Posted July 8, 2016
OK, acknowledging right up front that the basic purpose of a blog post is to provide information and analysis – not to ask you questions – a quick quiz:
This little exercise illustrates a simple fact: chemicals are key building blocks to everyday modern living. Many, many more chemicals go into plastics, medicines and other products that make life more comfortable, safer and healthier. On the American Chemistry Council (ACC) blog, Dr. Thomas Kevin Swift writes:
Chemistry: It’s in everything – from air and water, to the products and technologies we use every day – and is essential to our everyday lives. Life-saving medicines, clean drinking water, protective packaging materials, stronger adhesives, lightweight automobile parts and more durable and safer tires are only a few of the thousands of innovative products of the business of chemistry. In fact, over 96% of all manufactured goods are directly touched by chemistry.
Now our point: Underlying chemistry, a good deal of it, are oil and natural gas. The chemicals in our quiz above all come from a single chain headed by ethane. And ethane comes from natural gas/petroleum – as this ACC infographic shows:
The short takeaway is that we use chemicals and products made from chemicals every day – and lots of chemicals are derived from oil and natural gas. And also natural gas liquids. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), natural gas liquids – a co-product of natural gas and crude oil – are used to make lots of things, as EIA’s table shows:
It’s difficult to pull on a garment, lace up a pair of sneakers, store kitchen leftovers, build a home – and on and on and on – without involving chemicals from oil and gas.
In addition, America’s chemical industry is a significant part of the U.S. economy. ACC says the chemical industry is a $797 billion business, supporting 26 percent of U.S. GDP and 14 percent of exports. Another ACC infographic:
Chemicals are particularly vital to U.S. manufacturing. The growth of domestic natural gas production has boosted the manufacturing sector – both as an operational fuel and as a feedstock for various processes and/or the chemicals manufacturers need. In turn, the manufacturing sector creates jobs and economic growth. ACC from earlier this year:
Natural gas continues to play a starring role in our nation’s energy story, revitalizing the chemistry industry and spurring manufacturing growth. Just yesterday, Royal Dutch Shell announced that Shell Chemical Appalachia LLC has taken the final investment decision to build a major petrochemical complex, comprising an ethylene cracker with polyethylene derivatives unit, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “Today’s exciting news is another sign that a renaissance in American chemistry is underway. … Our competitive edge will mean new jobs and exports and a stronger manufacturing sector for years to come.” – Cal Dooley, ACC president and CEO.
Abundant, affordable, clean-burning natural gas help the United States attract chemicals and plastics manufacturers. ACC says as of April 2016, 264 U.S. chemical industry projects valued at $164 billion had been announced.
So, for critically important industrial sectors, for the economy and for our modern lives – including that soft carpet underfoot – think chemicals … then think energy.
Quiz answers: polystyrene-insulation; ethylene glycol-carpet fibers; polyvinyl chloride-plumbing pipe.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.