Ten years ago, North America was considered a “mature region” for the petrochemical industry as most investment and opportunity shifted to the growing markets in Asia and the Middle East.
What a difference a decade makes, as was demonstrated today in Baytown, Texas.
Thanks to the shale energy revolution that has produced a bounty of new oil and natural gas supplies, American manufacturing is back, particularly for petrochemicals. And nowhere is this renaissance clearer than along the Texas Gulf Coast.
This morning a multitude of state and local officials and other dignitaries gathered for a ceremony to celebrate the start of construction of a multi-billion dollar expansion of ExxonMobil’s Baytown chemical facility. Over the coming years this project will energize the entire regional economy of Houston and southeast Texas.
The statistics bear mention:
- 10,000 construction jobs generated during the building of a new world-class ethylene cracker and units for processing polyethylene
- Economists predict approximately 4,000 new permanent jobs will be created throughout the community
- 350 permanent new jobs at the Baytown complex. (“That’s an exciting number,” says a local real estate agent interviewed for this video. “I’d love to sell all 350 of them a house!”)
- About $90 million annually in local tax revenue
- An estimated economic benefit to the region of nearly $1 billion per year
Let’s dwell on that last point, because it is so extraordinary. The greater Houston region will be receiving a nearly $1 billion dollar boost to its economy every single year thanks to this ExxonMobil investment.
That works out to be a $1 billion dollar annual stimulus that would otherwise not exist were it not for the innovation and investment of the American oil and gas industry. $1 billion per year, every year going forward.
Someone who recognizes the connection between increasing domestic energy supplies and the new economic activity taking place on the Gulf Coast is U.S. Rep. Gene Green, one of the top Democrats on the Environment and the Economy subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Speaking at today’s event, the congressman noted, “The U.S. is experiencing a manufacturing renaissance that is a result of our energy production. Major facilities, like this one, are being sited and built in the U.S. because of the low-cost feedstock available.”
The lesson, Rep. Green concluded, is that “energy production needs to be encouraged in a way that is responsible and considers the needs and input of all key stakeholders.”
I couldn’t agree more.
As the Environmental Protection Agency noted recently when issuing final permits for ExxonMobil’s Baytown expansion: “These projects show that economic development and environmental protection can go hand-in-hand.”
That’s the case in more ways than one.
ExxonMobil Chemical Company president Steve Pryor pointed out, “We will not only manufacture these advanced plastics responsibly, but the products themselves will help our customers reduce their environmental impact. They will use our advanced plastics to make stronger, thinner packaging that reduces energy consumption, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and reduces waste.”
Steve said that in his more than four decades with ExxonMobil, he has never seen a project that offers a better economic and environmental story.
That’s certainly cause for celebration along the Gulf.