China freezes energy costs, bans plastic bags

Reaction to $100 oil has been swift. Yesterday, the Chinese State Council decided to freeze the prices of oil products, natural gas and electricity, as well as public transportation. A measure of the government’s concern is that the meeting to approve the freeze was attended by premier Wen Jiabao.

Chinese inflation is now at 6.9% and the Council noted that ‘China faces relatively large pressures of further price increases (as) prices of crude oil, grains and other primary products are still rising on the international market’.

So as expected, $100 oil prices are already having an impact on psychology. The Chinese government has been most aggressive in searching for new sources of oil imports. But even they are now starting to worry about the implications of unlimited consumption of oil and oil-based products.

Earlier this week, the State Council also announced a decision to ban ultra-thin plastic bags, and to charge customers for thicker plastic bags. China uses around 3bn plastic bags a year, which requires 37m bbls of crude per year. But even if the ban is totally successful, it will save less than two days of total oil consumption.

If major energy importers such as China have decided to prioritise oil use, and have started by banning plastic bags, what other petchem products will be next affected? And if other countries follow this lead, what will be the impact on petchem demand generally?

About Paul Hodges

Paul Hodges is Chairman of International eChem, trusted commercial advisers to the global chemical industry. The aim of this blog is to share ideas about the influences that may shape the chemical industry over the next 12 – 18 months. It will try to look behind today’s headlines, to understand what may happen next in important issues such oil prices, economic growth and the environment. We may also have some fun, investigating a few of the more offbeat events that take place from time to time. Please do join me and share your thoughts. Between us, we will hopefully develop useful insights into the key factors that will drive the industry's future performance.

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