API’s Jack Gerard sees an ‘abundance of opportunity’ in American energy; how can chemistry help bring us there?

“When we look at all our domestic energy options – fossil fuels, nuclear energy, renewable and alternative energy sources such as biofuels – we see a nation with an abundance of opportunity for growth,” said American Petroleum Institute (API) president Jack Gerard in a speech Wednesday at the association’s second annual State of American Energy conference.

While providing an updated report America’s energy security, Gerard also unveiled a nationwide advocacy campaign, “Vote 4 Energy,” designed to help Americans appreciate what’s at stake in the energy debate, and why energy issues should figure prominently in how they vote in 2012.  The campaign kicks into full gear this month.

The overarching theme of the State of American Energy report continues to be that economic growth, job creation and energy security go hand in hand – they are “inextricably linked,” as Gerard put it in his 2011 speech. In 2009 alone, for example, the industry supported $1.1 trillion in U.S. economic activity — or 7.7 percent of America’s gross domestic product. That’s why policies in 2012 must embrace this relationship rather than break it apart.

But there one more important connection to make here – one that Gerard himself touched on in his speech.

Chemistry helps to unlock that energy while at the same time driving economic growth. For example, chemistry has helped make it possible for America to tap into vast natural gas reserves previously locked away in tight shale gas formations underground. The chemistry industry itself relies on natural gas to make the essential building blocks that go into the life-saving and life-enhancing products we use everyday.

Industries beyond chemistry stand to benefit from the shale gas revolution as well. As Gerard noted, the availability of clean, efficient and affordable domestic natural gas supplies is spurring a manufacturing renaissance – one in which American businesses become stronger, more competitive and create more jobs at home.

Gerard pointed out that natural gas from shale has already helped some cities and towns, hit hardest by the unemployment crisis, to get back on their feet. West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania are currently competing for the opportunity to build an ethane cracker in their state, potentially bringing a world of benefits to each state’s economy, including thousands of new jobs in the chemical industry and supplier industries, millions or billions in wages for those workers, and millions more in state revenues.

Build a couple of ethane crackers or expand existing capacity in a few more struggling states, and you start to grow a more secure nation.

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