The recent advent of shale gas in the U.S. has redefined the economics of ethylene manufacturing globally, causing a shift towards low-cost U.S. production due to natural gas feedstock, while reinforcing the industry’s reliance on fossil fuels. At the same time, the global climate change crisis compels a transition to a low-carbon economy. These two influencing factors are complex, contested, and uncertain. This paper projects the United States’ (U.S.) future ethylene supply in the context of two megatrends: the natural gas surge and global climate change. The analysis models the future U.S. supply of ethylene in 2050 based on plausible socio-economic scenarios in response to climate change mitigation and adaptation pathways as well as a range of natural gas feedstock prices. This Vector Error Correction Model explores the relationships between these variables. The results show that ethylene supply increased in nearly all modeled scenarios. A combination of lower population growth, lower consumption, and higher natural gas prices reduced ethylene supply by 2050. In most cases, forecasted CO2
emissions from ethylene production rose. This is the first study to project future ethylene supply to go beyond the price of feedstocks and include socio-economic variables relevant to climate change mitigation and adaptation.
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