Published June 2006
Energy and basic hydrocarbon raw materials are important, integral materials for the chemical and related industries. Without secure sources of these raw materials, most of the familiar durable and non-durable goods we have today could not be made and transportation options would be very limited.
Just as production of petroleum is forecast to soon peak, and many hydrocarbon-based energy sources are at or near all time high prices, demand is seen to be increasing rapidly in Asia. Additionally, scientific evidence increasingly points to adverse effects if fossil fuel consumption is allowed to increase unabated indefinitely into the future. Specifically, the release of the greenhouse gas CO2 has come under international scrutiny.
Securing alternative sources of energy and materials while achieving sustainability of those supplies are major goals of the chemical industry today. "Green" sources, namely growing energy and chemical materials agriculturally or using such energy sources as the sun, are seen as important contributors to future material and energy supplies.
The proper timing for using these new sources can be debated, but that they will ultimately need to become a large portion of supply seems not to be debatable. A brief look at trends in the world shows that a supply/demand crunch for traditional energy and chemical raw materials is apt not to be significantly alleviated in the near future. Sustainable fuels at some time in the future will be necessary. Research dollars and sound government policy will be needed to make this transition period as painless as possible.