Over the last three weeks, the Houston, TX area has been besieged by chemical fires—the latest resulting in the death of one person and the hospitalization of two others. A few weeks ago, another petrochemical facility caught on fire, consuming 11 storage tanks and sending toxic materials spewing into the air and Houston ship channel. During the initial fire, smoke billowing from the facility created a dark cloud that stretched over 20 miles across the City of Houston.
These types of incidents cast a pall over the petrochemical industry and reinforce the urgency of finding more environmentally-friendly—and human-friendly—solutions. Nonetheless, our dependency on petrochemicals has proven hard to overcome, largely because these materials are as versatile as they are volatile. From fuel to plastics to textiles to paper to packaging to construction materials to cleaning supplies, petroleum-based products are critical to our industrial infrastructure and way of life.
Ellis Talton and Remington Tonar