Unforeseen forces could bring the cheap oil windfall to a screeching halt. Labor union disputes are stopping work at nine oil refineries. Stoppage could affect the entire chemical industry if it lasts, and work stoppage might affect glycol and alcohol pricing right away. And if that isn’t enough drama, the Keystone Pipeline bill approved by the Senate faces a presidential veto. Cheap oil has this country and much of the world divided. The price at the pump is still tumbling and so are resin prices for all grades of polyethylene, polypropylene, suspension PVC and solid polystyrene. The falling prices affect everything from employment to production and profit in all areas of oil and oil related businesses, making the majority of the population feel the negative side of cheap oil in some way. Read on and see what the pundits have to say about the future of our oil-based economy.

Talks Break Down: United Steel Workers Call for Work Stoppage
A United Steel Workers press release announced a call for work stoppage at nine US refineries at 12:01 local time on February 1.

“Shell refused to provide us with a counter-offer and left the bargaining table,” said USW International President Leo W. Gerard. “We had no choice but to give notice of a work stoppage.”

The USW rejected Shell Oil’s fifth and last offer before representatives walked away from the bargaining table.

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United Steelworkers Strike at Three Houston Refineries
A FuelFix blog reports that USW members walked out of five plants that included three refineries shortly after the announcement calling for a strike was made. The plants included LyondellBasell in Houston, Marathon Galveston Bay Refinery in Texas City, Shell Deer Park Refinery, Shell Deer Park Chemical Plant and Marathon Houston Green Cogeneration facility in Texas City.

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Senate Approved Keystone Bill Faces Presidential Veto
A story by Elana Schor reported that the Senate’s approval of the Keystone XL pipeline set up a clash with President Barack Obama, who vowed to kill the bill with only his third veto in six years.

Although the debate drew praise from both sides of the aisle, it failed to gain the needed support in both the Senate and the House to override a presidential veto.

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Tumbling Resin Prices Continue to Fall
A Plastics News article by Frank Esposito reports that the ongoing decline in crude oil prices is dragging commodity resin prices down as well.

According to the article, North American prices for all grades of polyethylene, polypropylene, suspension PVC and solid polystyrene fell in January. Prices for crude oil have fallen more than 50 percent since mid-2014, affecting prices for feedstocks used to make the resins. West Texas Intermediate crude was trading near $44.50 per barrel on Jan. 29 — its lowest price since early 2009.

The oil decline has affected prices for ethylene feedstock used to make PE. The price of oil sets global prices for the material, even though natural gas is used to make most ethylene used in North American PE production.

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