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Editorial comment

Carbon management, greenhouse gases (GHGs) and the American Power Act are three big topics that have been up for discussion recently. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued new legislations, the American Power Act has been introduced and the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA) has responded with regards to their impact on the US refining industry and the US as a whole.

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Towards the beginning of May, Charles T. Drevna, President of the NPRA, wrote an op-ed article in Washington’s newspaper The Hill in which he warns that overly strict carbon emissions limits will negatively affect American citizens and the economy. This piece is a clear response to both the American Power Act, which has been put forward by Senators John Kerry and Joe Liberman, and the new EPA ruling on GHG emissions. Drevna proposes that an increase in fees on CO2 emissions and more severe limits will result in US companies being forced out of business and an increase in unemployment levels as more and more budget money is allocated to emissions reduction and taken away from other areas, allowing foreign firms, that do not have to deal with costly new regulations, to ‘prosper at America’s expense’. Drevna then continues to offer alternatives to the new energy policies such as incentives for entrepreneurship and government investments in biofuels blending and production. Drevna wrote, ‘our nation would be better off giving America’s energy companies the freedom to produce more energy of all types…as cleanly, efficiently and affordably as possible in the US’ and ‘combine these actions with greater government investment in energy efficiency, conservation, pollution controls and energy research.’

Gregory M. Scott, NPRA Executive Vice President and General Counsel, has also voiced some strong opinions regarding the EPA’s ruling and the American Power Act. The act hopes to ‘create American jobs and achieve energy security, while reducing carbon pollution by 17% in 2020 and by over 80% in 2050’1 and will do so with reference to five simple principles. These principles include new approaches to reducing emissions in different industries, increasing production of domestic oil products and leading a global clean energy economy. However, Scott believes that this bill will ‘add billions of dollars in energy costs for American families and businesses, destroy the jobs of millions of American workers, and make our nation more dependent on foreign energy sources’, the exact opposite of what it hopes to achieve. Scott also points out that these measures are only focused on the US and will not contribute substantially to the reduction in global GHG emissions, as well as bringing up the same point as Drevna, that an increase in emissions costs in the US will lead to foreign companies having a more competitive place in the country’s oil and gas market. In response to the EPA’s action to dramatically increase the level of GHG emission from stationary sources, Scott stated in a press release that, ‘it’s the job of federal agencies like the EPA to regulate, not legislate’ and that it has ‘unlawfully’ taken on the role of Congress in an attempt to ‘rewrite the Clean Air Act.’

So will the bill really be worth the potential loss in jobs and rise in production prices and are Drevna’s proposals for an alternative energy policy more realistic? In view of the above comments from Scott and Drevna one is inclined to think that at the moment, as the US begins to return from the recession, Drevna’s alternative policy is more feasible and is possibly one that should be considered until the US economy has reached a more stable position.

The lead feature in this issue of Hydrocarbon Engineering also looks at GHGs and emissions as Gordon Cope, in his article ‘the environmental challenge’, describes how refiners are dealing with many environmental challenges at a time when the financial health of the sector is ailing.