PEP Review 2008-12
Will the Real Carbon Footprint Please Stand Up?
Published: December 2008
Regulators, policy-makers, financiers, customers and end-consumers are all interested in carbon footprints. To combat global warming, they want to reward low-carbon and punish high-carbon products (and services), including chemicals. All fair enough, but which is which?
As the following study shows, not all ethylene—the chemical industry’s bellwether and largest-volume product—is created equal. Its carbon footprint can vary dramatically depending on 1) the feedstock from which it is produced, and 2) the allocation method used in compiling the footprint itself. This variance will be important in any footprint comparisons involving ethylene. It also will be important in determining the future footprint of the petrochemical industry.
To demonstrate these points, this study tests the sensitivity of ethylene carbon-footprints by allocation method, by feedstock type and by geographic location. It shows that ethylene’s carbon footprint is most highly sensitive to the allocation method used in calculating that footprint.