Photo Credit: Glen Canyon Dam and Colorado River - Page, Arizona by Flickr.com user Jim Trodel

Ending Oil Dependency with Green Chemistry

Author Elizabeth Grossman writes on Huffington Post, "Can Green Chemistry Get Us Out of Deepwater?" where she challenges society's dependence on petrochemicals for manufactured goods and products. In Grossman’s book Chasing Molecules, she looks inside industrial technologies of many large, brand-name companies. “There are already some other packaging materials that perform comparably to PVC, but many companies have also begun to shift away from PVC as a structural material.” Many products have already been made through green chemistry. Case in point, Live Science published an article recently how Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute undergrads turned mushrooms in to green packaging. In her blog post, Grossman says: “Green chemistry design has already created products like paint made with soy additives, pesticides made from microbes, and plastics made from orange peels. There are even green chemistry products that can break down petroleum in environmentally benign ways, products that detoxify hazardous petrochemicals and leave behind nothing more toxic than oxygen and water.” But this is a controversial topic. So much so that event policymakers who are introducing green chemistry initiatives aren't taking sides in the debate. The Capitol Weekly reported on a hearing Tuesday debating green chemistry regulations: “Environmentalists and their allies in the Legislature have continually been confounded by the contrast between a governor [Schwarzenegger] who sticks his neck out by proposing a groundbreaking Green Chemistry in the first place—then pursues it in a way that is much more inclusive of industry concerns than they would have preferred.” As we look at what has been happening in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, this debate may become more frequent. As Grossman noted in her post that a commitment to green chemistry may include: “Government procurement programs would use green chemistry principles to seek out the 'greenest' technologies. Rather than being limited to products (ranging from dispersants to carpets) that fit a standard set decades ago, government agencies would be empowered to choose and use the most environmentally innovative.” For more information on green chemistry, check out Grossman's book Chasing Molecules.