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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

CDC to cut guidance on quarantine period for coronavirus exposure

A health care worker oversees cars as people arrive to get tested for coronavirus at a testing site in Arlington, Virginia, on Tuesday. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

The CDC will soon shorten its guidance for quarantine periods following exposure to COVID-19, AP reported Tuesday and Axios can confirm.

Why it matters: Quarantine helps prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which can occur before a person knows they're sick or if they're infected without feeling any symptoms. The current recommended period to stay home if exposed to the virus is 14 days. The CDC plans to amend this to 10 days or seven with a negative test, an official told Axios.

  • The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
1 hour ago - Health

CDC panel: COVID vaccines should go to health workers, long-term care residents first

Hospital staff work in the COVID-19 intensive care unit in Houston. Photo: Go Nakamura via Getty

Health-care workers and nursing home residents should be at the front of the line to get coronavirus vaccines in the United States once they’re cleared and available for public use, an independent CDC panel recommended in a 13-1 emergency vote on Tuesday, per CNBC.

Why it matters: Recent developments in COVID-19 vaccines have accelerated the timeline for distribution as vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna undergo the federal approval process. States are preparing to begin distributing as soon as two weeks from now.

Obama: Broad slogans like "defund the police" lose people

Snapchat.

Former President Barack Obama told Peter Hamby on the Snapchat original political show "Good Luck America" that "snappy" slogans such as "defund the police" can alienate people, making the statements less effective than intended.

What he's saying: "You lost a big audience the minute you say it, which makes it a lot less likely that you're actually going to get the changes you want done," Obama told Hamby in an interview that will air Wednesday morning at 6 a.m. EST on Snapchat.