

The chemical industry must produce accurate data and assessments but the US EPA must have final authority to decide if a chemical is safe for its intended use.   

ACC must work with government and nongovernmental organisations to develop a clear consensus about scientific criteria and assure the quality of industry’s science.

ACC will work closely with Congress, EPA, and the White House on any proposed legislation to modify the current federal chemical management system.

And I am pleased to note that as we move forward in the U.S., the global chemical industry - under the banner of the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA)  - is implementing and expanding the Responsible Care Global Charter and the Global Product Strategy, crucial programmes which enhance chemicals management and product stewardship across the value chain worldwide.

ACC is proud to fully support this effort.  

As 2008 ends and the New Year begins, it is unclear if the chemical industry is facing a “whole new ballgame”.

But rest assured, we are building a new, more inclusive team with our stakeholders, because new game or old, that’s what it will take to win.

($1 = €0.72)

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