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Reproduced from The World Bank; Chart: Axios Visuals

The burning of natural gas at oil production sites rose last year to its highest level since 2009, per newly released World Bank estimates based on satellite data.

Why it matters: Flaring the gas associated with oil production, rather than capturing it, emits lots of greenhouse gas emissions, even though the oil sector has made progress on a per-barrel basis.

The big picture: Flaring rose 3.5% from 2018 to 2019 to reach 150 billion cubic meters, per the World Bank-led Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership, which hopes to end "routine" flaring by 2030.

  • For a sense of scale, 150 bcm is equivalent to the total annual gas consumption of sub-Saharan Africa, the report notes.
  • The increase was largely driven by three countries: the U.S., Venezuela and Russia.

Threat level: "Gas flaring in fragile or conflict-affected countries increased from 2018 to 2019: in Syria by 35% and in Venezuela by 16%, although oil production was flat in Syria and declined by 40% in Venezuela," the report finds.

What's next: There were reasons to think that 2020 would see a reversal of 2019's rise even before the pandemic crisis really took hold.

  • The analysis notes that satellite data show decreases in many countries — including the U.S. — in the first quarter.

The bottom line: "While 2020 is likely to see a decline in global gas flaring, the data suggest that gas flaring continues to be a persistent problem, with solutions remaining difficult or uneconomic in certain countries," the report states.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected with respect to the estimated amount of increased gas flaring from 2018 to 2019.

Go deeper

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Oct 28, 2020 - Economy & Business

Africa loses economic hope

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The good news is that most of Africa has done surprisingly well in terms of COVID-19 cases and deaths.

  • The bad news is that the pandemic has greatly exacerbated a continent-wide economic crisis. Even before the virus hit, Africa was suffering from weak commodity prices and a devastating plague of locusts.
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Retail traders have found a cheat code for the stock market, and barring some major action from regulatory authorities or a massive turn in their favored companies, they're going to keep using it to score "tendies" and turn Wall Street on its head.

What's happening: The share prices of companies like GameStop are rocketing higher, based largely on the social media organizing of a 3-million strong group of Redditors who are eagerly piling into companies that big hedge funds are short selling, or betting will fall in price.

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Who benefits from Biden's move to reopen ACA enrollment

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Nearly 15 million Americans who are currently uninsured are eligible for coverage on the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, and more than half of them would qualify for subsidies, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation brief.

Why it matters: President Biden is expected to announce today that he'll be reopening the marketplaces for a special enrollment period from Feb. 15 to May 15, but getting a significant number of people to sign up for coverage will likely require targeted outreach.