The economic development work of marketing the Shale Crescent USA Region (Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia) has put us on radio across the country. Some shows even had callers asking questions. Here are five major truths important to your business that we have learned:
• Many people have no idea plastic is our first line of defense against COVID-19. Masks, gowns and medical equipment are all plastics products. Single-use plastic bags are now essential.
• Many people have no idea how dependent we have become on imports for these products from places like China.
• Many people do not know U.S. labor cost is now competitive with the world. This is because of advanced U.S. manufacturing and rise of the middle class overseas.
• Many people do not know plastics require petrochemicals. Because of the Shale Revolution, created by horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, the U.S. is the leading natural gas and natural gas liquids producer in the world. Natural gas is important for energy. More important, it is the feedstock for petrochemicals. Nations like China need to import oil or natural gas for their feedstock at a much higher cost than U.S. manufacturers.
• Many people do not know manufacturers in the U.S. have a lower carbon footprint and are more sustainable than most overseas manufacturers. Location close to energy, feedstock and the largest economy in the world make this possible.
At the IHSMarkit Global Plastics Summit in 2017, we met the CEO of a company that turns waste plastic into a construction product. We have become friends. His original concern was to clean up the beaches in his own country. They had success and have expanded in other countries.
We visited their U.S. pilot project last year. On a recent call, the CEO surprised me when he said, "When I got started my plan was to recycle plastic waste, clean up beaches and work to reduce the use plastics. As I worked with the plastics industry, I came to understand all of the important uses for plastic. I now understand we will need to increase our use of plastics. We can also increase reuse. I don't look at used plastic as a waste. It is a valuable feedstock. We have the capability to make that happen."
In Boy Scouts, we learned to leave our campsite better than we found it. This is the concept of conservation. We can create a sustainable economy for plastic.
Products made in the USA are manufactured under U.S. environmental laws. They are more sustainable, less polluting and have a lower carbon footprint than imported products. China must import its feedstock, requiring energy and generating CO2. In Shale Crescent USA, for example, the energy and feedstock are practically under the plant. Consumers are a short drive away, also reducing pollution and cost.
The plastics industry is protecting our front-line health care heroes and saving lives in this pandemic. It is responsible for thousands of products like cellphones, artificial joints, protective clothing, medical equipment, solar panels and automobiles, making modern life possible. It is time to let people know. If not you, then who?