Oil and Gas Power Americans’ Lives

Robert Bradley

Quick: What do makeup, prosthetics, and heart valves have in common?

Unbeknownst to most Americans, all are made possible by fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are behind almost every aspect of our daily lives — from T-shirts to life-saving medical devices.

Unfortunately, a growing movement to keep oil and gas in the ground could cut off production of our favorite fossil fuel products. Green activists behind the effort believe continued use of oil and gas will destroy the planet.

Rather than leave fossil fuels in the ground, we should bury such green alarmist claims. Americans wouldn’t be able to survive without oil and gas. Contrary to the activist hysterics, these resources could help save the planet.

When Americans fill up their cars at the pump or turn on the burner of their stoves, they can see the benefits of fossil fuels pretty directly. But the full impact of these resources on American lives is mostly hidden. Everyday products — lipstick, sweatshirts, laptops, hangers, Band-Aids, and credit cards — are all produced with fossil fuels.

Seven million Americans depend on prosthetic hips or knees made with natural gas and oil. Each year, five million Americans with heart disease are given decades more to live with heart valves only possible through fossil fuels.

Most people have little acquaintance with the importance of fossil fuels. They’re ill-prepared to demand of green activists what will replace oil and gas across the full spectrum of everyday life. Are the activists prepared to jettison advanced prosthetics and go back to wooden peg-legs? Would that work with a heart valve?

Environmental group Greenpeace believes 80 percent of the world’s remaining fossil fuel reserves need to remain in the ground to counter global warming.

Green activist Bill McKibben lamented that extracting too many fossil fuels would “overwhelm the planet’s physical systems.”

More than 375 nongovernmental organizations penned a letter to global leaders urging them to put a halt to fossil fuel development.

Their anti-industrial goal is unrealistic and dangerous. Without oil and natural gas, every facet of our lives would be disrupted. Fossil fuels are friends, not foes, of the environment.

Fossil fuels are cleaner than ever. Thanks to cleaner-burning natural gas, carbon emissions produced by electricity are at their lowest level in 25 years. Emissions from six common pollutants plummeted 71 percent between 1970 and 2015. Modern-day cars, SUVs, and pickup trucks now run 99 percent cleaner than in the 1970s.

The energy industry is committed to supporting the environment. Since 1990, it has invested $322 billion — nearly $1,000 per American — in making its operations more environmentally-friendly.

Increasing use of oil and gas has potential to improve the environment worldwide.

Over two billion people in developing countries rely on biomass — wood fuel, charcoal, agricultural waste, and animal dung — for cooking.

Burning biomass has dire health and environmental consequences. More people die each year from biomass-produced smoke than from malaria. Additionally, biomass can result in tremendous land degradation and air pollution.

Replacing biomass with fossil fuels would be a huge boon to the environment and human well-being. The World Health Organization concluded that switching just 50 percent of households now using biomass as their primary cooking fuel over to fossil fuels would save nearly $91 billion per year and result in “unambiguous emissions reductions from all fuels.”

Oil and natural gas are essential to daily life. They don’t belong in the ground. They belong in everything around us.

Robert L. Bradley Jr. is the founder and CEO of the Institute for Energy Research.