Sarah Harding PhD
Always look on the bright side…
Published: November 21, 2016 by S Harding
“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity” (Albert Einstein)
As I welcome you to the final issue of 2016, I can’t help reflecting on what an incredible year it’s been. With a new US President, looming Brexit, the ever-fluctuating Asia Pacific market, volatile oil prices, and the unceasingly shifting business silhouette with non-stop mergers and acquisitions, it might often feel as if we’ll never find a stable footing again. Yet, in brighter, more optimistic moments (perhaps a few days after you’ve come home from that latest arduous business trip!) I hope we can also see that there are opportunities rising from the landscape.
While in recent history the US chemical industry has been pro-Republican, the sector – as well as US academic and scientific communities – expressed a strong backing for Democrat Hilary Clinton in this election. As news broke across the world that, in fact, Donald Trump had triumphed, there was a general impression of disbelief, global markets reacted (but then rallied quickly), and social media quaked from the shock. Yet, whatever your political persuasion, there is reason to be positive. Trump has suggested that he will cut corporation taxes by more than half, and offer greater tax benefits for US-manufactured products sold in the US market. Both actions have the potential to relieve some of the strain on struggling chemical companies and, as we all know, what happens in US industry has considerable potential to reverberate around the world. At the same time, Trump has suggested abolishing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which he believes hampers business… but any legislative changes would need to pass Congress, and hopefully any proposed variations would be tempered to ensure that advances made in the past decades were not undone.
Challenges with fossil fuels have been a driving factor for greener energy solutions, which have obviously benefited our environment and world, but also opened the way to novel and exciting business opportunities in their own right. The International Energy Agency (IEA) announced at the end of October that it was significantly increasing its 5-year growth forecast for renewables, which have surpassed coal to become the largest source of installed power capacity in the world. Led by wind and solar, the IEA says that renewables represent more than half the new power capacity around the world.
A fluctuating Asia Pacific market means there will be ups as well as downs. As our experience grows, we will hopefully get better at distinguishing and predicting the two, and manage to perfect our riding of the dragon. It is unlikely that this unstable market will calm significantly over the next year, but as more global majors develop partnerships with local companies and continually improve their understanding of the region, there is reason to believe that all stakeholders may develop in a positive and profitable manner.
And all these divestments, mergers and acquisitions – believe it or not, they do more than just keeping lawyers employed! They are streamlining our industry, making us stronger, more focussed and more robust. In other words, we will be better equipped to deal with more changes… with more opportunities… in the future.
Sarah Harding, PhD
Editor – Speciality Chemicals Magazine