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Will shale gas fuel a manufacturing boom?

By: Don Loepp

January 9, 2013

Shale gas continues to attract attention in the popular and business press. As usual, the stories seem to follow one of two arcs: either that hydraulic fracturing will be a boon to the U.S. economy, or that it will devastate the environment.

Today's example is a story from from MIT Technology Review: "Shale Gas Will Fuel a U.S. Manufacturing Boom."

The story jumps on a plastics angle right away, although that's not the emphasis. Here's the first graph:

"People predicting a manufacturing renaissance in the United States usually imagine whirring robots or advanced factories turning out wind turbines and solar panels. The real American edge might be in something entirely more mundane: cheap starting materials for plastic bottles and plastic bags."

The other snippet of news: the story quotes Michael Levi, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, saying that cheap natural gas may not actually fuel a U.S. manufacturing boom, but it might be enough to keep any more work from moving offshore.

"Cheap natural gas might do more to keep existing manufacturing plants open than it will to get people to build new ones," Levi said.

The story doesn't cover new ground, but it's interesting to note what others are saying about the plastics industry.