in this issue
Environmental Progress, The Chemicals Industry, and Earth Day
2:16 AM MDT | April 22, 2009 | By CAL DOOLEY, PRESIDENT AND CEO OF AMERICAN CHEMISTRY COUNCIL
The values that encompass Earth Day are the same values that chemistry companies embrace on a daily basis. The industry’s commitment to continuous improvement and innovation is in line with President Obama’s call for cleaner, more efficient energy sources, and it helps provide solutions that keep
As Americans celebrate Earth Day, which occurs April 22, many are simply unaware of the vital and unique connection between the business of chemistry and environmental sustainability. With Congress and President Obama increasingly focused on boosting production of green energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the chemistry industry is a major contributor towards meeting those crucial goals.
When it comes to confronting the serious challenges of clean air and energy conservation this industry is a leader. How? By using innovative solutions to develop new technologies that enable energy savings and reduce emissions, while greening the environment through the products created by chemistry.
For example, our scientists and engineers develop materials that answer President Obama’s call for greater energy efficiency. Take the typical home. Plastics and chemistry used in home insulation dramatically reduce energy loss, and the chemistry in compact fluorescent light bulbs help them use 70% less energy than conventional light bulbs and last up to 20 times longer.
Similarly, our energy-saving materials are used by the automotive industry to make cars and trucks more energy efficient. Every pound of plastics and composites used to lighten an automobile produces two to three pounds of weight savings in the vehicle. In addition, the chemicals which contribute to “low rolling resistance” tires help increase fuel efficiency. These technologies contribute to enhanced performance, which leads to better fuel economy and less environmental impact.
As the push for green energy production increases, likewise do the contributions of American chemistry. At the heart of most solar energy panels is a series of high-purity silicon solar cells – small, interconnected energy-generating units. Most all solar cells are produced from the chemical element silicon, and chlorine chemistry is essential to purifying silicon used to make those solar cells. Wind turbines and lithium-ion batteries, too, are chemistry-intensive.
Leading by example, the chemistry industry takes a serious view of its own energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions. Member companies of the American Chemistry Council (ACC) have improved their energy efficiency by more than half since 1974, and nearly 28% since 1990. The chemical industry’s greenhouse gas emissions have fallen 13% in absolute terms since 1990, a reduction that would have exceeded the Kyoto Protocol target. Our member companies report their energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions data, and we in turn report the aggregate performance to the public (the only industry group to do so).
When it comes to reducing emissions, ACC members also provide regular progress reports. And in the past 20 years, they have reduced environmental emissions by more than 75% – while chemistry products such as activated carbon are used to filter water and clean air.
These are just a few examples of the chemistry industry’s environmental progress. But they won’t be the last.