Developing world is still going to need fossil fuels for decades
The rapidly increasing demand for energy and plastics in the developing world will continue to increase global carbon emissions until about 2030, even though pollution levels are falling in the United States, a top Exxon Mobil executive said Wednesday.As I have said before, Big Green has no alternative to the petrochemical business that is used to make plastics. The petrochemicals are used in making lighter automobiles and other transportation vehicles so even if they went to mostly electric motors they would still need the plastic and rubber.
The world’s expanding middle class, particularly in China and India, is creating demand for plastics and other chemicals that will grow more than 4 percent a year, double the demand growth for energy, Neil Chapman, president of Exxon Mobil Chemical, said at a luncheon of National Association of Manufacturing held at Exxon’s campus here. A large chunk of the chemicals and plastics consumed in Asia will be exported from the Texas Gulf Coast, he said.
Although carbon emissions are declining in the developing world due to increased energy efficiency and renewable power, the rapid growth of the developing world will mean global emissions ticking upward until about 2030 before slowly beginning to fall, he said.
“Climate change is an issue we have to address as a society,” Chapman said. “But, at the same time, there’s 1 billion people without electricity in the world.”
Exxon is investing several billion dollars to increase the production of ethylene and polyethylene – the world’s most common plastic – at its Baytown and Mont Belvieu plants. The project represents Exxon Mobil’s first major U.S. chemical expansion in more than 15 years with completion slated for the second half of 2017.
Exxon also has a joint venture with the Saudi Arabia Basic Industries Corp., known as SABIC. The companies will soon decide whether to build another massive chemical plant in southeastern Texas or Louisiana.
The demand for plastics is largely driven by rising incomes in China and other developing countries, where people are spending more of their money on consumer products, many of them made of or packaged in plastic.