‘In addition to potential health concerns, most of the talk about the shale gas boom so far has focused on what it will or won’t do for America’s energy needs. But an important side conversation is now taking place among companies that rely on this fossil fuel for other purposes. Natural gas contains many of the vital raw materials that are used to manufacture plastics and chemicals. The new tide of cheap natural gas has launched the petrochemical industry on the biggest building spree it has seen in many years, with many experts predicting enormous increases in production of those plastics most often used in consumer packaging and single-use products.
The shale boom, in other words, has been a game-changer for the plastics industry. Just a few years ago, domestic gas prices were so high that U.S. companies were struggling to compete against producers in Asia and the Middle East, and were shutting down or shrinking their plants. Nowadays the United States is one of the cheapest places in the world to make plastic, according to Joseph Chang, global editor of ICIS Chemical Business. The petrochemical industry is ecstatic.’