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Screenshot from summary of IEA report, "The Future of Petrochemicals"

Rising use of petrochemicals that make plastics and other products will be the largest source of crude oil demand growth in coming decades, the International Energy Agency said in a new report.

The big picture: "Petrochemicals ... are set to account for more than a third of the growth in oil demand to 2030, and nearly half to 2050, ahead of trucks, aviation and shipping," the report shows.

  • Petrochemicals are used to make plastics, as well as fertilizers, clothes and a wide array of other products.
  • "Demand for plastics – the most familiar group of petrochemical products – has outpaced that of all other bulk materials (such as steel, aluminum or cement), and has nearly doubled since 2000," IEA notes.
  • The report also notes that petrochemicals are used to make parts of clean-energy technologies, such as solar panels and batteries.

Why it matters: The IEA report calls the topic a "blind spot" in energy policy debates.

Petrochemicals are fundamental and helpful parts of the global economy, but also pose major pollution problems and represent a growing source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

  • In particular, plastics are a major marine pollution problem.
  • More broadly, the report's long-term forecast shows that recycling and efforts to curb single-use plastics will be "far outweighed" by rising plastics consumption in developing economies.
  • In addition, the chemical sector represents 18% of all industrial-sector carbon emissions, and IEA forecasts substantial emissions growth in coming decades.

What's next (or could be): The report offers a "clean technology scenario" to lower the environmental toll of petrochemicals in coming decades.

  • It includes the adoption of better waste management and recycling to help cut ocean-bound plastic waste in half and the use of carbon capture and storage among other actions.

Go deeper: Reuters has more here.

Go deeper

Biden's pick to lead major banking regulator drops out

Saule Omarova, nominee for Comptroller of the Currency, at a confirmation hearing on Nov. 18. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

President Biden's pick to head one of the country's most powerful banking regulators is dropping out of consideration for the post, according to a statement from Biden that accepted the withdrawal.

Why it matters: Saule Omarova, nominated to lead the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, faced a tough path to confirmation — with opposition from Republicans and moderate Democrats.

Judge temporarily blocks Biden vaccine mandate for federal contractors

President Biden delivers remarks at the White House on Dec. 6 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images

A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked President Biden's vaccine mandate for federal contractors nationwide.

Why it matters: It's the latest setback in the Biden administration's rollout of COVID vaccine requirements. Federal judges in two states temporarily barred the administration from enforcing mandates for millions of workers last week.

Biden threatens Putin

Photo: Kremlin Press Office/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

In a video call that lasted for just over two hours on Tuesday, President Biden warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that if Russia invades Ukraine the U.S. will impose unprecedented sanctions and provide additional weaponry to the Ukrainians, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said.

Why it matters: Russia's military activity on the border with Ukraine has triggered alarms from the U.S. and its European allies of a potential large-scale Russian invasion in early 2022. Sullivan said Biden made clear to Putin that, "things we did not do in 2014, we are prepared to do now."