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SOTU 2022: Why Chemistry is Essential to the President’s Vision to Build a Better America

Scott Openshaw
Skilled, good-paying American jobs are provided by the business of chemistry

Millions of Americans will tune into President Biden’s first State of the Union address tonight, including many of the more than 500,000 Americans who proudly work for the U.S. business of chemistry.

The chemical industry has a tremendous opportunity to help achieve an ambitious policy agenda and vision to build a better America. Chemistry is inextricably linked to scientific advancements and supply chain innovations needed to accomplish a wide range of sustainability and climate goals; improve environmental justice; build modern and resilient new infrastructure; and all the while, generate new economic and job growth.

The chemical industry is committed to advancing sustainability worldwide, through innovation, collaboration and technologies that enhance the safety and environmental impacts of our products and our operations. Chemistry is essential to our economy and plays a vital role in the creation of ground-breaking products that make our lives and our world healthier, safer, more sustainable, and more productive. We have an opportunity to help but we need smart policy, creative solutions, and public investment that helps spur the development and use of advanced materials that rely on chemistry.

I’ll be listening for the following topics in tonight’s speech among others:

Protecting the Environment

ACC has developed and issued a set of policy recommendations for a lower emissions future, and we’re engaging with Congress and the Administration. Meeting America’s climate goals will require public and private sector collaboration, technology breakthroughs, significant investment, sustained commitment, and nationwide policies.

Intricate Highway Intersection

Building a Modern Infrastructure

Unleashing the power of chemistry to develop essential materials is important, but like so many businesses across the country, our success depends on a reliable transportation network and robust energy infrastructure. Our industry is critical to providing the innovative construction materials and techniques needed to make America’s infrastructure more resilient and sustainable. The chemical industry invests more in research and development than leading industries like electronics, automobiles and healthcare, investing more than $10 billion/year. 

Supply Chain Resilience

With a presence on six continents and nearly $4 trillion in global chemicals trade, the chemicals industry has spent decades investing in globally integrated supply chains that reduce manufacturing costs and create jobs. To help enhance supply chain resilience, ACC is urging the Biden Administration to refocus U.S. efforts toward making supply chains more resilient. The benefits of globally integrated supply chains can only be realized when trading costs are low – and that means few, if any, tariffs. By raising costs, tariffs and other trade barriers, decades of supply chain integration could be dismantled, hurting U.S. manufacturing competitiveness, and reducing demand for U.S. products overseas.

Cargo Ship Transporting Chemicals

Helping End the Pandemic

Our members work continuously on behalf of the U.S. chemical industry and its more than 500,000 employees to provide the countless products needed for life-saving medical care including: disinfectants, pharmaceuticals, biocides and personal protective gear.  Our industry needs to continue this fight to provide the world with the essential materials that will help end this pandemic and keep us healthy and safe both now and into the future. 

The bottom line: From our industry’s unique role in combatting disease, to fighting climate change, to improving sustainability and protecting the health and safety of people worldwide, the ability of this administration, legislatures, agencies, Congress and the chemical industry to work together to develop the solutions for a better future for everyone is essential.

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About the Author

As President and CEO of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), Chris is responsible for driving a pro-growth, science-based public policy agenda that fosters the development of groundbreaking products to improve lives; creates jobs and economic expansion; and enhances public and environmental health and safety.

In 2021, Chris partnered with Harris County officials in Houston to expand an extensive state-of-the-art air monitoring system to continuously track and evaluate air quality. The partnership included a $1 million donation from ACC’s foundation for mobile and stationary monitors.

Under Chris’ leadership, in 2020, ACC launched the Future of STEM Scholars Initiative (FOSSI) in partnership with Chemours, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and HBCU Week Foundation. The program provides scholarships for students pursuing preferred STEM degrees at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). In the first two years, FOSSI raised more than $17 million for over 350 scholars.

Also in 2020, Chris oversaw a strategic review of Responsible Care®, the chemical industry’s environmental, health, safety and security (EHS&S) performance initiative, resulting in enhancements to the Responsible Care Process Safety Code and Responsible Care Security Code.

Chris joined ACC in 2019 after serving six years as President and CEO of The Fertilizer Institute (TFI), where he advocated for policies and regulations focused on enhancing security, free trade, environmental protection, worker health and safety, and farm bill and conservation programs to promote the use of fertilizer.

Prior to joining TFI in 2013, Chris served as president of the National Association of Chemical Distributors for seven years and president of the Contract Services Association for three years. He began his career on Capitol Hill, including time as chief of staff to U.S. Senator Craig Thomas (R-WY).

Chris earned an MBA from the University of Maryland and holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Columbia University in New York.

American Chemistry Council

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) represents the leading companies engaged in the multibillion-dollar business of chemistry. ACC members apply the science of chemistry to make innovative products, technologies and services that make people's lives better, healthier and safer. ACC is committed to improved environmental, health, safety and security performance through Responsible Care®; common sense advocacy addressing major public policy issues; and health and environmental research and product testing. ACC members and chemistry companies are among the largest investors in research and development, and are advancing products, processes and technologies to address climate change, enhance air and water quality, and progress toward a more sustainable, circular economy.

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