Posted November 9, 2016
Throughout this election season, we’ve campaigned for our candidate: energy. As a policy issue, energy exerts an outsized impact on the issues Americans care about most: lower consumer costs, job creation, economic growth and security. Polls show that voters of all political persuasions appreciate the significant role oil and natural gas production plays in achieving all these vital objectives.
With drivers saving $550 in fuel costs and household budgets growing by $1,337 due to utility and other energy-related savings in 2015, it’s hard to miss the consumer benefit aspect of increased oil and natural gas production. But, aside from those notable cost savings, most Americans probably don’t spend much time thinking about energy’s essential role in their daily lives.
Let’s explore the countless ways energy makes modern life more healthy, comfortable and safe.
Home: From the lumber framing your house (planted, harvested and transported by machines powered by gasoline and diesel) to the vinyl siding and flooring (derived from ethylene, which comes from crude oil) to the very roof over your head (most roofs are protected by shingles covered in asphalt, a byproduct of the refining process that provides durability), energy makes your home safer and more comfortable in numerous ways. Then there’s electricity, heating and cooling, which are increasingly powered by natural gas. Increased production of affordable natural gas has driven down electricity and heating costs for both homes and businesses. Plus, natural gas is clean-burning, reducing carbon emissions from power generation to 20-year lows.
Products: Clothing, shoes, plastics, medicines, detergent, carpet, insulation, plumbing pipe – it would be faster to list everyday essentials that aren’t derived from petroleum-based chemicals. Put simply, chemicals are the building blocks of modern living, and oil and natural gas provide the building blocks for many chemicals. According to the American Chemistry Council (ACC), “over 96 percent of all manufactured goods are directly touched by chemistry.”
Of the many ways the American energy revolution has benefited the economy, reducing manufacturing costs is one of the most significant. As ACC put it, “Natural gas continues to play a starring role in our nation’s energy story, revitalizing the chemistry industry and spurring manufacturing growth. ACC President and CEO Cal Dooley: “Our competitive edge will mean new jobs and exports and a stronger manufacturing sector for years to come.”
Health: Beyond the energy powering MRIs and CAT scans, ambulances and emergency helicopters, and hospitals themselves (the nation’s largest 3,040 hospitals use more than 5 percent of the energy consumed by the entire commercial sector, despite only accounting for 2 percent of commercial floor space), petroleum-based products abound in the health care sector. From ethylene in the tubing of the stethoscope to the plastic of the IV bag to the polypropylene filtering layer in surgical masks, so many materials vital to keeping us healthy are derived from oil. Chemicals derived from petroleum also serve as the building blocks for Aspirin, antibiotics and other indispensable medicines and their packaging.
Food: If your preferred health care regimen is of the “apple a day” variety, energy is essential there, too. Almost 16 percent of U.S. energy goes to supplying Americans with food, split roughly equally between crop and livestock production and food processing and packaging. To cite just one example, it takes about 14 calories of fossil-fuel energy to produce one calorie of milk protein on a conventional farm. Energy has, of course, taken U.S. farming past the days of plowing with horse and oxen to modern tractors and other equipment, increasing yields exponentially. For instance, barley grew in production from 20.9 bushels per acre in 1916 to 68.9 bushels today while corn has increased from 24 bushels to 168 in that same time period.
We haven’t even covered defense, travel, or communications, but energy is essential to these priorities, as well. As a combative election season concludes, energy remains a bipartisan, indispensable issue that should remain a policy priority as the transition begins to the 115th Congress and the president elect prepares for inauguration.
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.