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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Gulf Coast industrial facilities built to use surging oil and natural gas production from shale formations could become a very large source of greenhouse gas emissions, a peer-reviewed study concludes.

Why it matters: The paper in Environmental Research Letters bolsters understanding of shale's potential climate effects by looking closely at petrochemical plants, LNG terminals and other facilities (much of it in the planning stages).

What they found: Researchers with the University of Texas-Austin estimate that total annual emissions from the infrastructure build-out could reach 541 million tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent (CO2e) by 2030.

  • That's more than 8% of total U.S. emissions in 2017 and "roughly equivalent to the emissions of 131 coal-fired power plants."
  • The study explores infrastructure in Texas and Louisiana as well as emissions from oil-and-gas production sites.

The intrigue: They note that while emissions from methane released or burned at well sites gets lots of attention, the bigger problem lies elsewhere.

  • "A substantial fraction of the projected emissions come from petrochemical facilities (38%) and liquefied natural gas terminals (19%)," it states.

But, but, but: There's a whole bunch of caveats worth keeping in mind here. Among them...

  • Most of the emissions come from projects in the planning stages, so it's hard to say how exactly how many will ultimately be built.
  • The study does not address ways that the U.S. gas boom has helped displace coal in electricity production.

What they're saying: Daniel Raimi of the nonpartisan think tank Resources for the Future, who has conducted separate research on shale and climate, calls the paper a "valuable, detailed look" at the topic.

  • But he notes that a major limitation, which the authors acknowledge, is that it "does not attempt to define a counterfactual scenario."
  • For instance, if an LNG export facility isn't constructed in the U.S., would it be built in Qatar, Russia or Australia instead?
  • Even domestically, he notes, a petrochemical plant that isn't built in the paper's Gulf Coast study region might get constructed elsewhere in the U.S.

The bottom line: "I would tend to view the author’s estimates of emissions associated with the shale boom as an upper bound," Raimi tells Axios.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Venezuela suspends talks with opposition after Maduro ally extradited to U.S.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, in June. Photo: Gaby Oraa/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key ally of Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro was extradited from Cape Verde to the U.S. Saturday to face money laundering charges in Florida, Bloomberg first reported.

Why it matters: Venezuela's government called off negotiations with opposition officials that were scheduled for Sunday in Mexico in response to the extradition of Alex Saab, a Colombian businessman and financial fixer for Maduro.

4 hours ago - Health

5 times as many police officers have died from COVID as from guns since pandemic began

Photo: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

COVID-19 is the leading cause of death for police officers even though members of law enforcement were among the first to be eligible to receive the vaccine, CNN reports, citing data from the Officer Down Memorial Page.

Why it matters: Nearly 476 police officers have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic started, compared to the 93 deaths as a result of gunfire in the same time period, according to ODMP and CNN.

Virginia energy giant quietly boosts McAuliffe

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe speaks during a campaign rally on Oct. 15 in Henrico, Virginia. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Virginia Democrat Terry McAuliffe has sworn off money from the Richmond company Dominion Energy. But the utility has found more subtle ways to back McAuliffe's gubernatorial bid, records show.

Driving the news: Dominion's political action committee has donated $200,000 to a murky political group called Accountability Virginia PAC, a group with ties to prominent Democrats that's been running ads attacking Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin from the right.