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Taking care of the planet for people

This past week I attended the World Petrochemical Conference, virtually.

Normally our Shale Crescent USA Team would have been in Houston, Texas, with our booth set up and networking with people from all over the world. The decision was made by IHSMarkit months ago in the middle of the pandemic to hold this year’s WPC virtually.

The downside of a virtual meeting is losing our ability to meet and engage with companies who could come here and expand in this region bringing high wage jobs. I was able to reconnect to people from companies interested in coming here who we met at previous conferences.

Thanks to a friend at IHSMarkit, we were able to make a couple of new virtual contacts.

The quality of the presentations, I believe, was better than the typical live conference.

Speakers were live from all over the world. Most were at the executive level and would not have been able to fly to the USA and take a week out of their schedule to come and speak.

They presented right from their office.

Many of the talks were panel discussions with the panel coming from four different continents in different time zones.

When it was 10 AM here it was 2 a.m. in Tokyo and 4 p.m. in much of Europe. We are a global community.

There was a lot of discussion about sustainability and decarbonization throughout the meeting. Companies appear to be serious about significantly reducing carbon footprint and eliminating plastic waste.

There is a serious move to more electrification and away from fossil fuels for transportation and power.

Europe is leading the way.

One of the presentations was a panel of Europeans talking about reducing carbon from agriculture. Europe’s goal is a 50% reduction of fertilizer and pesticides by farmers.

I couldn’t contain myself. My undergraduate degree is in agricultural engineering.

My wife, Lynnda grew up on a farm in Michigan where I got hands-on agricultural experience of baling hay, cleaning stalls and spreading manure on weekends. From the chat box my question to the four experts was, “This may reduce carbon emissions but have you looked at what this would do to the production and the cost of food for the people of Europe?”

The response was, “No we haven’t. The agricultural ministers of all the European counties are concerned but they have no input. The USDA did a study showing if this was instituted globally it would leave 185 million people without food.”

WHAT?

The United States has a population of 330 million people. Imagine having the equivalent of over half our country without food. What are they thinking?

My question created a lively discussion. The focus was on carbon reduction but they had never stopped to think about why. The only reason to reduce carbon and global carbon dioxide is to benefit people.

Their focus was meeting a government set target. They never asked the question, Is it worth killing 185 million people? Or If we do this what will it mean to the average European?

My agricultural engineering friends at Ohio State University have a carbon reduction solution that saves farmers money and improves production. OSU is working to implement it.

The European governments didn’t like it. Maybe because it wasn’t their idea.

Our electric bill for a cold February was a shocking $600. The good news is we had electricity 24/7. We stayed warm. Our pipes didn’t freeze.

The other good news is we don’t live in New England or California where our bill would have been $1,000. This is an indication of where our electric rates will go with more renewables in the mix like California or Germany. Some people expected lower electric rates with the move to renewables because the wind and sun are free. Renewables need a dependable back up power source at night and when the wind isn’t blowing, an added cost consumers must pay. Renewables don’t work well at temperature extremes when we need electricity the most. I don’t care how our electricity is generated. I just want it to be available and economical. Industry looking to locate here and create jobs expects the same thing, reliable and economic electricity

Batteries were another topic of discussion at WPC. They are a petrochemical product. We are seeing great progress in battery technology but batteries won’t keep our heat on at night. For electric vehicles batteries need to be lighter and store more power. Demand for batteries and the critical chemicals to make them like lithium and cobalt have increased 7-fold. This is putting more pressure on places like the Congo that currently use children in the mining process. It is also putting pressure on wild life habitat.

Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and founder of Microsoft was one of our speakers. He is focused on net zero carbon by 2050 and one of the few people who understand we can’t destroy people’s lives in the process. Gates commented, “The grid must remain reliable. People don’t want to pay more for (green) electricity. This won’t be easy. With increasing population and more electrification, we will need more electricity. Current proposed solutions won’t get us there. It will require new technologies and working with industries like oil and gas who know how to implement solutions.”

It is important to take care of the planet so it can take care of us. Cleaning up the planet can’t force people into poverty or starvation. Leaders in government, industry and the environmental movement must always ask the question, What will this target or solution mean for everyday people?

At Shale Crescent USA our work shows bringing clean advanced manufacturing into our region creates high wage jobs and raises the standard of living for people living here. It also lowers global pollution and carbon footprint. What other solutions can we achieve by working together?

Greg Kozera, gkozera@shalecrescentusa.com, is the director of marketing and sales for Shale Crescent USA. He is a professional engineer with a master’s in environmental engineering who has over 40 years’ experience in the energy industry. He is a professional speaker and author of four books and numerous published articles.

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