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Expand chart

Data: The World Bank; Chart: Axios Visuals

Oil producers around the world wasted as much natural gas in 2018 as South and Central America use in an entire year, according to new data from the World Bank.

Driving the news: Intentionally discarding natural gas by burning it off as carbon dioxide, a practice called “flaring,” increased 3% to 145 billion cubic meters last year compared to 2017. In the U.S., flaring rose by nearly 50%, driven by booming oil production and a relative lack of infrastructure to contain associated natural gas.

Why it matters: For both climate and business purposes flaring contributes to climate change and wastes a product that could be sold commercially.

  • The practice of flaring contributes to climate change by emitting CO2. It is a better option compared to venting though. That's another, less common industry practice of sending methane — the primary component of natural gas — straight into the atmosphere. Methane's short-term warming impact on the planet is far greater than that of CO2.
  • From a business perspective, companies are wasting a sellable product that’s poised to become the world’s dominant energy source. World Bank experts and environmentalists argue gas flaring is an especially needless contribution to climate change.

Where it stands: As the accompanying chart shows, the U.S. ranks fourth for how much natural gas it is wasting while producing oil, behind Russia, Iraq and Iran. Trends like these are among the starkest negative environmental consequences of America's oil and gas boom, which has made the U.S. the largest producer of both in the world.

But, but, but: Despite the overall increase, the flaring intensity in the U.S.— the volume of gas flared per barrel of oil produced — remains very low (lower than the 3 others on the chart).

Go deeper:

Go deeper

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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Food delivery companies have predictably done well during the pandemic. But restaurant software providers are also having a moment as eateries race to handle the avalanche of online orders resulting from severe in-person dining restrictions.

Driving the news: Olo filed last week for an IPO and Toast is rumored to be preparing to do the same very soon.

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

More than outright destroying jobs, automation is changing employment in ways that will weigh on workers.

The big picture: Right now, we should be less worried about robots taking human jobs than people in low-skilled positions being forced to work like robots.

House passes $1.9 trillion COVID relief package

Photo: Screenshot via C-SPAN

The House approved President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief package on a 219-212 vote early Saturday morning, sending it to the Senate for a possible rewrite before it gets to Biden's desk.

The big picture: The vote was a critical first step for the package, which includes $1,400 cash payments for many Americans, a national vaccination program, ramped-up COVID testing and contact tracing, state and local funding and money to help schools reopen.