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Editor’s Page: Our 2009 lemonade recipe

By Rebekkah Marshall |

First, you’ll need a lot of lemons. As 2009 kicks off, sour fruit happens to be in great supply. To be blunt, the chemical process industries (CPI) are in the middle of what appears to be the worst recession since World War II (WWII). There are many signs that point to such a conclusion, but a particularly clear picture can be drawn from the November 2008 CPI operating rate (see p. 60), which is the industry’s most recent figure available on capacity utilization. At 72.7%, the operating rate hasn’t been this low since the end of the 2001 recession. "But that data point is of cold comfort," says Mike Montgomery, analyst at Global Insight, Inc., (Lexington, Mass.), "Since the low of the last recession will be passed (going down) with ease [in the December number]." In the release of January data, Montgomery expects the operating rate to fall — again, "with ease" — below any other post-WWII recession except for that of 1981 – 1982. "The recession is spreading fast, and all the cutbacks in car and truck production announced recently will make January dismal, with slim chance of improvement in February or March," he says. What is reflected in the declining operating…
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