Access to cheap natural gas has helped displace coal and cut greenhouse gas emissions. But it’s also incentivized a massive buildout of fossil-fuel infrastructure along the U.S. Gulf Coast that one study says could increase carbon emissions by half a billion metric tons a year.
A long list of petrochemical plants, liquefied natural gas terminals and other facilities have been proposed or permitted on the Texas and Louisiana coasts as companies including Exxon Mobil Corp., Phillips 66 and Qatar Petroleum seek to tap cheap shale gas from nearby oilfields. If all of them are built, they could add more than 500 million tons of carbon emissions annually by 2030, according to a study published in Environmental Research Letters. That’s equal to about 10% of current U.S. emissions, or 131 power plants burning coal.