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Expand chart
Data: EIA; Chart: Axios Visuals 

America's oil and gas boom is fueling the rise of a lesser-known energy central to the plastics in our lives: ethane.

The big picture: Ethane, a colorless and odorless gas produced alongside natural gas, is the single largest type of raw material in North America for petrochemicals, the building blocks of plastics. America is consuming and exporting ethane in record quantities.

Driving the news: Last week, ExxonMobil and Saudi Arabia-based SABIC got final approval to build in Texas what will be one of the world’s largest facilities processing ethane — with a $10 billion price tag, per The Houston Chronicle.

By the numbers:

  • Domestic demand for ethane has grown rapidly. The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects it will reach 1.7 million barrels per day by year’s end, an 83% increase over 2012.
  • Seven new petrochemical plants have come online in the U.S. since early 2017, with at least a couple more expected this year, per the EIA.
  • Exports of ethane have grown from nothing in 2013 to more than 250,000 barrels a day in 2018. EIA projects these exports to increase by another 50% this year. (The only other country that exports ethane, Norway, does about a quarter of that.)
  • Global petrochemical demand will keep growing above GDP growth until 2028 partly due to the growth in e-commerce — think: all those Amazon packages, which require a lot of plastic — according to the research and consultancy firm Wood MacKenzie.
  • Then at that point, various mandates and bans being imposed around the world will push petrochemical demand below GDP growth, the consultancy projects.

The intrigue: This boom in petrochemicals is coming right as the global outcry intensifies over plastic waste.

Go deeper: Axios' Deep Dive on our plastic planet

Go deeper

Dominion sends cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell

Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Dominion Voting Systems on Monday sent a cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell over his spread of misinformation related to the 2020 election.

Why it matters: Trump and several of his allies have pushed false conspiracy theories about the company, leading Dominion to take legal action. It's suing pro-Trump lawyer Sydney Powell for defamation and $1.3 billion in damages, and a Dominion employee has sued Trump himself, OANN and Newsmax.

Off the Rails

Episode 5: The secret CIA plan

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer, Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 5: Trump vs. Gina — The president becomes increasingly rash and devises a plan to tamper with the nation's intelligence command.

In his final weeks in office, after losing the election to Joe Biden, President Donald Trump embarked on a vengeful exit strategy that included a hasty and ill-thought-out plan to jam up CIA Director Gina Haspel by firing her top deputy and replacing him with a protege of Republican Congressman Devin Nunes.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Empire State Building among hundreds to light up in Biden inauguration coronavirus tribute.
  3. Vaccine: Fauci: 100 million doses in 100 days is "absolutely" doable.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode again.
  5. Tech: Kids' screen time sees a big increase.