Michael Bloomberg just announced that he’s funding an $85 million campaign to stop petrochemical manufacturing in the United States. Excuse me while I slam my head repeatedly into my petrochemical-derived keyboard.
Beyond Petrochemicals will block the expansion of more than 120 proposed petrochemical and plastic projects concentrated in three target geographies – Louisiana, Texas and the Ohio River Valley.

— Bloomberg Philanthropies

It’s hard to watch a man who owns six private jets spend millions of dollars on an effort that would:

  • Make everyday products more expensive
  • Increase carbon emissions
  • Destroy high-paying jobs
  • Send manufacturing overseas, and
  • Prevent America from building

Let’s dive into each of these:

Make everyday products more expensive
Petrochemicals are the building blocks for plastics, resins, solvents, advanced polymers and even carbon fiber. Food packaging, clothes, medical equipment, cars, boats, toys and makeup—just to name a few—are all made from petrochemical-derived materials. If you limit petrochemical manufacturing, prices will increase and so will the cost of anything that is made from petrochemicals…basically everything.

Increase carbon emissions
Michael Bloomberg probably doesn’t realize that petrochemical-based materials usually have significantly lower lifecycle GHG emissions than alternatives. A paper grocery bag, for example, is responsible for five times the GHG emissions of a plastic bag. Natural rubber is almost thirteen times more carbon intensive than synthetic. By volume, electric vehicles are more than 50% petrochemicals. Throughout the entire vehicle fleet, petrochemicals and plastics reduce vehicle weight and improve fuel economy. Solar panels, wind turbines and water treatment rely heavily on petrochemicals. Moving to alternatives without considering their real life-cycle impact isn’t better for the environment or our climate.

Destroy high-paying jobs
The Bloomberg campaign wants to stop 120 petrochemical and plastics manufacturing projects—projects that would support thousands of jobs in one of the best-paying industries in the world. Shouldn’t we want more jobs like this?

Send manufacturing overseas
Petrochemicals are part of a global market. If we can’t produce them here in the United States, other countries like China, India and Saudi Arabia will. In fact, they’re actively building out and investing in their petrochemical industries. The U.S. petrochemical industry has the highest safety standards and best environmental records in the world. It is better for the planet that we manufacture petrochemicals here.

Prevent America from building
America needs to build. Right now, the United States is experiencing an acute housing shortage and an overwhelmed electricity grid. We have sky-high home prices and rolling blackouts in multiple states. We need homes and we need reliable energy infrastructure…and we can’t build either of those things without an abundant, reliable supply of petrochemicals and refined products. Transmission lines, turbines, plumbing, siding, windows, fasteners and more depend on petrochemical manufacturing.

None of this means that we can ignore the very real problem of plastic waste in the environment. The petrochemical industry has invested billions of dollars in advanced recycling technologies that, along with common-sense regulatory reforms, can help reduce plastic waste (more on this in our next newsletter).

The petrochemical industry has an essential role to play in meeting the needs of a growing world while also making energy and manufacturing even cleaner. Petrochemicals and plastics are not “a major threat to public health and the environment.” Petrochemicals are the building blocks of modern life and future progress.

- Charlie and the AFPM EMPOWER Team

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