Last week’s UN Conference confirmed that curbs on the production of virgin plastics are clearly on the way. Plastics companies have the technology and expertise needed to make advanced recycling of plastics a major success. They now need to accelerate their commitment if they want to remain a growth industry for the future.
Chemicals and the Economy
The election’s timing could hardly be worse, with Johnson now just a caretaker premier. Russia is threatening food and energy security by cutting fertiliser and gas supplies. The UK should be working very closely with the EU on these critical issues. But instead, we may well see candidates attack the Protocol and the EU to win constituency support.
The history of the 1929 and 2000 downturns suggests the real pain is yet to come. Housing markets look terribly over-valued around the world, as I noted last month. And US consumer sentiment is at all-time lows. So most company earnings seem set to fall, with more than 60% of US CEOs now expecting to see a recession.
Consumer sentiment is already at all-time lows. Rising energy, transport and food prices will likely soon push inflation above 10%, and interest/mortgage rates to 5%+, adding to the risk of a major and long-lasting downturn.
Europe’s plastic industry is at a critical turning point. Profitability is falling as the recession bites. But it cannot just cut back and hunker down. Instead, it has to take a lead in building major new recycling capacity as today’s markets and feedstocks start to disappear.
Essentially, the problem is a timebomb which is set to explode next winter unless governments work together to increase arable planting, establish emergency stocks, and subsidize fertilizer costs whilst gas prices remain at today’s record levels.
Energy and financial markets are exacerbating the risks ahead. Oil prices at current levels – as the chart confirms, they now account for more than 3% of global GDP – have historically led to recession as the chart shows. The reason is that consumers have to cut back on their discretionary spending, which drives economic growth, in order to heat their homes and travel to work and school. Today’s high levels of natural gas prices add to this risk.
This is why we are facing a K-shaped recession. Companies and investors have a difficult time ahead. They not only have to navigate a potentially major downturn. But they also have to completely reposition their portfolios for the New Normal world that will follow.
These are difficult times, and there is no guarantee that they may not get worse. But they also remind us of the critical need to move beyond the Age of Oil, and develop more sustainable energy resources for the future.
2 major events shocked oil markets last week. They marked the start of (a) the endgame for the Age of Oil and (b) the paradigm shift to the Circular Economy and the new Age of Energy Abundance. The new ‘Net Zero by 2050’ report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) was the first shock: It […]