MY VIEW: Ohio oil, natural gas fuel coronavirus relief

June 8, 2020

Cincinnati Business Courier. As we move toward gradually and safely returning to post-pandemic life, it’s crucial that we take a step back and take stock of the tools and resources that enabled Ohio to navigate the unprecedented challenges our nation – and world – faces today.

Ohio’s natural resources are crucial to keep us safe. From producing vital personal protective equipment for first responders to maintaining a reliable, affordable power source for hospitals operating at maximum capacity, Ohio natural gas and oil – and the plastic medical supplies produced from it – have been key to defeating this pandemic.

America’s reliance on domestically produced energy became more apparent recently as heightened concerns with a novel virus quickly turned into nationwide stay-at-home mandates. As demands for essential medical supplies, a 24/7 power source, and personal protective equipment soared, Ohio’s abundant resources were a crucial component in our state’s preparedness to take on these challenges and protect those of us in the Buckeye State and surrounding region.

A plentiful energy supply does more than reliably power our homes and maintain affordable energy prices for consumers; natural gas and oil are also key ingredients in producing many items that are essential to our daily lives.

Worldwide, we have seen manufacturers altered or expand operations to contribute to coronavirus relief efforts. ExxonMobil, for example, adjusted operations at its Baton Rouge, La. plant to produce millions of bottles of hand sanitizer, medical masks and gowns that were donated to hospitals around the country. Isopropyl alcohol, a core component of hand sanitizer, comes from refined natural gas and oil in the form of propene.

Locally, Ohio-based companies like Procter & Gamble Co., are also combatting the public health crisis. In a matter of days, Procter & Gamble’s Dawn dish soap plant, which uses petroleum as a key ingredient in its degreasing product, created a new formula and line of production for Spic and Span surface disinfectant that was donated to hospitals alongside in-house-made hand sanitizer and surgical masks. The speed and agility by which Procter & Gamble moved is not only impressive and necessary, it likely protected millions of essential front-line health care workers from potential exposure, allowing them to continue to provide care for the most vulnerable among us.

Stories like these often do not grab headlines. Because of the lack of information, many are still fighting to ban the safe, responsible development of natural gas and oil because they do not understand it. Those individuals would do well to consider the life-sustaining resources we would lack to properly respond to this pandemic or future outbreaks. That is truly a dire picture no American should hope to envision.

As someone who was born and raised in Ohio and Cincinnati-educated (Let’s go X!), I have witnessed firsthand the health and economic benefits the energy sector has delivered to our state. Now more than ever, we need to work collaboratively and leverage natural gas and oil as a partner to overcome these challenging times.

There’s no question the past few months have been difficult for all Ohioans. Our Midwestern roots make us naturally drawn to family gatherings and sharing experiences within our communities. It’s been difficult, too, for our local economies as restaurants remain shuttered or well below capacity, movie theaters empty, and sports stadiums silent. Many of us have lost family members, friends, and loved ones.

It’s hard to imagine life ever going back to “normal,” but deep down, we know that some level of normalcy is on the horizon. It’s that positive spirit that has sustained the people of Ohio for more than 200 years, and it is what will pull us through this crisis.

When all of this is behind us, our nation will remember the people, organizations, and industries that stepped up during our time of need – the ones that put our needs ahead of their own. We should acknowledge how much we relied on natural gas and oil during these times, and the key role that Ohio-made energy played in keeping us safe.

By Kennedy Copeland, a graduate of Xavier University, leads external affairs for the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program in Columbus.

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