Keep in mind that Shell is not a U.S. corporation, but they do have a lot of manufacturing sites here.
I work in one of the larger oil refineries located along the Houston Ship Channel. I have worked in Operations and Maintenance for almost 20 years, but have been an Operations Supervisor for the last 9 years.
Long story short, I have seen a lot of change throughout the years. Most of the change has been driven by two closely related factors, cost and significant incidents. For example, locking and tagging out equipment for maintenance (LO/TO) is a direct result of the October 23, 1989 explosion within the K-Resin unit at the Philips plant in Pasadena, Texas. Some of my friends responded to the aftermath of that incident, which resulted in 23 fatalities and hundreds of injuries.
Government oversight, environmental and safety regulations are lax in China relative to the United States. China's demand for fossil fuels was growing at an exponential rate until the global economic downturn. China's massive labor pool and low compensation would make it attractive to any multinational energy corporation. And let's face it, life is cheap in 3rd world countries.
Unfortunately, corruption, poor engineering and the use of low quality components are often the norm when manufacturing facilities are constructed in 3rd world countries. Poorly trained plant personnel have caused thousands of deaths in facilities located in 3rd world countries as well. Many here are old enough to remember the toxic gas release at a Union Carbide facility in Bhopal, India that resulted in 2,000 deaths during the mid 1980's. Thousands still suffer lingering health issues as a result of that incident today.
Where am I going with all of this you may ask, well let me tell you. I believe that we will soon see the tankers in our ports unloading raw crude replaced by tankers unloading finished fossil fuels and other chemicals manufactured in 3rd world countries. Before anyone says that this could not happen, look at what happened to the steel industry in the United States. Just two years ago who would have ever fathomed that all 3 U.S. automakers would face the dire financial situations that they currently face?
I believe that the time to protect our manufacturing sector has arrived. Consumers will not enjoy losing the ability to purchase cheap goods from 3rd world countries, but the alternative is the loss of our middle-class and the transition of the United States from Super-Power to 3rd world country.
Just my .02 cents as a cog in the wheel of the petrochemical industry.