The competitiveness of plastic resins depend primarily on energy costs, and when it comes down to it, the difference between oil and gas prices. Since 2010 there has been an influx of new investment in the U.S. plastics industry leading the country to secure a spot as one of the lowest-cost producers in the world. More and more new factories are being built to manufacture more plastic resins than ever before, half of which will be exported. To support this new demand, plastic industries are looking to build new manufacturing plants here in the United States, which is expected to boost employment also local spending in the surrounding areas. This new plastic manufacturing boom is backed primarily by the success of the shale natural gas industry and is expected to generate significant economic benefits as well as contribute to the manufacturing resurgence that is continuing to grow here in the Unites States.
Shale Gas: The Foundation for the Plastic Industry
The raw materials needed to manufacture most plastic resins are found in fossil fuels, predominately natural gas and oil resources extracted here in Pennsylvania. The several key building blocks that are needed to produce these plastic resins are linked together to for long chains known as polymers, each with specific characteristics. One of the most common and mainly used chemicals in plastic development is ethylene, which is now cost effective to produce in the U.S. because of the abundance of shale natural gas. Only one of the many examples of chemicals needed to produce plastics and can thank shale natural gas for their existence.
Economic Impacts & Why You Should Care
In the next decade, United States plastic production will begin to flourish due to the current success of the natural gas industry. Resin producers are expected to add more than 12,000 jobs to the existing 56,000 that are already employed in the industry, which represents a 22% increase in employment levels for the plastics business sector. The plastic products manufacturing industry is expected to create about 110,000 jobs (see chart). In total, the plastics industry is creating about 127,500 jobs and is in result, greatly supported by the production of shale natural gas.
The recently sparked development of the shale natural gas in the United States is not only benefitting the people directly involved in the industry, but also, the people involved in many other industries as well. The natural gas industry is allowing the country to transition from a time of relatively scarce natural gas production to a time of abundance. In correlation, the plastics industry is also set to feel the same revival due to the now low-cost producing of the raw material needed in most plastic manufacturing – ethylene. Significant economic benefits and job growth are expected to appear in the next 10 years due to this new plastics explosion from to the factories and plants needed to produce the products. The newly sparked U.S. plastics industry will benefit communities throughout the entire country and you can thank the success of natural gas for that.