A Graphic Illustration of the Target on the Back of the Chemical Industry

Several days ago I received an e-mail from the press office (press person?) at the Energy Information Administration (EIA). At the time I looked at it, thought “hmm… interesting” and set it aside. Been thinking about it off and on since. The crux of the information was this graphic:













A few thoughts that came to mind immediately were 1) Wow, look what a monster recession did to our industrial energy consumption and 2) That brick-colored stripe is rather tall.

The other two categories of energy consumers aside from industry are residential (people at home), commercial (businesses) and transportation. In 2011, industry was responsible for over 30% of total energy consumption, according to the EIA. Transportation is approximately a similar amount, and residential and commercial users split the rest.

The more I thought about it, though, the more I reflected on basic chemicals’ place in the lifecycle of a finished good – maybe a shampoo, or a carpet or a car – and the chunk of energy use it represents. A branded goods manufacturer that does a lifecycle analysis – say to measure energy use or emissions – would no doubt zero in on chemical inputs as a large contributor to its overall footprint.

Of course, mining and agriculture have their own energy footprints, as shown in the graphic. Obtaining any raw material will bring energy baggage with it.

The graphic also reinforced a message that my C&EN colleague Alex Scott recently wrote about in the magazine. He attended an event in Brussels called the Global Chemical Industry Sustainability Summit. In his report, he writes that chemical industry representatives were chided for their “business-as-usual model” and told that other industries, including customers of the chemical industry, were beginning a trek toward zero targets for things like oil use and CO2 emissions. Should someone hold a similar event in the U.S., this illustration might appear in the presentation.


Author: Melody Bomgardner

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  1. ” Wow, look what a monster recession did to our industrial energy consumption”

    High prices helped a lot as well. Oil prices roughly tripled from the first half of the 00′s to the last few years. Natural gas prices have been all over the place but for a period of several years were very high, driving efficiency improvements. I would say a general atmosphere of energy conciousness has been a factor as well.

  2. This graph is very bad sign for industrial development. Just because of that the prices of commodity are rise suddenly.

  3. Clearly chemical corporations exists to make money. The chemical industry already has a very strong traditional reason to move towards less energy intensive approaches based on its primary motivating factor- profit. Many are looking hard at genetically modified microbes to produce a wide range of chemical products with an eye on reducing cost of manufacture and, of course, less toxic waste to manage. This approach where applicable is a natural win-win.