IPC ’14: Trade groups rally around pro-energy policy goals


SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- In tandem with other major industry and consumer groups, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) are stepping up their efforts on several fronts to lobby for pro-industry policies.

Speaking at a press conference this week at the 39th annual International Petrochemical Conference, AFPM President Charlie T. Drevna cited several new initiatives and strategies that his group is using to try and improve conditions for the domestic and global petrochemical industry.

"With the development in shale plays in oil and NGLs, increased drilling activities across the US, proposals to build several new crackers -- add all that up and the possibilities for the industry are immense," Drevna said. "Nothing is limited or boundless, but this is pretty doggone close.

“It could lead to a significant global industry expansion while serving as a major contributor to creating economic stability in many parts of the world, not just the US,” he added. “But we can’t afford to wait until geopolitical tensions rise, as they have recently, to wake up and smell the coffee -- or in this case, the ethane.”

Drevna noted that challenges faced by the industry were relevant to all citizens, thereby imploring potential voters to support pro-energy policies and candidates.

“It’s about energy and national security, as well as economic strength and development,” he said. “It’s about creating jobs. It’s more than global competitiveness – we can be a global leader in all of those things.”

Melissa Hockstad, AFPM's new vice president of petrochemicals, spoke alongside Drevna at the press conference and addressed specific initiatives that AFPM is undertaking.

On that front, a leading issue is the new American Shale & Manufacturing Partnership, which comprises 14 charter member associations from various industries, universities and consumer organizations. 

AFPM is one of the charter members, along with other groups such as the US Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Associates (SOCMA), the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental & Reinforcing Iron Workers, and Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Engineering.

“What we’ve done is bring together a range of stakeholders to try and make sure the right policies are made in regards to shale development,” said Hockstad, attending her first IPC on behalf of AFPM.

“We found we needed to broaden the organizations participating in our efforts,” she added. “This partnership represents a broader value chain from upstream to downstream, the supply chain, academics and more.”

The five primary tracks the group is working on include federal and state policies, the creation of infrastructure, workforce development, research and innovation, and environmental issues.

“It’s been great,” Hockstad said. “The bottom line is that companies have a need for certainty and predictability from a regulatory standpoint.”

The partnership is aiming to have a policy playbook released in the coming months.

As far as domestic regulations, Drevna was sharply critical of the energy policy of US President Barack Obama. He accused the president of “waging war on the hydrocarbon molecule” alongside an energy strategy that “continues to focus on things that simply don’t make sense in 2014, either economically or technologically”.

“Let’s stop frittering around and playing politics,” said Drevna. “That’s my plea to the administration. Accept the bounty of natural resources we have here due to advances in shale development, accept fact that fossil fuels will drive economy, and let’s work together to create that opportunity.”

To accomplish that, AFPM is looking for support from consumers and potential voters, led by broader initiatives such as the new partnership.

“What we hope is to change the mindset,” said Drevna. “It’s not just about policymakers, but everyone here in the US. We want them to understand the role of manufacturing and what it should play in our future. 

“Before we had shale revolution, it was ‘Make it there, sell it here’. Let’s transform that to ‘Make it here, sell it there’.”

Drevna also cited several AFPM-specific changes as helping that process, such as rebranding the trade group two years ago as AFPM along with a new messaging campaign.

“It’s a long process, but I think we’re making progress,” he said. “People on Capitol Hill, what they tell us they’re hearing in their home districts, people are starting to understand what the shale revolution and renaissance could mean to their locales and how important it is as the first step in the supply chain.”

The AFPM president added that he and other AFPM members intend to work in tandem with other groups such as academia and unions make a concerted effort to attend town hall meetings and other small gatherings around the US to try and push forward their pro-industry message.

“I don’t think the general public always understands the important role that petrochemicals play in their day-to-day life,” said Hockstad.

But from what Drevna has seen, that mindset is starting to change.

“The axiom is that the electorate votes their pocketbook,” he said. “When they understand what this potential means to their pocketbook – all the way from a steady job to everything on the supply chain, they will start to take notice.

“And, truthfully, I think they already have been taking notice.”

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