Big Oil’s New Plan: Flood the World with Plastics

By Megan Redshaw, J.D.

Faced with diminishing demand for fossil fuels, the struggling oil and gas industry is investing billions of dollars in new plants designed to produce millions more tons of plastics — and millions more tons of pollution.

The oil industry plans to increase plastic production by 40% over the next decade. Big Oil’s big plan means millions more tons of plastic — and millions more tons of emissions — will flood into the marketplace and into the environment.

According to the Center for Environmental International Law more than 99% of plastic is made from chemicals sourced from fossil fuels. A recent study published by Environmental Research Letters identified 88 petrochemical projects in the planning or development phase along the Gulf Coast. If all are completed, the combined emissions output could reach 150.8 million metric tons, the equivalent of 38 coal plants.

By 2030, emissions from global plastic production and incineration could reach 1.34 gigatons annually, the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide released by 295 coal plants each year.

“Plastic is fossil fuel in another form. Everything that happens before you see that plastic on the shelf is emissions intense,” said Steven Feit, a lawyer of Center for Environmental International Law. “It releases all manner of pollutants and toxic chemicals.”

There are more than 30 plastic plants in the pipeline, from the Ohio River Valley to the Gulf Coast, as oil companies aim to turn the current oversupply of fracked ethane gas into polyethylene, a type of plastic.

For example, 25 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, near the Ohio border, Shell is constructing a massive $6 billion petrochemicals complex. The 386-acre property is fed by a 98-mile pipeline system that will deliver up to 100,000 barrels of ethane per day to the “cracker” plant, which will “crack” ethane molecules apart to produce plastic for phone cases, auto parts, bottles, bags, toys, food packaging and other plastic products.

According to Popular Science, the plant will have its own rail system with 3,300 freight cars and will produce more than a million tons of plastic each year — along with millions more tons of pollution.



8 thoughts on “Big Oil’s New Plan: Flood the World with Plastics

  1. Yes, I dont like it either but it is really “feedstock vs fuel”. I used to work at a PTA plant and there were huge fluctuations in feedstock price. (Via the refinery). If fuel (gasoline) was somewhat expensive and in demand, plastics had a tough time. But when the spot price of our feedstock (PX) bottomed out, we had to make plastics. Excess PX became worthless to sell and plastic precursors were the way to go.

    The oil industry is hanging on. Their logistics people are pushing them to the brink where they wont be able to sell fuel in certain parts of the country because of such a low demand. There will be gad deserts soon enough.


  2. Pingback: Big Oil’s New Plan: Flood the World with Plastics — The Most Revolutionary Act | Vermont Folk Troth

  3. The problem with plastics, freematt, is they take centuries to breakdown and they enter the human body as microplastics. All of us are filled with microplastics at this point, and I’m really concerned about their link with autoimmune illnesses and other chronic illnesses.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Me, too. I make a conscientious effort to avoid plastic, especially in food, but it is impossible to do. We have no way of knowing the long term debilitating effects of plastics as they enter the food chain from the bottom up, as in the ocean microorganisms, and other flora and fauna. And the packaging . . . my personal survey (n = 1) shows that the ratio of product to packaging has gone way down over my years of shopping.


  4. Pingback: Flooding the planet with plastics from US Fracking Glut: Big Oil’s answer to Climate Emergency – The Free

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