Chevron is boasting about its production of a new jet fuel made from plastic trash that has been reprocessed through pyrolysis — a method that burns plastic in order to produce oil. They buy the trash post-pyrolysis from other companies. Chevron, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), and the Biden Administration claim that this new jet fuel will address the global climate crisis because it avoids traditional forms of gas. But at what cost? This new fuel emits air pollution so toxic that one in four people exposed to it could get cancer. To put that in perspective, this amount of risk is worse than lung cancer in smokers.
Pyrolysis already has a bad rap since this process for recycling plastics can have economic and environmental costs 10–100 times higher than those of making new plastics from fossil fuels. And, in addition to these environmental costs produced during pyrolysis, Chevron will be adding the environmental cost of the highly toxic pollution that results from the production of the new jet fuel.
Other health risks besides the risk of cancer posed by the production of this new fuel are developmental problems in children as well as damage to the nervous system, reproductive system, liver, kidney, blood, and spleen.
The refinery that was approved to make this new fuel is in Pascagoula, Mississippi. The population there is mostly low-income and Black. They and refinery workers are the people who will bear the immediate cancer and health burden.
Normally, the EPA and federal law would make the production of this fuel illegal in the U.S. However, it says it is making an exception because the fuel is made from waste materials. Due to the Toxic Substances Control Act, the EPA could prohibit the production of this fuel, but they are choosing not to. Meanwhile the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts do not regulate these new fuels because those laws were written before the fuels existed. Companies have to apply to the EPA for permission to introduce new chemicals, but because they are not required to supply data to prove that the new chemicals are safe for introduction, the EPA just often accepts what companies tell them when drawing its conclusions. Its inadequate budget seriously limits the research it can do. The government and its laws are not set up to protect workers and citizens from this new fuel. So, a tight budget for environmental protection has contributed to this decision. And at the end of the day, the EPA is a government agency, and it has no interest in blocking the profit potential of gigantic U.S companies like Chevron.
Furthermore, Chevron is refusing to be transparent about the chemicals it is using to produce this fuel, making it even harder for states and local governments to monitor the pollution.
The EPA and the Biden Administration claim that this new fuel is part of efforts to “confront the climate crisis.” But how could exposing the local population to toxic air pollutants be a solution to any environmental crisis? This promise to “confront the climate crisis” is a joke when the environmental protection agency has been underfunded for years, and hardly protects anything anymore. How is burning another petroleum product going to address the profiteering of companies that have caused the climate crisis in the first place?
Chevron can now boast doubling its profits while gas prices continue to squeeze our wallets. The petroleum corporations have devised new ways to make more profit while lying about their environmentalism, all while increasing the safety risks to workers and other people. And Chevron is drooling over this new toxic technology because it will bring huge profits — since they can get the plastic trash for cheap. Apparently, the only thing more toxic than this fuel is this capitalist system where something like this is allowed to happen.