US could waste shale-gas boom without energy policy – Dow's Liveris

08 March 2012 23:19  [Source: ICIS news]

Dow CEO Andrew LiverisHOUSTON (ICIS)--The shale gas boom in the US could go to waste if the country fails to develop a national energy policy, Dow Chemical chief executive Andrew Liveris said on Thursday.

The advent of shale gas has provided the country with growing supplies of low-cost natural gas. This has lowered power costs for manufacturers and provided chemical producers with a cheap source of feedstock.

"There are extraordinary opportunities for the US economy if we can maintain this dominant competitive advantage," Liveris said at the IHS CERAWeek energy conference in Houston.

In years past, manufacturing jobs left the US ­– not because of labour costs ­– but because of energy costs, Liveris said.

Because of shale gas, those jobs are coming back, he said. But Liveris warned against squandering this resource.

"There are some very important questions we have to grapple with, questions that just don't concern individual companies, but the entire economy," Liveris said.

Natural gas could be exported and it could be burned in combustion engines, he said. It could power gas turbines for power or used for chemicals.

"If we take that gas and turn it into higher value products, we can export those at a much higher profit, one that is felt through the entire economy," he said.

"We are all for exporting natural gas," Liveris said. "We just want to see it exported in solid form versus liquid form."

These questions will not answer themselves, he said.

"We cannot just shrug our shoulders and wait for this mythical thing called the market to provide us this wisdom," he said. "Public policy plays a role."

The US needs an energy policy that addresses not just shale gas but all of the nation's energy sources, including oil, nuclear and renewables.

"We risk losing our manufacturing sector just when it is starting to make a comeback," Liveris said.

The policy should address conservation, which Liveris said is often the simplest and most efficient way to reduce energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

The US needs to streamline its regulations, he said. Also, the policy needs to address renewable energy.

"We cannot forget that for all of our companies to maximise and maintain and build on this competitive advantage, we cannot go it alone," he said.

"We cannot afford to view government in one narrow lens, the one that sees government only as an obstacle," Liveris said. "We must see that government is an essential partner in our work. "

IHS CERWeek ends on Friday.

By: Al Greenwood
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