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AFPM 2017: US chemical producers encouraged by new administration, future growth

Houston — US chemical producers expressed optimism regarding the future growth of petrochemicals in the US and were hopeful that decreased regulatory measures associated with the Trump administration would help facilitate growth.

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Speaking on a panel at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers' International Petrochemical Conference in San Antonio, executives from Air Liquide, Chevron Phillips Chemical and ExxonMobil addressed regulatory concerns, tax reform, export opportunities and difficulties finding skilled labor.

Peter Cella, president and CEO of Chevron Phillips, and Neil Chapman, president of ExxonMobil, both emphasized the importance of the petrochemical industry's engagement in terms of regulatory change. "We want regulation, we just don't want overreach," Chapman said. "Industry engagement is more important now to put in the right kind of regulation."

Related: Find more content about Trump's administration in our news and analysis feature.

The panel also touched on tax reform, with Chapman noting that while tax reform proposals may seem drastic, they are necessary. In reference to the notion of a border tax, Chapman said reform was necessary given that exports are a $200 billion business, and that of the 800,000 jobs in the industry, one-third were dependent on exports.

"Comprehensive tax reform is in the best interest of industry in this country," said John Buckley, CEO of Air Liquide.

Exports were a central part of the discussion, and Cella noted that exports played a significant role in growth. Cella estimated that more than 60% of new capacities were slated for export and that this was good for the industry as it created jobs and investment in railroads, trucking and ports. "We are buying 3,000 railcars and 85% of the material is coming from domestic sources. The entire country is benefiting from growth," Cella said.

The panel went on to discuss a dearth of skilled labor, with the industry facing a shortage of 37,000 skilled workers. To combat this shortage, investment in education is necessary, Buckley said.

--Kevin Allen,

--Edited by Annie Siebert,