It’s the dog days of summer and there are just a few weeks left before kids head back to school. Are you planning one last road trip this summer, with a cooler packed with snacks, toys and crayons to keep the kids occupied? You might be enjoying pool visits with swimming floats and suntan lotion or roller coaster rides and burgers at your favorite amusement park or kayaking on a lake. Or maybe your summer has revolved around golf carts, softball or baseball fields, a mix of mowing and edging and setting up the Slip ‘N Slide for the kids.
Would you believe that doing all those things is made possible because of natural gas and crude oil? It’s true. Today, there are more than 6,000 products produced wholly or in part from these petroleum products. Many of these products are made by Ohio manufacturers using natural gas as an energy source to run their plants and operations. It’s nearly impossible to go through a day and not be impacted by our state’s natural gas and crude oil resources.
How does crude oil and natural gas turn into your water skis, lip balm and waterproof sun screen? Through a refining or processing facility where crude oil and natural gas compounds are separated. The chemicals derived from this process create feedstocks that provide the substances necessary to create plastics, waxes, fertilizers, medicines, synthetic fibers and synthetic rubber among many other products. In addition, natural gas helps power the manufacturing plants that produce the products we use every day.
Consider how you start your day – first thing in the morning you brush your teeth. Both the plastic brush and toothpaste come from crude oil. Taking a hot morning shower or shave? Soap, shampoo and shaving cream come partially from crude oil. That hot shower likely came through a natural gas fueled water heater. Is the family getting dressed for work or camp using belts, shoes, cosmetics, lipstick or hairspray? Yep, those are refined petroleum products too.
Natural gas and crude oil also play a role in satisfying your hunger too. Making breakfast and packing sandwiches for the family to take to work, summer camp or poolside? You may be cooking on a natural gas stove or packing those sandwiches in plastic bags that are derived from crude oil. Taking it back another step, think about the oil and gas used to deliver those fresh fruits and vegetables to your table.
Checking your email on the computer, the news on television or the radio? Carbon black – which comes from incomplete combustion of heavy petroleum products – is used in making TVs, radios, computers and printers.
The average American consumes the equivalent of three gallons of refined petroleum-based products each day. Crude oil supplies 35 percent of our energy needs, and fuels cars, motorcycles, buses, lawn mowers, boats, airplanes, ships and many recreational vehicles including campers, golf carts and wave runners.
Americans rely on natural gas to supply 28 percent of their energy needs, and is now the primary fuel for electric generation in the United States. There’s a good chance the electricity that’s running your air conditioner or fan right now is generated this way. Many of you are also using this energy source during this hot weather for barbequing, drying laundry and heating water for showers when you get out of the pool.
Natural gas can also be further processed into other products including helium (in those balloons you bought the kids at the amusement park last week), butane (fueling that lantern that keeps mosquitoes at bay) and propane (cooking those burgers and hot dogs on the backyard grill).
So, in a very real way, natural gas and crude oil are energizing summer fun for millions of Ohio residents as well as for the millions of summer tourists who visited the Ohio State Fair, Lake Erie, Cedar Point, Kings Island, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, our state parks and rivers, city zoos and the hundreds of museums and cultural centers which make up our great state.
I hope this little slice of seasonal education was refreshing. Enjoy the rest of the summer!
Rhonda Reda is the executive director of Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program.