Chemical industry leads energy savings drive – VCI chief

26 March 2009 19:42  [Source: ICIS news]

TORONTO (ICIS news)--Germany's chemical producers are leading the drive towards energy savings and efficiencies, Ulrich Lehner, head of the country's chemical industry association VCI, said on Thursday.

Chemical products helped customers save far more energy and greenhouse gas emissions than were generated in making those products, Lehner said in a speech to delegates at an energy forum in Berlin.

In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, chemical products helped save up to five times the emissions that were caused in their production, translating into a huge overall reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, Lehner said.

Lehner outlined three end markets for chemicals and plastics - cars, houses and detergents – to make his point.

The use of light plastics materials in the car industry had tripled over the past 30 years, translating into annual fuel savings of 500m litres, equivalent to 1.3m tonnes of CO2 emissions, in Germany alone, he said, citing a study by research institute Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft.

In construction, chemical and plastics-based insulation products helped households achieve large savings on their heating costs, Lehner said.

Another example were detergents, where enzymes and related biotechnical processes had made it possible to wash clothes at much lower temperatures than before, translating into big energy savings for consumers.

At the same time, the highly energy-intensive chemicals industry had managed to drastically reduce its own energy use and greenhouse gas emissions over the years, Lehner said.

In fact, companies had “de-coupled” production growth from energy use, he said.

While chemical production grew 43% from 1990 to 2006, the industry managed to cut energy use by 27% and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45% during that period, Lehner said.

Lehner also reiterated VCI’s earlier warning of additional high costs Germany’s chemical producers were facing after 2013 from the EU’s emissions trading scheme

He warned of costs of €900m ($1.2bn) by 2013 and at least €1.2bn by 2020. This compares with VCI’s previous estimate, from before the EU’s emissions compromise in December, of €1.0bn by 2013 and €2.0bn by 2020.

“We remain convinced that the immense sums of money we have to pay for emissions certificates are better used for research and development by the industry, that would achieve better results for climate protection,” Lehner said.

($1 = €0.74)

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By: Stefan Baumgarten
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