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Q-and-A with Paul Hodges and Kevin Swift
Paul Hodges and Kevin Swift
What should the chemical industry be focused on, in the U.S. and internationally, in 2013?

Paul Hodges, International eChem chairman and ICIS blog writer, and Kevin Swift, chief economist at the American Chemistry Council, offer insight into the key matters facing the industry. Economically, even solving the "fiscal cliff" won't take care of deeper issues, according to Hodges. "My discussions with senior U.S. executives suggest that they see two key issues. One is the short-term threat facing us on Jan. 1, if no agreement is reached. The other is perhaps a more critical issue, which is what the emergence of the 'fiscal cliff' tells us about the deep divisions within U.S. politics," he says.

Meanwhile, unanswered regulatory questions are key to the pace of U.S. development and investment related to the shale gas boom. "The advantages of shale gas on the competitive position of the U.S. chemical industry make the industry a special case, but we aren't immune to this anxiety of the direction of the economy," Swift says. "There are over 50 major projects (valued at over $40 billion) that have been announced" that could be affected by adverse policy and regulation. Read the full interview with Hodges and Swift.
  SmartBrief/SmartBlog on Leadership (12/11)
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Industry Forecast
How do you feel about the coming federal regulatory climate after last week's presidential results?
65%   More pessimistic.
15%   Unchanged, but optimistic.
15%   Unchanged, but pessimistic.
7%   More optimistic.
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Which is most important to developing the next generation of U.S. chemical-industry workers?
47%   All of the above.
31%   Improving the education system, including STEM education.
15%   Bolstering the public image of manufacturing.
9%   Improved competitiveness in a global economy.
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57%   It has not had a noticeable effect.
36%   It has caused uncertainty and/or hampered decision-making.
8%   My company or job isn't affected by TSCA.
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28%   Carbon dioxide or oxygen for water treatment.
26%   Hydrogen or syngas.
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21%   Oxygen for peak shaving or oxidative enrichment.
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ACC Resources
Shale gas to continue to drive manufacturing growth in 2013, despite ongoing economic uncertainty
The American Chemistry Council's Economics Department has released its annual report, the Year-End 2012 Situation & Outlook. This year's report highlights continued benefits of increased access to natural gas for the manufacturing sector, though economic growth is expected to remain well below trend in 2013 due to perceived uncertainties by business. Below is a brief summary of this year's report.

The global recovery stalled in 2012, with Europe slipping back into recession and manufacturing in China slowing sharply. In the U.S., uncertainty about the election, the "fiscal cliff" and the overall pace of recovery curbed growth. More than three years since the official end of the recession, the majority of manufacturing industries remain below their pre-recession peak. But while growth has slowed in the developed countries, emerging market economies continued to expand. In the coming year, growth is expected to accelerate across most regions of the world. As a favorable oil-to-gas price ratio continues in North America, this bodes well for American chemistry as the U.S. emerges as a global low-cost supplier of many petrochemical and plastic products. As balance sheets continue to improve and the nation's shale resources are developed further, chemical producers and other manufacturers are bringing investment back to the United States. This manufacturing renaissance offers huge potential, not only to the millions of American workers it will employ, but to the U.S. economy as a whole.

For 2013, we anticipate exports will grow 4.7%, to $199.7 billion, fueled by renewed competitiveness from shale gas. U.S. chemical output will also likely improve slightly during 2013, growing 1.9%, driven largely by plastic resins, a key component of the export market.

The Year-End Situation and Outlook is the association's annual review of the U.S. and global business of chemistry. It is used as a resource by a variety of industry participants, including chemical manufacturers and distribution companies, investment banks, consulting firms, governments, libraries and others seeking current analyses of economic trends information. If you would like to receive a copy of this report, please visit ACC's website.

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