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Chemistry Products Reduce Emissions

by Jeffrey W. Johnson
July 13, 2009 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 87, Issue 28

Worldwide, chemical industry products reduced emissions of greenhouse gases far more than the emissions generated in making these products, according to a study by McKinsey & Co. The life-cycle analysis by the international management consulting firm estimated that two to two-and-a-half times more carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions were reduced by chemical products than were created by their manufacture. Building insulation was the most effective CO2 reducer, with a ratio of 223 to 1 of greenhouse gas emissions avoided versus those emitted in manufacture, according to Dow Vice President Peter Molinaro, speaking at a July 9 press conference. Next came compact fluorescent lighting, fertilizers, and lightweight composite materials. The study, commissioned by industry groups American Chemistry Council and the International Council of Chemical Associations, also found that the international chemical industry, with $3 trillion in annual sales, contributes about 7% of global greenhouse gas emissions; but without products created by the chemical industry, greenhouse gas emissions would be 8 to 11% higher than they are. "For our part, U.S. chemical industry emissions have fallen 16% since 1990," ACC CEO Calvin M. Dooley notes. "We'll use this study to guide further operational improvement. Meanwhile, governmental policies that enable greater use of emission-reducing chemistry products and technologies will be key."


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