Review of the Economic Breakfast Held in March
As the economy begins to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, refining and petrochemicals are making a comeback. At the Economic Forecast breakfast on March 11th, Ray Perryman, renowned and nationally known, Baylor Economist, indicated that Americans driving patterns are returning to normal and it is just in time for spring break. Gasoline prices have gone up at least $.30 in the last month. According to Perryman, 2021 will end with economic growth for Southeast Texas.
With a new administration in Washington, renewable energies are a big topic of conversation. Get ready to hear new words like carbon reduction, carbon storage, carbon capture and improved carbon utilization. I suspect that the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) and therefore Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) will soon create and fund a voluntary program that addresses Carbon Emissions Reduction Plan through grants and rebates similar to the Texas Emission Reduction Plan (TERP).
At the forefront of this emphasis on carbon, right in our own backyard, is Lamar University and Department of Chemical Engineering, Dr. Daniel Chen are uniquely positioned to gain research dollars to become an expert in this field. As Dr. Tip Meckel, University of Texas Austin, Bureau of Economic Geology, has mentioned to me and Jeff Hayes, on more than one occasion, Port Arthur is the perfect place to lead the way with carbon reduction, recapture, storage, and improved utilization. The management of industrial carbon dioxide emissions is a topic of broad conversation currently and is likely to play a significant role in future policy discussions. I encourage the refineries, petrochemicals, and chemicals industries to partner with Dr. Chen and Lamar University to lead this effort both nationally and internationally.
At the end of the economic forecast breakfast, County Judges Jeff Branick (Jefferson County), John Gothia (Orange County) and Wayne McDaniel (Hardin County) gave an update and a recap on what the last year has been like in county government with the COVID-19 pandemic and facing two hurricanes’ weeks apart last year.
In closing, the breakfast’s most significant take away that I took from this event and was no surprise to me, having spent much of my career in refining and petrochemicals. Ray Perryman ended his speech by putting Southeast Texans’ minds at ease, by indicating that although much is planned in the years to come, centered around renewable energy, Southeast Texas’ refineries, and petrochemicals should still be growth industries in our lifetime and beyond.
My final commentary is that clearly there will be some refineries and petrochemical plants who will not survive these changes and transitions, others will be bought out, others revamped, and new synergies will come to fruition. None of this is new to a capitalistic society such as ours, nor new to us in Southeast Texas.
Our chamber’s goal is to try to make sure that we do everything in our power to support all our industries in this community, however as it relates to all our industrial plants, is to ensure that our abundance of refiners, petrochemicals, and chemicals plants, will be the last ones standing at the end of this ride.