Last night we learned that an industrial and economic anchor in the mid-Atlantic – and Philadelphia in particular – will no longer operate as it had for almost 150 years. Philadelphia Energy Solutions was the final reworking of the Atlantic Refining Company, and Gulf Oil, then Chevron, and finally Sunoco before closing and reopening as PES in 2012. It was here that one of the first petroleum refineries in the United States opened.
Its executives were visionaries and innovators of the industrial age. Its products provided fuel for the automobile and the airplane in the most densely populated region in the country. It’s profits generated investments in other industries, many of them in the rapidly changing transportation system. The facility provided employment for generations of workers and thousands of ancillary businesses that supported its appetite for goods and services.
But as times change, industry evolves and technology progresses. New infrastructure will be built where older technologies falter. Electric powered cars are estimated to continue to increase in popularity, as Tesla is proving by being worth more than Ford and GM combined. The energy market has been shifting from coal-fired power plants to renewable energy, and the East Coast is planning to supplement our country’s ever-growing need of power with offshore wind. Energy consumption is only growing in our electronic dependent society, and industry is adapting to the demand.
There will be an immediate absence in our community for those individuals, families and businesses that are affected by the permanent closing of PES. Let’s hope that the expected new owner of the land along the Schuylkill, Hilco Redevelopment Partners, along with our business leaders and city and state politicians, have the vision to repurpose the land into another engine of commerce – for the energy industry or for other drivers of commerce. It’s land that has shouldered the economic growth of Philadelphia, its families and its neighbors for over 150 years, and has the infrastructure already in place to continue to do so for generations more.