The Wall Street Journal’s excellent manufacturing reporter, Timothy Aeppel, has an interview with Charles E. Bunch, chief executive of PPG Industries and chairman of the NAM Board of Directors. Chuck connects the issues of environmentalism, energy and U.S. manufacturing competitiveness. It’s a subscription link, but should be good for the rest of today.
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Why are companies like PPG getting more active on environmental issues?
MR. BUNCH: Some of it is tied to dislocations in the global economy on the availability of energy supplies. Take the case of natural gas. With a lack of a comprehensive energy strategy, the regulatory environment has really discouraged any development of alternative sources of power. So most of the new electrical generation over the last 10 years has come from natural gas. What has developed now is that you have more users competing for natural-gas supplies, which historically have been the purview of primarily industrial companies.
At the same time, we’ve capped or limited the supply of new developments of natural gas. We’ve had restrictions passed for new exploration in the Gulf of Mexico, or in the coastal areas, or in Alaska.
Today we’ve taken what had been an advantage for an industrial company like PPG — our use of natural gas — and now we’re paying higher prices for natural gas here in the U.S. than the Chinese are paying, or the Russians or the Europeans, who all have access to cheaper Russian gas. This is why energy is a real competitive issue for us.
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