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Environment

U.S. chemical expansion would boost emissions

by Glenn Hess, special to C&EN
March 7, 2016 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 94, ISSUE 10

Spurred by the shale revolution and low natural gas prices, the petrochemical and energy sectors proposed or received permits in 2015 to construct or expand 44 plants across the U.S. But this increase in production would boost greenhouse gas emissions by about 78 million metric tons per year, a watchdog group warns. Although natural gas is often touted as an environmentally friendly fuel, a report by the Environmental Integrity Project says the projects could potentially emit as much carbon dioxide as 19 new coal-fired power plants. “This growing greenhouse gas pollution from the petrochemical industry suggests that the fracking and natural gas boom is not as good for the climate as people think,” says the group’s executive director, Eric Schaeffer. The American Chemistry Council, an industry association, says the U.S. expansion may actually lower overall greenhouse gas emissions by drawing market share away from other parts of the world where production is less energy-efficient. The report examined 23 planned facilities for processing liquefied natural gas, 14 chemical and fertilizer manufacturing plants, and seven petroleum refineries.

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