Should the reduction in the price of oil impact technology development in the Coatings Industry?

Tony Mash -

As the oil price continues to decline and the cost of petrochemicals reduces substantially, one could argue that this is good news for all industries that consume petrochemicals and their derivatives, including the Coatings sector. However, with oil inventories at a global high, one wonders from an environmental point of view whether the availability of cheap carbon-based fuels will not only deter investment in technologies that replace oil derivatives but also encourage increased use of carbon-based materials in a profligate way that will add to the carbon dioxide burden in the upper atmosphere.

Kumi Naidoo, the Executive Director of Greenpeace International is an impressive speaker. I came across him for the first time at the Sustainability Leaders’ Conference in London last November and again recently in an article documenting a debate between him and Hans Wijers, the former CEO of AkzoNobel. Together, they addressed the need to influence for change to deal with environmental challenges and climate change  (  

When Naidoo spoke in London at a time just before the oil price crash, he shared his growing concerns that time was running out for Humanity given finite material resources and rising CO₂ emissions. With the goal to constrain the temperature increase in the oceans to 2 degrees Centigrade, we were informed that last year the temperature increase was already 0.8 deg. He commented that what goes on in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic and noted the ongoing decline in marine ecosystems, with some projections suggesting that fish could give way to seas dominated by algae and jelly fish.

Naidoo underlined his worries about too much investment in current energy and polluting systems blocking progress and called for a ‘billion acts of contagious courage’. Greenpeace is engaging with the banking, financial and insurance industries worldwide to redirect resources away from ‘polluting companies’ and lend preferentially to the new economy supported by renewable energy sources. He is also linking with Trade Unions using the tag line ‘No jobs and a dead planet’. 

Naidoo’s link with Hans Wijers is an interesting one and gives credence to the path that AkzoNobel has chosen to take over the past few years as far as Sustainability is concerned. With Greenpeace looking to influence not only the thinking of consumers and politicians but also the investment priorities of the Banking, Finance and Insurance industries, the Coatings Industry would be unwise to slow down technology change aimed at delivering reduced carbon footprint from cradle to grave. 

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