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The importance of refining and petrochemical manufacturing

And Americans know that products produced from petrochemicals are essential to modern life. Petrochemicals are used to manufacture just about everything not made of wood, plants, other living things or metal. These products include everything made of plastic, medicines and medical devices, cosmetics, furniture, appliances, TVs and radios, computers, parts used in every mode of transportation, solar power panels and wind turbines.

I’ve been saying these things for a long time, and now there’s new evidence to back up my points. A recent poll conducted for NPRA, the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association, found that 90 percent of Americans believe our nation’s petroleum refineries and petrochemical manufacturing plants are among America’s “most important” or “important” industries.

This is because Americans who drive to work in cars and trucks powered by gasoline and diesel and spend their days surrounded by thousands of products made with petrochemicals realize that America’s fuels and petrochemical manufacturers play a vital role in their lives every day.

A total of 44 percent of Americans believe the refining and petrochemical sectors are “among the country’s most important industries,” while 46 percent consider the sectors “among the country’s important industries,” according to the poll conducted for NPRA by Opinion Research Corporation.

When asked what they associated with the refining and petrochemical sectors, and allowed to give multiple responses, those polled listed: oil, gas or fuel (76 percent); critical to America’s competiveness (67 percent); manufacturing (64 percent); science and high tech (62 percent); and keystone to other U.S. industries (57 percent).

The poll surveyed 1,000 adults and was demographically and geographically proportioned to accurately reflect the opinions of all adults in the nation based on the latest U.S. Census figures. The poll has a margin of error of 3.1 percent.

Just as “there’s no such thing as a free lunch,” there’s no such thing as an energy source or a source for the building blocks of other products that is free of downsides – and every American grounded in reality knows that.

For example, electric-powered vehicles – touted as “the next big thing” for more than 100 years – are expensive, have limited range, require rare earth minerals produced almost exclusively in China, and lack a nationwide refueling infrastructure.

Electric vehicles now get a taxpayer-funded subsidy of up to $7,500 each, and owners get a $2,000 tax credit for installing a home charging station. If the owners of all of the approximately 250 million passenger vehicles in the United Sates received these big subsidies the cost to taxpayers would top $2 trillion – an amount our deficit-plagued federal government simply could not afford.

In another example, a move by the Environmental Protection Agency to increase the amount of ethanol in gasoline to reduce petroleum consumption has drawn criticism from environmentalists, poultry and meat producers, the boating industry, automakers, outdoor power equipment manufacturers, motorcyclists, snowmobilers, fuel manufacturers and others.

These groups have raised concerns about harm that the increased use of ethanol could cause to engines and to the environment, and about increases in food prices caused by the diversion of growing amounts of corn from the food supply to the fuel supply.

And despite efforts to come up with alternatives, people around the world continue to rely on petrochemicals because they have a proven record of versatility, affordability and reliability.

The results of the NPRA poll show that our nation’s citizens understand that NPRA members strengthen America’s national and economic security, preserve high-tech American manufacturing jobs, and efficiently produce fuels and petrochemicals that benefit every American every day.

The reality is that fuels and other refined petroleum products and petrochemicals can and must continue playing a critical role in building a stronger, more prosperous America and in improving the lives of American families.

Charles T. Drevna is president of NPRA, the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association.


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