Dow Chemical Co. boss Andrew Liveris and DuPont ceo Ellen Kullman were in Philadelphia today, marking the United Nations' International Year of Chemistry at a program at the way-cool Chemical Heritage Society museum-archive-hall in the 300 block of Chestnut St., a few blocks from Dow's local headquarters in the former Rohm and Haas building (Dow bought R and H two years ago.)

Dow's delegation stayed down the block at the Omni Hotel. The freezing rain didn't bother this  group from Dow headquarters in Midland, Mich. "I love Philadelphia. If I could come down here to live, I would," Neil Hawkins, Dow's vice preident for sustainability, told me.

The point of the Year of Chemistry is to promote science as a career choice. I told Hawkins what he already knew: that a disproportionately large number of American scientists and engineers are immigrants or first-generation college grads; that many young people know science jobs are boring.

But a science background works with sales, law and many other professions, Hawkins insisted. "Chemistry is the enabling science. Feed the world. Develop renewable energy. Clean the water. It's a high-tech field. It's up to us to paint the pictuer of the enjoyment, the joy of creation through chemistry."

Like what? Like the Dow Powerhouse Solar Shingle that generates electricity while keeping water out of your attic (which Dow hopes will be cost-effective to mass-produce, creating hundreds of jobs, by 2015); like windmill blade composites that Dow makes for manufacturers around the world; or the osmotic membranes Dow makes for Trevose-based GE Water and other water-purification-systems makers. "The innards of GE Water's devices is chemistry, it's what we do for them," Hawkins said.

Liveris and Kullman have met with President Obama and urged him to support American manufacturing and exports. Their companies can make stuff anywhere; both say they'd like to manufacture in the US, when it makes economic sense.

Liveris has pushed Dow's agenda through his leadership of the Business Roundtable, and his book, Make It in America. "Obama seems to be listening," Hawkins said, though details are still in the works. "The U.S. needs a very clear energy policy. Renewable energy is an important part of our future. You have to move beyond talking about it, to policy."