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Chemistry’s Key Role in Advancing Sustainability

Charles Franklin from the American Chemistry Council discusses the role the business of chemistry -- and natural gas in particular -- plays not just in sustainability, but also the overall economy.

33 min read


Charles Franklin, American Chemistry Council

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Countless items we use and consume in our everyday lives have a foundation in chemistry. Charles Franklin, the Senior Director for Energy Climate and the Environment at the American Chemistry Council, joins the show (21:19) to discuss the role the business of chemistry plays not just in sustainability, but also the overall economy.  Franklin also shares insights from a paper the ACC recently released that highights the many ways natural gas can — and already is — playing a crucial role in the energy transition, including in areas like wind and solar energy and electric vehicles. Franklin also explains how natural gas will play a big part in the expansion of hydrogen as an energy source.

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ACC Paper: Natural Gas Supports US Competitiveness and Lower GHGs

Show Segments

Sustainable or Suspicious – (2:23)
What to make of Weyerhaeuser’s claims about being an environmental do-gooder

Top Headlines from SmartBrief on Sustainability – (10:45)
Starbucks expands its sustainability program to more stores
Does a carbon take-back obligation make sense?
Nuclear impacts environment less than other clean energy

Here and There – (17:20)
Global Citizen Award Winner Ineza Umuhoza Grace from Rwanda

Highlights from Charles Franklin

The work of the American Chemistry Council – (21:19)
The role natrual gas plays in the economy – (23:54)
How natural gas helps lower emissions – (25:27)
The role of natural gas in a hydrogen future – (29:07)
The key theme’s of ACC’s recent paper – (32:07)
The promise and potential of hydrogen hubs – (34:30)

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(Note: This transcript was created using articifual intelligence. It has not been edited verbatim.)

Sean McMahon  00:00

This episode of the Sustainability SmartPod is brought to you by t3E, product stewardship, EHS and compliance leaders … What are you doing May 9 through the 11th? Join a global community of leaders like you at 3E’s exclusive event, Engage23. This industry focused event which is taking place in New Orleans will offer insightful presentations, roundtable discussions, networking and much, much more. For more information or to register, visit the Engage23 website at And guess what? Listeners of this podcast can save 25% on registration by entering the promo code ACC 23. That code again is ACC 23. There’s a link to all the event information in today’s show notes. So check it out and get ready to pack your bags to head to New Orleans for Engage23.

Hello, everyone, and thank you for joining us today. My name is Sean McMahon, and we’re back to full strength here at the Sustainability SmartPod cause Karen’s back from vacation. How’s the whole gang doing today?

Jaan van Valkenburgh  01:16

Great. Very well.

Evan Milberg  01:19

Ready to talk about some carbon offsets.

Sean McMahon  01:22

Hey, Evan, I appreciate the enthusiasm. We’ve got a great show coming up. Obviously, the gang here will chat about numerous issues and trends related to sustainability. And a little bit later, we’ll be joined by Charles Franklin from the American Chemistry Council. Charles is the Senior Director for energy, climate and the environment at ACC. And he is here to talk about the role of business of chemistry plays not just in sustainability, but also the overall economy. Because when you really think about it, countless items we use and consume in our everyday lives have a foundation in chemistry. The ACC also just released a paper about natural gas that highlights the key role natural gas plays in the US economy. As we work toward a lower emissions future. I’ve read the paper. And I must admit that it opened my eyes to some of the ways natural gas can and already is playing a crucial role in the energy transition, particularly in areas like wind and solar energy and electric vehicles. So that interview is coming up in just a few minutes. But for now, let’s get going with the rest of today’s show.

The first segment of this show is something we call sustainable or suspicious. And so today’s article we’re gonna be discussing is an article from The Wall Street Journal about Weyerhaeuser The timber real estate investment trust, and a lot of folks might be familiar with Weyerhaeuser They’ve been a big player in the Timberland scene in the US for decades, or I think even a century actually. And they currently are managing, I think it’s 10 point 6 million acres of timber lands throughout the US. And so what’s happened here is we have a company that for decades, environmentalists have been at war with, right because they’re cutting down trees, right. And they’re, you know, make the wood is obviously important for infrastructure and paper and everything like that. But now, the practice of just managing all those millions of acres of forest has developed a new value in our system, right with carbon markets. And so now Weyerhaeuser is positioning itself as an actual, you know, do gooder when it comes to the environment. And so what we’re wanting to discuss today is whether or not we a we think that’s true, but also kind of dive into how this whole story has evolved. Right. So like I mentioned decades ago, it was kind of a cultural war going on in places where there was a cultural war going on in places like the Pacific Northwest, where Weyerhaeuser had a huge you know, footprint of forests. I was here at that time. I definitely remember seeing all the fireworks but you know, I definitely a Deaf I definitely member all the controversy that was spawned by the spotted owl in particular, all kinds of bumper stickers that said things like spotted owl tastes like chicken to me, and things like that. So you really had you know, the timber economy was was really not loving the environmentalists for this because they felt like preserving all these trees was taken away timber jobs. And like I mentioned now, warehouse was turned around and they can now sell carbon offsets for all those forests. So what we want to dive into here is warehouse has claimed that the company is now net negative in terms of its carbon footprint. So in the spirit of deciding whether claims like this are sustainable or suspicious, let’s dive on into it. Karen, what do you think of this?

Karen Kantor  04:39

I call shenanigans. Shawn. I know I’m sorry. And I also remember the spotted owl and I still get it I’m definitely pro tree. And I realize Weyerhaeuser is saying that. You know everything that they’ve cut down is still sequestering carbon even though it’s not pulling it out and they have Good points, wood buildings, you know, definitely are holding on to some carbon. However, I just as a sustainability as a whole, beyond just carbon sequestration, I think you really need to leave some natural spaces and leave a lot of natural spaces. I’m just never going to be convinced that the lumber industry is green. And, you know, I think the lumber industry has a place, I just don’t think they should be calling themselves environmental.

Jaan van Valkenburgh  05:30

I’m with you. I’m with you. So lumber construction is becoming very popular for the reasons that you said because it sequesters carbon. And it’s just nice people really have come to as as we get less nature, we really like it in our homes. We like the wooden floors, the wooden walls, I mean, even in public transportation stations and so forth. Lots of places. And so that’s fantastic. If you’re looking at it as a material, that’s good. And if it’s taking the place of say steel, or cement, then that makes a lot of sense. It doesn’t make sense to call it green, you can be

Karen Kantor  06:18

net negative without being environment positive.

Evan Milberg  06:22

Ah, that’s a that’s a good quote, Karen. No, I agree. And look, no one’s debating that trees can absorb carbon dioxide as they grow. It’s a great carbon sink. As the Wall Street Journal notes, though, there’s less agreement about whether or not these trees are actually offsetting enough emissions to be relevant. And yawn. You remember, we actually had an article just a couple days ago about this so called Carbon Positive hotel in Denver, that essentially made the same claim that they’re using trees as a carbon sink, and that makes it a net zero building. So again, it all comes down to the communication and the packaging of the story. And I think all four of us are on the same page that the packaging of this story is a little sauce,

Jaan van Valkenburgh  07:15

Evan, so I would add to that story, we talked about that. They were saying it’s a netzero hotel. But because they’ve planted trees, not because they’ve used trees, because they’ve planted them somewhere else. And that comes to the this understanding this idea of net zero. We were using net zero 20 years ago, to talk about sustainability to make it more palatable. So people could start the sustainability efforts. But at this point, it’s very hard to feel like if I’m doing something good over there, it means that I’m doing something fantastic here when I’m really not. So yeah, I feel like that net zero, when you see net, you should be looking at actually, how do they think that they’ve offset these?

Evan Milberg  08:12

Exactly. And just just bringing it back full circle to the to the Wall Street Journal article. I think one of the big challenges that corporate marketers have is making sure people understand the difference between net zero and zero carbon. I was just looking back at that architects newspaper article about that net zero hotel, and they were claiming it to be a zero carbon structure, which is different than net zero, which is essentially an accounting trick.

Sean McMahon  08:44

Yeah, and speaking of the accounting tricks side of this, you know, we are kind of splitting hairs we’re talking about net zero. And then Weyerhaeuser is claiming their net negative, like they remove so much carbon on their forest that like they’re beyond net zero. And the accounting piece of this is one thing that’s worth mentioning here, because there’s a lot of fuzzy math going on with Weyerhaeuser. Well, let me back up a second. I think Weyerhaeuser has modernized his operations in the last few decades, in a lot of ways people don’t appreciate like they are actually replanting forests and letting them grow. So they’ve been doing this for a couple of decades, they’ve changed their ways. This is not just a clear cutting company that they were maybe 50 years ago with a clear cut and just leave everything a mess behind. But the accounting side of it is they’re even trying to take credit for timberland that they don’t own, but they manage. And that’s kind of not really standard practice, like whoever owns that land gets to count that, you know, so. I don’t know, I think Evan, you mentioned that the four of us are kind of would label this suspicious. I think it’s currently suspicious, but I’m also really going to be watching closely to see how things evolve. Like I said earlier, where it seems like the market is moving closer and closer to Where what they’re presenting might actually be factual. Like, let’s expand this out if they had, instead of 10 point 6 million acres, say they had 100 million acres somewhere around the world. And they got to the point where they could manage that. So well, if they’re only cutting down a million acres a year, like we all think of that is terrible, right. But if they’re preserving the other 99, or the other 99, is some kind of cycle of growth, they would be actually net negative when it comes to carbon. And so I think that the way we’re pricing carbon markets and the value that companies are putting on offsets like that, it leaves a lane for Weyerhaeuser, to not really change much of what it’s doing, but suddenly be able to present itself in a light that is quite shocking, probably to environmentalists who hated this company for decades. And well, now that we’ve got that Hot Topic out of the way, now it’s time to transition to the segment, this show where Karen introduces us to some of the most interesting stories from smartbrief on sustainability, which is a newsletter you can sign up to get if you just click on the link in the show notes. So Karen, what stories do you have for us today?

Karen Kantor  11:01

My most interesting story, I think, is that Starbucks is expanding their sustainability program to more stores, they aim to certify 10,000 locations around the world by 2025. And they’re using 25 areas that they’ve come up with with the World Wildlife Fund. They are measuring energy efficiency, waste reduction, and water conservation, among other things. And what I think is the most interesting and I think will be most interesting to other businesses, is that they have saved already almost $60 million in yearly operating costs. And that includes water and energy savings of 30% each.

Jaan van Valkenburgh  11:43

It’s a great story. And it can be very influential, especially with the next generation. over Easter, I spend time with my nephews and nieces, which was really fun. And I learned their Starbuck patterns. It used to be that I wouldn’t go into a Starbucks because it was so expensive. But now it’s just it’s part of these teenagers go to app almost regularly.

Sean McMahon  12:14

All right, Karen, what’s what are the what are the stories? Yeah, for us?

Karen Kantor  12:19

Okay, coming up. Next, we have carbon takeback obligations, some stakeholders in Europe and the UK are calling for a carbon takeback obligation, which means that the producer responsible for fossil fuels would have to remove as much carbon as they put into the atmosphere with them putting the bill. I know evanhoe had an opinion about this.

Evan Milberg  12:45

No, I did. There, there was a particular quote from this piece that I found kind of fishy, which is that a carbon takeback obligation future proofs your climate policy, because if you’re requiring the industry to get rid of the co2, it doesn’t really matter what happens to the cost of renewables or fossil energy, because you’re still going to get to net zero. And that just seems like a broad oversimplification of how energy markets work. How do you enforce that? What is the punishment for not getting rid of your co2? What mechanisms do you have in place to ensure that these companies are actually meeting their targets? I don’t think it’s enough to say, well, we’ve got this carbon takeback obligation. So we’re all done.

Karen Kantor  13:35

I would say not that I’m an apologist for petroleum, especially because I’m certainly not. But I would say that if it’s an obligation, I don’t think we’re just letting them say, Oh, we’ve done it. And there will be I believe, if it’s legislated, there will be some sort of mechanism for enforcement. There is an article in the Wall Street Journal about occidental trying to do something very similar. And I do give them a little bit of credit, because they’re trying to keep their business and they realize that they have to clean up their act in order to keep their business. And they’re actually attempting to do something concrete. This is not like coal, saying we’re clean now. This is a company actually saying, Okay, we’re bad. Let’s fix this. Now, whether I think they can is a different story entirely, but I will give them a little bit of credit here for trying.

Jaan van Valkenburgh  14:30

I think it’s a great idea. Why haven’t we thought of this before, just get rid of your carbon? You know, do whatever you want. But if you can, if you can get rid of the carbon. Fabulous, done. We’re done. We don’t even have to have a podcast anymore. You know what you mentioned about measuring it. You have the E liability thing that we talked about last week, and these are just the reckoning different ways of reckoning.

Sean McMahon  14:58

All right, Karen, what’s the last story you have for us?

Karen Kantor  15:00

The last one is my favorite. And I know that yawns not gonna like it. But that is that nuclear impacts the environment far less than other clean energy. And by that, I mean, the nuclear energy uses less land and causes less of an environmental impact around the land it does use than other carbon free power sources, according to scientific reports. I’m a fan of nuclear case you didn’t guess.

Jaan van Valkenburgh  15:29

And I’m suspicious. But you know what, I know that it’s getting safer. I know that there’s a push for nucleolar. I know that we’re going smaller, you know, so we have distributed sources. And that all sounds fantastic. I wish we knew what to do with the waste. I wish we could do something with that. Because that bothers me. It’s a great problem to put off for the next generation. Yeah,

Sean McMahon  15:55

I think we’ve discussed it before. But a nuclear is great, right up to the point where something goes really, really wrong.

Evan Milberg  16:00

So just to just to put this in perspective, Karen, this came from Anthropocene magazine,

Karen Kantor  16:06

among others, yes, this particular article.

Evan Milberg  16:10

So this one, this one references a study from 2022. And the question I have when it comes to a claim, like, well, how are you saying, nuclear is on par, or more low carbon than renewables. And apparently, in this study, they use something called the total material requirement coefficient. And then compared that to other forms of energy, so nuclear is impact was considered 20% of that of coal 23% of that of oil and 35%, that of liquefied natural gas, which is surprising to me, given the history of nuclear. I wonder if there are other variables at play, other than just an isolated coefficient that you could point to? Because that just seems just based on common sense, not the only factor that you can use when stacking up different forms of energy?

Sean McMahon  17:16

Yeah, that’s a good point. But it’s always good to watch out for studies that kind of cherry pick specific data points. All right, now, for the next segment of our show. I’m gonna turn things over to Yan for here and there.

Jaan van Valkenburgh  17:28

Well, this week, we go to Rwanda, because actually, it’s a person and a concept, not a product. The Global Citizen prize is a Annual Award that recognizes and celebrates unsung activists who are fighting for something, and they’re usually young people. One of them is from Rwanda. And she the award ceremony was here in New York, in April, the woman from Rwanda, her name is Ineza Umuhoza Grace, I may have mispronounced that. And she has founded and she runs loss and damage, youth coalition loss and damages, what came up at COP last time. So this is a coalition of 600 youth from more than 60 countries who are advocating for taking action to address loss and damage. She’s 27 years old. And she’s an a researcher in the field of climate change. And she’s getting people involved on a community level, to basically say, these are the things that can get done. But we need the money to make it happen. From the wealthier countries, and the countries that quite honestly have created the carbon. I think it’s fantastic. And she sounds really impressive. She’s CEO of an NGO called the Green protector and something background information. 70% of Rwanda is farming. And a lot of the farms are family run farms. So when climate change hits when when a storm hits, and wipes out a crop, a lot of the families can’t come back from that. So it’s all linked. And what happens in Africa matters around the world, leading the charge for accountability. I think she has a unique take from a younger person’s perspective and from Rwanda, about this, and she’s raising the profile of this issue. Just in time for the meeting in Dubai.

Sean McMahon  20:00

Yeah, and you’re right, because at the last cop, like you mentioned, loss of damage was a hot topic this year hard

Jaan van Valkenburgh  20:05

topic. It’s an art popular difficult topic.

Sean McMahon  20:11

All right, again, this has been a fun roundtable discussion. But now it’s just about time to bring in our guest, Charles Franklin, the Senior Director for energy, climate and the environment at the American Chemistry Council. But before we hear from Charles, here’s a quick word from a sponsor of today’s episode t3E. If you want to join a global community of product stewardship, EHS and compliance leaders, check out 3E’s upcoming event, Engage23. Engage23 takes place May 9 through the 11th in New Orleans. And this industry focused event will offer insightful presentations, roundtable discussions, networking, and much much more. You can find more information about Engage23 at the link in today’s show notes. And guess what ? Listeners of this podcast can save 25% on registration by entering the promo code ACC 23. But you better hurry up because Engage23 is coming up soon. So be sure to visit that link in the show notes. And don’t forget that discount code ACC 23 to save 25% on your registration.

Okay, I’m joined now by Charles Franklin from the American Chemistry Council. Charles, how’re you doing today?

Charles Franklin  21:25

Hey, I’m doing well. Thank you so much for having me.

Sean McMahon  21:28

Yeah, I’m excited to talk to you, we’re gonna talk a little bit about the key role that chemistry can play in the advancement of sustainability. So first of all, for our listeners who might not be familiar with the American Chemistry Council, or ACC, tell us a little bit about your organization.

Charles Franklin  21:42

Sure, so the American Chemistry Council, we represent over 150 companies that are engaged in the business of chemistry, and you can think of that very broadly. And we really are the leading voice, both with advocacy, and with also trying to work with our members on promoting sustainability, research and good stewardship across the value chain. And so it’s a it’s an exciting place to work, and it’s exciting time to be here.

Sean McMahon  22:08

So within the ACC, what is your role, and you know, what’s the focus of your team.

Charles Franklin  22:14

So I manage our energy, climate and environmental policy portfolio within our regulatory and Scientific Affairs Division, but I can talk about what I do. But ultimately, in this day and age, everything that we do, that one staff person does, you know, environment, climate, Energy policy, they go across the board, I work with every single department, that and I’ll say, in terms of some of the specific policy, areas of that are particularly important right now, with respect to the climate, of course, we are in a unique time with an administration that has very clear goals on where it wants to go, and how it wants to advance the climate, that pose great opportunities, and also some some challenges. We have Congress just having passed two landmark climate bills that provide tremendous opportunities that we’re helping our members pursue. And then more broadly, we have that that need to make sure that we are promoting a diverse energy supply and supply chain that allows not just our industry, but the broader economy continued to be competitive and to flourish, as we are simultaneously working to move towards a lower emissions future. And you know, that combination of promoting us competitiveness, especially in our industry, while also moving towards a lower emissions, energy feedstock value chain, basically products and value chain. I think that is probably one of the things that I spend the most time on. It’s how do we help our members do that. So they remain competitive and leaders today, but also leaders going forward?

Sean McMahon  23:54

Yeah, you talked about the diversity of energy supply. And that’s good, because the one of the main reasons I want to talk to you today is that the ACC recently put out a paper all about natural gas, and its key role in a strong economy and a lower emissions future. And for our listeners, I’ll definitely provide a link to the paper in the show notes for today’s episode. But can you walk me through some of the key themes or the key findings of that paperwork?

Charles Franklin  24:17

Sure. And let’s start with that recognition that over the last 1015 years, natural gas has become one of the most tremendous competitive advantages and opportunities for our industry with the shale gas revolution. With the increased access, we really are in a position unlike really any other country. And it provided us with a lesson emissions intensive source of energy and feedstocks that we could use that really helped accelerate the transition away from coal. That’s really responsible for many of the gains that we’ve made in terms of emissions and efficiency over that timeframe. And it remains basically a core element of a real liable, lower emissions, energy, infrastructure and transition pathway. I think going well into the future, you know, we work quite a bit, our members are looking at every possible pathway to promote our industrial carbon reduction, and our supply chain carbon reduction, but they all will continue to have natural gas as one of the supporting pillars going forward.

Sean McMahon  25:27

Okay, so what I love to hear some examples, you know, so what are some of the areas where natural gas either can, or already might be playing a role in lowering emissions.

Charles Franklin  25:38

So I’m glad you said, Ken, and maybe already is because when you look at the last 15 years, natural gas has really driven many of the emissions reductions, opportunities and successes within the electricity sector within the industrial sector and others, because it provided an alternative to more emissions intensive fuels like coal. And so that’s the starting point. And so one of the things we think it’s really important is to recognize that and to maintain an environment where we can hold those improvements. And I’ll give you an example later, I think why that’s not a that’s not a given. But it also it also is really part of the backbone for what we may think of as some of these more traditional kind of renewable types of energy sources. So So for example, when you look at a wind when you look at a solar, and our members see these as part of that future mix, but these are not necessarily fuel sources that you can run, they’re not necessarily 24/7 solutions. And so natural gas has and we expect will continue to be part of ensuring that you’ve got the reliability of energy supply, and in particular, a reliability of the energy grid that will become ever more important, as more industries move to electrify their grid. So that’s, I think, another example, we see hydrogen also, as an area where natural gas has a key role to play. Right now, hydrogen has been identified by the Department of Energy, by EPA, by many, you know, across different climate government organizations, as well as ACC as a key lever for supporting industry, emissions reduction. And right now, many of our members are actually involved with either the use of or the the generation of hydrogen through a process using natural gas. And that will change over time. But as that changes, there are also these opportunities to use the natural gas infrastructure, pipelines, etc, to start combining hydrogen with natural gas. So I think that there’s just some tremendous opportunities at that point in the process as well. And then finally, natural gas is, I think, a really critical feedstock for our industry. And it’s important to note that, you know, natural gas isn’t always just something that is that people think of as just going out the stack, sometimes it is going into some of those most critical products, including critical products that will be used in innovative future emissions reduction solutions.

Sean McMahon  28:12

So things like electric vehicles are those. Exactly. That’s

Charles Franklin  28:15

exactly right. I mean, look, when you look at the transportation sector, lightweighting materials, lighter weight, stronger materials that actually allow you to have EVs that are really a critical part of the transportation sector, the natural gas feedstocks that go into installation and building products that may be critical to reducing the the building sector emissions. Everywhere you look, the business of chemistry supports every sector of the economy. And to a large degree right now, natural gas is a core piece of that. And that’s changing, we’re looking to make sure we have other varied range of sources. But the idea that you can just move away from one or rely on one, I just think it’s bad policy. And it’s, I think, bad for the country.

Sean McMahon  29:07

Yeah, I want to go back to the point you made about hydrogen, right, and the infrastructure that’s already in place with the natural gas industry that, quite frankly, can be reused or repurposed as hydrogen matures in the marketplace. A lot of folks I’ve talked to, you know, they understand that we’re not talking about 100% switch, but I think other people out there who don’t kind of follow this as closely might think we’re talking about removing all the gas in those pipelines and replacing it with 100% hydrogen, and that’s not what’s, that’s not going to happen anytime soon. So we’re talking about a blend, right? So how much of the blend, what percentage of blend do you think is going to end up being kind of the sweet spot down the road?

Charles Franklin  29:44

Well, that number is going to actually I think we’re the exciting things is that that number is going to change and it’s going to increase over time. But but you really are, I think right on the money when you say that this is not going to be an overnight process. One of the key elements of building this lower emissions future is recognizing that we are starting with the present with a competitive, low emissions present. And we want to go even lower. And that means starting with the natural gas and electric infrastructure we have and then investing in it. And so I’d say right now you’re looking at targeted opportunities to start incorporating natural gas into a variety of pipeline, distribution networks, but it’s really going to take additional investment, and maintenance of our existing natural gas pipeline, infrastructure to be able to really continue that process. The idea that you can just snap your fingers and switch to hydrogen, or all clean, or all renewable electricity, or all nuclear or anything else, I think is just as important out by the realities of physics and science.

Sean McMahon  30:51

Okay, I’m kind of on board. Yeah, I think it’s more of a all hands or whatever. It’s like a GIANT pie, right? And how big the slices of pie are for each entity source can vary and change over the years and decades. But the fact that one or two are going to take it over, it’s, I don’t know, a pie in the sky, if you will.

Charles Franklin  31:08

I could, if I could, let me just give you an example. I think, and this may may be not the point where you want to raise us. But let me give you one example of that idea that look, this has got to ship that we’ve got to be thinking about this more broadly. We have seen in Europe, this, I think tremendous push to basically transition away from both just the use of and the support of natural gas towards renewables, towards other sources, which again, is important. But what we saw with the instability that came out over the last year with Ukraine and the war, and just the sum of these different factors was suddenly the EU was in a position where it actually did not have the access to the natural gas that it needed. And that was forced to get back into using coal. So rather than actually having a fuel that can help promote that transition, they found themselves actually backtracking from where they were trying to go.

Sean McMahon  32:07

Yeah, I understand the marketplace definitely shifted pretty quickly. Over there. So getting back to the paper. So what are some of the other key themes you’re trying to drive home not only to folks who work within the chemistry industry itself, but also obviously consumers who enjoy these products and use these products every day?

Charles Franklin  32:23

Well, I’ll start with natural gas is basically part of every business’s every consumers, everyday life, just like the chemical industry, it drives, I think, really critical parts of the economy look from electric power, as I mentioned, it is probably the most important currently, especially during this transition, one of the most important sources for lower emissions energy. It is the go to source for many of the most energy intensive industrial processes. It is used to heat buildings, hot water, stoves, clothes, drying machines, every kind of the driven appliance. It’s used in commercial operations is used in transportation, and it’s used in agriculture. So it is something that you may not think about, or see every day, but it is really critical. And that makes it important to recognize that even as we start thinking about an economy that may look different, as we go into the future, natural gas will be one of those legs of the stool for a long time to come. But we can’t take it for granted. I think one of the things we try to talk about in the paper is that we need to have policies that actually recognize the role that natural gas along with an all of the above energy strategy, we need policies that support that. So that means, even as we’re investing in, in our industry is making major investments in innovative research, and looking at opportunities for deployment of lower emissions technologies. But we need to recognize that we’re going to need to continue to maintain and expand natural gas infrastructure and production to be able to support that transition. And we need to recognize that, you know, that also requires developing policies for actually evaluating siting and permitting these facilities. And that’s, I think, one of the real challenges. We are on a very tight timeframe, the administration Congress, have set very exacting goals for trying to move us forward. But it requires a lot of investment on the front end.

Sean McMahon  34:30

You’re talking about policy. So So what’s your view on the hydrogen hub plans, the administration have to have a handful of hubs around the country? Well,

Charles Franklin  34:36

look, I think hydrogen hubs are really important. We think industrial hubs more broadly, because it is, again, hydrogen will be one piece, but it oftentimes will have to be something that is combined with natural gas with you know, additional transmission. So we think it is a great start. Our members are very engaged in trying to promote, you know, effective deployment of those hydrogen hubs. One of the challenges is, of course, that this is a big country and in our industry along with others, we’re pretty spread out, you know, we have some areas where we’re very focused, but we have a lot of other folks. So if we’re looking at a very, I think get a comprehensive industrial transition strategy, we need to be thinking about these hubs as that starting point, but is we’re gonna need more. And, and even with those hubs is going to require rapid action by policymakers both to help with the funding and with the siting and permitting.

Sean McMahon  35:31

Okay, Charles, well, you know, someone like you who’s been around the industry and kind of seen it from all sides. This next question, I’m really excited to ask you bold predictions. Do you have any bold predictions about either innovative or just surprising ways that the chemical industry and chemistry itself will be playing a role in sustainability? 10 years from now,

Charles Franklin  35:53

I do have some bold predictions, and maybe a lot of them I’m stealing from my members, because I think they are really some of the real thought leaders here. But I can tell you a couple of things. Maybe the safe bet is that our members and the business of chemistry is going to be more important than ever, as we make these transitions, because I like to describe the industry is we are solution providers, in terms of the products for things like energy efficiency, auto manufacturing, and Senator, we are solution enablers. Our members provide a lot of the components that go into the fancy technologies that we hear about carbon capture of hydrogen delivery systems, renewable, etc. And we are solution consumers because we recognize as an industry, our operations, we need to find ways to move forward. I think you can also expect us to be leaders in the hydrogen revolution, using natural gas is one of those themes. And I think you will just I expect, you’ll see many of our members really distinguishing in showing what our industry can do and how we can be a leader in the industrial decarbonisation process. And it’s exciting just to be a part of it.

Sean McMahon  37:03

Okay, well, Charles, I gotta tell you, this paper really opened my eyes to a few things, specifically the points about how even the wind and solar and EV sectors, they need natural gas to even just build the products that they’re building. So I think our listeners, I’m gonna encourage them to dive in and read that paper. And I really appreciate you sharing your insights today.

Charles Franklin  37:21

Hey, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you so much, and I hope you enjoy it. I think it’s a good read.

Sean McMahon  37:33

All right, everyone. Well, that’s our show for today. Thank you all for listening. And if you haven’t already, please subscribe or follow this show on Apple, Spotify, Google, or wherever you listened to your podcast. And as always, please be sure to share it with your friends and colleagues. Have a great day.