Inoes boss slams EU green taxes for “uncompetitive” chemicals industry

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Photo by AkzoNobel AkzoNobel production plant in Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Ineos founder and chairman Jim Ratcliffe has written an open letter to European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker expressing his concerns about the future of the European chemicals industry.

The letter particularly criticised the EU for its green taxes and regulations, saying they should be reduced to sustain a competitive chemical industry.

"Europe is no longer competitive. It has the world’s most expensive energy and labour laws that are uninviting for employers,” wrote Ratcliffe. Green taxes can at best be described as 'foolish, at worst as simply stupid,' he declared, as well as having the 'opposite effect to how they were intended'. 

“Nobody in my business seriously invests in Europe…. Everyone in my business does however invest in the US, Middle East or China or indeed all three,” he added.

According to Ratcliffe, the US is currently 'in the middle of a $200-billion spending spree' on 333 new chemical plants.

China has also spent a similar amount on its chemicals business in recent years, he added.

Pointing out that the $4trn chemicals industry was considerably bigger than the automotive sector, Ratcliffe said the sector directly employs over 1 million in Europe.

“But the industry is uncompetitive. In the past decade Europe’s share of the world chemical market has halved from 30%-15%,” he stated.

Ratcliffe identified the EU’s strict labour laws as another factor making employers reluctant to operate in the region.

“On top of this, green taxes have pushed investors to the US and China, where taxes are lower,” he continued.

“America’s new investments have meant new jobs, and it [the US] has improved environmental emissions – but Europe can’t seem to do the same,” he added.

Ineos announced in January that it was building an major ethane gas cracker and PDH unit in Antwerp, Belgium.

However, the letter explained that the investment was only possible due to the company’s access to its own “low priced, cost effective” shale gas from the US.

Ineos imports its own ethane via its own transatlantic vessels, meaning it does not need to buy feedstock from European suppliers.

“Don’t expect others to follow [Ineos in investing]. They will be welcomed by the US and China with a warm smile and a good strategy,” he added.

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