01 January 2014 16:00 [Source: ICIS news]
Editor’s note: This article is an opinion piece, and the views expressed are those of the author and do not represent those of ICIS.
By Cal Dooley, president and CEO,
American Chemistry Council
The business of chemistry was one of the bright spots in the US economy in 2013, and it is clear that the best is yet to come.
Our industry expanded despite weakness in key export markets, government shutdowns and spending cuts that were a drag on our economy. Chemical industry employment is growing again, and our tally of announced chemical industry investments, which will bring tens of thousands of jobs to states across the country, including those hardest hit by the recession, has grown from 97 projects valued at $72bn to 136 projects worth $91bn, in just nine months – thanks to our unrivaled ability to capitalise on increased supplies of natural gas from shale.
The American Chemistry Council (ACC) and our members are committed to strengthening our foundation for success in 2014, including advocating for “all-of-the-above” energy legislation, supporting comprehensive free trade agreements and maintaining strong momentum for meaningful reform of federal chemical safety laws, which continues to be our top priority.
The year 2013 was a landmark one in terms of moving closer to achieving our goal of updating the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Last May, the late Senator Frank Lautenberg (Democrat-New Jersey) along with Senator David Vitter (Republican-Louisiana) introduced breakthrough, bipartisan compromise legislation to update TSCA.
The Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA), as it is called, has attracted unprecedented support from an equal number of Senate Democrats and Republicans. That’s because the bill is designed to improve safety while at the same time preserving the ability of American manufacturers to develop new, life-changing innovations and compete in the global marketplace.
The comprehensive, balanced and bipartisan CSIA is something that I could not have foreseen when I wrote my previous column just over a year ago. In 2014, I am hopeful that, with a true commitment to reform from both sides, we can build on the momentum gained this year and work through any remaining concerns so Congress can pass legislation that all stakeholders can support.
As we continue to advance TSCA reform, we are also working with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and others to get federal chemical risk assessment programmes back on track so that they deliver scientifically credible results.
Despite some progress this year under the leadership of EPA’s environmental assessment director Dr Kenneth Olden, there are many fundamental issues regarding transparency, credibility and efficiency that still need to be addressed with the EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) and the NIEHS Report on Carcinogens (RoC). Advocating for the reform of these federal chemical assessment programs will remain an important priority for ACC in 2014.
ACC and our members continued to show strong support for free and open rules-based international trade in 2013. In February, we released a report, Keys to Export Growth for the Chemical Sector, which identified five core areas that would enable our industry to increase exports and contribute to a stronger, more competitive America.
In the report, we recommended key changes to trade, energy, tax, regulatory and transportation policy, which we found would lead to more than $58bn in potential export growth in the chemical sector alone.
The ACC and our members continue to support President Barack Obama and US Trade Representative Michael Froman as they work to finalise negotiations on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP).
Europe remains one of the US chemical industry’s largest markets; two-way trade in chemicals across the Atlantic totalled more than $51bn in 2012. In our Keys to Export Growth report, we noted that the reduction or elimination of transatlantic barriers to trade of chemicals would result in a significant expansion of US chemical exports, capitalising on the enhanced competitiveness of US chemical manufacturers due to increased supplies of low-cost shale gas.
The ACC report also noted that enhanced regulatory cooperation under T-TIP has the potential to significantly reduce costs for governments and industry – generating upwards of $2bn in additional economic output for the US chemical industry alone. Next year, we plan to continue advocating for closer regulatory cooperation between the US and EU in order to create efficiencies within and between regulatory systems while maintaining high levels of protection for human health and the environment. As we have made clear before, our goal is not to undermine or weaken existing regulatory mandates, but to ensure that those mandates do not result in unnecessary barriers to trade.
The ACC’s “From Chemistry to Energy” campaign completed its second successful year in 2013, calling for a true “all-of-the-above” energy policy that maximizes all of America’s energy resources. When we started the campaign in 2011, the potential of shale gas was just starting to be realised. This year, evidence of significant new investments and a US manufacturing renaissance made possible by shale gas could not be more apparent.
With great respect to our European friends, the US has had the good fortune of becoming the most attractive place in the world to invest in chemical manufacturing, thanks to home-grown natural gas. About 54% of the $91bn in anticipated industry investment comes from companies based abroad. But realising this tremendous economic potential requires the right policies.
As for 2014, we will continue to advocate for avoiding unreasonable restrictions on production, keeping states in charge and facilitating the building of infrastructure to transport energy supplies to manufacturing facilities. We also will continue to support comprehensive energy legislation that incorporates all energy resources, including natural gas, coal, oil, nuclear power, alternatives and renewables; to encourage the adoption of energy-efficiency solutions, including the passage of federal energy efficiency legislation already on the table; and to support diverse new energy sources, such as energy recovery from non-recycled plastics.
The new year undoubtedly will be another year of tremendous opportunity for our industry. In addition to focusing on these three critical areas, we are making plans to advance other key interests in Washington on behalf of our members, including tax reform, chemical facility safety and security, and rail and environmental regulation. Our aggressive advocacy in state capitals will remain in full force as well.
As always, we look forward to working closely with our members, Congress and state government leaders across the country to make 2014 another landmark year for the US business of chemistry.
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