The coronavirus outbreak has brought most of the nation to a grinding halt with schools closed, businesses shuttered and most of us teleworking.
We are all doing our part as we hunker down at our homes with family and practice social distancing when venturing out. Some companies and business leaders are also doing their part, generously donating money to fight the spread of the virus.
Meanwhile, workers deemed essential — from nurses and doctors to grocery store clerks and truck drivers — continue to risk their well being to help us through this crisis.
But not often mentioned among these everyday heroes are the hundreds of thousands of Americans working in our energy industry — many of which have also been deemed essential — who have been working diligently to ensure that critical supplies are able to continue being produced, that transportation networks continue to operate throughout this ordeal, and that the lights are able to stay on across the nation.
Most Americans equate a barrel of oil solely to the gasoline that we use to fill our cars. However, while one 42-gallon barrel of oil creates 19.4 gallons of gasoline, — the remaining half is typically used to make an array of petroleum products.
Among the 6,000 products in which petroleum is a key component are many of the critical supplies that are currently in high-demand, including soap, detergents, antiseptic, bandages, vaporizers, food preservatives and medications.
In continuing to provide that key component, the energy industry is helping healthcare professionals and essential workers to have reliable access to the medical supplies, personal protective equipment and cleaning products necessary to treat patients while not exposing themselves.
The soap used to wash hands and cleaning products used to disinfect surfaces remain of the upmost importance as both products are essential to practices prioritized on the CDC’s top five list of things everyone should do to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Oil and petroleum products have also been able to keep supply chain networks going — gasoline fuels the trucking industry, ensuring hospitals are stocked with the necessary supplies to care for infected patients and grocery stores have the provisions Americans need to weather the storm at home.
In fact, petroleum products accounted for 92 percent of the total U.S. transportation sector’s energy use. But in addition to serving as a key component to many medical and cleaning supplies and ensuring transportation networks continue to operate, Americans would be surprised to learn that petroleum products also include basic household necessities like toothpaste, eyeglasses, telephones, clothes, shoes, ink, pillows, trash bags, etc.
Furthermore, energy companies are sharing their resources and ingenuity to do their part in stopping the spread. Shell, for example, is providing free food to healthcare professionals such as nurses and doctors, as well as truck drivers and the delivery people who are vital to maintaining supplies.
Energy Transfer is making donations to local food banks and purchasing new technology to aid first responders. ExxonMobil is working with the Global Center for Medical Innovation to develop safer reusable personal protection equipment for healthcare workers, such as face shields and masks. Others continue to contribute on a global scale.
We can’t forget the key role natural gas is playing during this crisis, either. Natural gas has continued to produce much of the electricity responsible for powering the ventilators in use, keeping the lights on at hospitals and homes, and allowing millions of Americans to continue working remotely.
The oil and gas industry is all too often cast in a negative light. We tend to forget it— and its employees — work hard to provide us with the goods and energy sources we all rely on daily and are continuing to do so in the face of current market upheaval courtesy industry geopolitical tensions.
This crisis is a wakeup call that we would be hard pressed to face this challenge as well as we have without the contributions of the industry that quite frankly, we take for granted in normal times.
When the coronavirus pandemic finally passes and Americans are applauding the heroes, let’s save some of that applause for the men and women who kept the lights on and powered the economy through unprecedented times.