As I write this, much is unknown about the upcoming fiscal cliff and whether our elected representatives have the tenacity to do something about it. If not, it’s likely that individuals will not see a huge impact immediately, unless you are one of the ones to lose your job. As time goes on, however, who knows? A number of jobs will be lost if sequestration is allowed to move forward. This may certainly affect those who serve the military and aerospace sectors of our industry. Unfortunately, entitlements – including our newly imposed government health-care program – will need to be impacted, and politicians don’t have the will to see that happen. Interesting (and unsettling) times! This uncertainty is what causes business to stall.
Recent forecasts indicate that the U.S. could be the world’s largest oil producer by 2020. These predictions don’t reflect government “involvement” in this industry, which is not at all unlikely. Watch what happens to permits for liquid natural gas (LNG) export facilities, which are currently sitting on the President’s desk. We understand that eight LNG terminals are currently being constructed (and permitted), and only one has permission to operate.
If your company has the opportunity to support this growing oil and natural gas industry, the future looks good in spite of what the administration (and a green agenda) might do to slow it down. Look at areas such as LNG shipping/infrastructure (tankers and terminals) as good growth markets in 2013 and beyond.
Another growth area appears to be natural gas engines for trucks and buses. Companies in this business are likely to expand and need thermal-processing support for this growth. Along these lines, companies involved in the growth of natural-gas-fired power plants in the U.S. may need support from our industry as they expand in the coming decade.
Don’t know if it’s just me, but the talk of global warming seems to have come roaring back (from nowhere) since the election. In a Nov. 14 press conference, President Obama went on the record saying, “I am a firm believer that climate change is real.” He follows by saying that he believes we have an obligation to future generations to do something about it. If only he was saying the same thing about the deficit and unemployment. It’s not surprising that this discussion is being revived, even though recent reports have virtually discredited the theory. Global control freaks just can’t seem to let it go. Watch out for and oppose carbon taxes. The future of our industry depends on not allowing this line of thinking to continue.
We certainly don’t have time to do this discussion any justice, but natural gas use is a great way to reduce atmospheric CO2. While the biggest “greenies” want to oppose natural gas along with everything except “renewables,” this position is untenable for our future. As two WSJ writers recently reported, “No realistic scenario foresees renewables making more than a marginal contribution in the developing world for many decades.” They go on to say, “The dual solution of profitable conservation (beloved by liberals) and clean fracking (touted by conservatives) may not fully satisfy either side. But we hope it can provide a middle ground on which political factions can come together.” I couldn’t have said it better.
Other Future Opportunities
In the past, we have mentioned nanotechnology as a potential growth area. It’s still out there, but growth seems to be “small.” Look to the development of robots for a number of future opportunities (e.g., warfare, household chores, nursing, athletic training, etc.). Robot manufacturing will likely require assistance from our industry. Additive manufacturing (3-D printing) will also see significant growth.
TiO2 coatings will be increasingly used in areas such as self-cleaning buildings and clothing to help cotton shed stains and eliminate odor-producing bacteria.
Self-driving cars are expected to hit the mainstream market in the next 20 years or so. What might be necessary to support this development? Electric cars are likely to see greater acceptance and usability as more highways implement fast-charging stations, particularly on the West Coast.
What will actually happen in the next year and beyond? It’s really a guessing game, but we hope that some of the ideas presented here help to spark thoughts about how your business can participate and grow in the future. All the best for a productive and prosperous 2013. IH