Comment: Big Oil bets on plastic boom to offset climate-related losses



Resistance against industry is growing. Around the world, there are loud local protests against the expansion of production of plastics and other petrochemicals.

In the United States, protesters have successfully sued petrochemical production facilities. In Texas, plastic pellets collected over several years have been used as evidence in a lawsuit against Formosa Plastics.

In 2019, the company agreed to pay US $ 50 million to settle the claim that it illegally dumped billions of plastic granules and other pollutants. In addition, it is committed to conforming to the “zero discharge” of all plastics in the future and to cleaning up existing pollution.

The result spurred another lawsuit against Formosa Plastics in Louisiana, where protesters fought the construction of new petrochemical facilities.

The planned facility could roughly double toxic emissions in its region and, according to environmentalists, release up to 13 million tonnes of greenhouse gases per year – the equivalent of three coal-fired power plants, which makes it one of the biggest polluting plastics. installations around the world.

The lawsuit has so far halted construction of the new facilities. But this factory would be located in a highly industrialized area region between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, recognized by the UN as “Cancer Alley” because of the toxic chemical emissions that have affected it for decades.

In the Netherlands, the Plastic Soup Foundation has taken legal action to try to stop pollution by plastic granules from chemical clusters in Rotterdam and Antwerp.

In Taiwan, where petrochemicals have played a key role in economic development, several protests against petrochemical sites have made their expansion almost impossible.

Even in China, which has seen the industry’s fastest expansion in recent years, protests have been staged in many cities where plans for paraxylene production have been revealed.

These protests have mainly focused on local environmental pollutants and the negative effects on neighboring communities, which tend to be impoverished, and minority communities, rather than on the climate impact and industry’s connection to fossil fuels.

In Scotland, where Extinction Rebellion protesters in 2020 blocked the entrance to the integrated petrochemical production and oil refinery complex owned by INEOS. They accused the manufacturer of being Scotland’s biggest contributor to climate change and a major obstacle to the government’s net zero carbon emissions target.

INEOS responded by saying that emissions from production in the UK were lower than elsewhere and that the company was exploring ways to further reduce emissions.

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