We don’t typically sit around discussing the state of the automobile industry, but this latest news has earned our attention. With the shutdown last month of Gulf Coast petrochem plants, car makers face a new headache that threatens to slow or even halt production starting as early as next week. REC today is following Automotive News, which reports vehicle plants now are dealing with a critical shortage of refined products used to make plastics, rubber, and special fibers. Of particular concern is propylene oxide—the raw material in polyurethane foam used to make vehicle seats. Last year’s cuts in automobile production meant less demand for propylene oxide, which then meant Texas plants stopped producing it for a stretch. Factor in a quicker-than-expected demand recovery topped with an unprecedented winter storm, and you have all the ingredients for no ingredients available. The looming scarcity has at least one auto exec predicting the problem will be larger than the shortage of microchips.

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