Dow Chemical boss warns on US gas exports

Dow Chemical’s chairman and CEO Andrew Liveris has warned that unrestricted US gas exports could end the country’s manufacturing resurgence.

The Australian-born Liveris addressed a senate committee on the US gas industry, which is in the middle of a shale gas boom and low prices which have encouraged a boost in investment in manufacturing, reports The Australian.

"Job losses in the manufacturing sector totalled approximately 5.4 million (people) between 2000 and 2009, and volatile natural gas prices were a significant factor," said Liveris of the years before the country’s “manufacturing renaissance” kicked in.

Dow, one of the world’s biggest gas users, has said that it is investing $4 billion in new facilities made viable by the current low prices.

"The outlook for affordable US natural gas was a significant factor behind our decision to invest on this scale in facilities on the US Gulf Coast. To a great extent, continuing optimism for US manufacturing is founded on the prospect of an adequate, reliable and reasonably priced supply of natural gas."

Liveris used an interview with Inside Business late last year to discuss similar themes, saying that Australia needs to do more to address its industrial gas needs.

He told the senate committee that a "thorough and inclusive process for evaluating the implications for domestic supply and demand, costs to consumers and manufacturers, jobs and economic growth" was needed.

Gas exports are a concern for Australian exporters also, with some suggesting that a free market for exports would lead to more expensive gas and domestic prices that resembled the rates paid in Asian countries.

A report released by the Australian Industry Association and Plastics and Chemicals Industries Association last year suggested that there were issues around east coast gas project investment that should be a concern for industries.

For an in-depth look at the argument between industrial gas users and those in favour of unrestricted gas exports, refer to this feature in last month’s Manufacturers’ Monthly.