For the past 20 years, the chemical industry has been making steady progress in improving its environmental, health and safety performance. More recently, security has been added to the list of key items covered by the voluntary Responsible Care initiative, which covers c90% of chemical production.
Now, however, this enormously important activity has moved into the political spotlight, following the attack by President Obama on BP's CEO, Tony Hayward, where he said he knew "whose ass to kick" and added "He wouldn't be working for me".
In the public mind, of course, oil and chemicals are closely linked. Even more unfortunate is the connection being made with the problems in the banking sector, with 'self-regulation' seen as the underlying cause in both areas. So it is most unlikely that vote-seeking politicians, or nervous regulators, will seek to draw distinctions when legislating in response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
It is almost inevitable, therefore, that we will see greater regulation on chemicals manufacture as a result of Deepwater Horizon. This will impact innovation, as well as increasing costs.