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Post-Elections: Chemical Industry More Confident in U.S. Gas Growth

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) added its voice Monday to the growing chorus of major business sector representatives praising the outcome of last Tuesday's midterm elections as being good for future growth in the U.S. energy sector and the economy overall.

Cal Dooley, ACC's CEO and a former seven-term House of Representatives member from California, said in a conference call with news media that the political landscape should be "positive for continued growth," which is critical for the U.S. chemical industry that is poised for its biggest growth domestically in nearly a half century.

The industry is looking at more than $100 billion in new capital projects, driven largely by the boom in shale natural gas and oil, Dooley said.

In response to a question from NGI about whether the ACC is now more confident that the growth in U.S. natural gas supplies will continue, Dooley said the new makeup of Congress "further strengthens the congressional support for the environmentally responsible development of natural gas and oil."

He added that even though some local bans on oil/gas development were an offshoot of the midterm elections, there is a "generally [a] more favorable political environment for the further development of natural gas from shale in almost all of the states." The few local municipal restrictions are more centered on "land-use issues confined to very small geographic areas, and in their totality are not a significant impediment to major development of natural gas."

In response to questions about related energy issues, such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports and pending U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) greenhouse gas emissions standards for power plants, Dooley said the marketplace should decide how large the LNG exports will eventually be, and a political compromise will need to be worked out on the EPA regulations, but he doesn't see the new Congress trying to overturn them entirely.

"As one of the most energy intensive industries, energy costs are very important, so we are part of a coalition looking for ways to make sure the EPA regulations are implemented in a manner that gives the flexibility and time that the generators need to make the transition," Dooley said. "We are also concerned about some potential impacts in the marketplace resulting from accelerated fuel switching that might have some temporary impacts in elevating the costs of natural gas and natural gas liquids, which are very important feedstocks for us."

Regarding possible legislation on LNG exports, Dooley said ACC will be convening a meeting of a group of its member companies to look at future legislative possibilities for the next Congress. "Our policy is to embrace free-trade principles consistent with our obligations, and that includes plastics or chemicals being exported, or as it pertains to LNG," he said. "We think it is important for us to be consistent in our support of free trade.

"But we support the idea that you couple the free-trade principles with a commitment to fully develop domestic energy supplies so you can mitigate any supply/demand impacts that could have serious consequences for domestic prices for natural gas feedstock."

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