Posted October 27, 2016
With Halloween nearly upon us, just about everyone’s got a set of stencils for turning pumpkins into fantastic jack-o-lanterns. The U.S. Energy Department’s collection of energy-themed stencils is terrific, but lacks patterns for oil and natural gas. Considering that oil and gas supply 65 percent of the energy Americans use today and are projected to furnish 67 percent of our energy in 2040, that got us to thinking:
“Hey, without oil and natural gas, there wouldn’t be pumpkins to carve!”
Let’s think this one through, in reverse order:
First, there’s the candle for illuminating the finished jack-o-lantern (admittedly, we’re Old School here). Most candles are made from paraffin wax, which is derived from petroleum. Then there’s the little plastic-handled sawing gizmos for the carving and the plastic scoopers for getting the seeds and orange muck out of the pumpkin – plastic made from oil- or natural gas-based polymers.
There’s the pumpkin, which you bought at your local supermarket or the nearest pumpkin patch. Now, unless you live next-door to one of those, you drove there in a vehicle fueled by gasoline or diesel, both refined from petroleum, the main source of energy for the U.S. transportation sector.
The store or the pumpkin patch where you bought your pumpkin most likely was supplied by a big, gasoline- or diesel-fueled truck that traveled from the farm to your store or pumpkin patch.
Your pumpkin was raised on a farm. The soil probably was tilled and the seeds planted using motorized equipment running on gas or diesel. Once planted the crop was fertilized, perhaps with a nitrogen product made from ammonia, which is manufactured from natural gas. Ripened pumpkins then were harvested – again, with more equipment powered by petroleum-based fuels.
Sure, some grow their own pumpkins in their own gardens without the help of a tractor and maybe without a manufactured fertilizer. But oil and natural gas still were involved: If those folks watered their pumpkin plants, from a well or from their local water company, plastic components undoubtedly played a critical role in getting that clean water from source to garden.
So, all in all, we wouldn’t be carving our version of the Great Pumpkin without a big helping hand from oil and gas. A couple of examples of our own handiwork here at API:
Of course – the guy on the left has an oil drum carving, and the flame carved into the one on the right represents cleaner-burning natural gas – America’s No. 1 fuel for generating electricity and the chief reason U.S. energy-related carbon emissions are at their lowest level in 22 years. Need an energy stencil? Check them out here.
Happy Halloween, everybody!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Green joins API after spending 16 years as national editorial writer in the Washington Bureau of The Oklahoman newspaper. In all, he has been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years, including six years as sports editor at The Washington Times. He lives in Occoquan, Virginia, with his wife Pamela. Mark graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in journalism and earned a masters in journalism and public affairs at American University. He's currently working on a masters in history at George Mason University, where he also teaches as an adjunct professor in the Communication Department.