Executives: Oil and natural gas crucial ingredients in variety of products

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Thomas Pyle
Chris Wright

Oil and natural gas provide not only fuels for electricity and transportation, but also the ingredients for plastics used for a wide variety of products.

That includes the syringes and other medical supplies used to combat the coronavirus pandemic as well as the equipment used for outdoor recreation.

“Hydrocarbons make modern life possible,” said Thomas Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance based in Washington, D.C.

Chris Wright, chief executive officer and chairman of Liberty Oilfield Services based in Denver, said oil and natural gas improve quality of life.

Pyle and Wright discussed the uses of oil and natural gas and the potentially far-reaching effects of government regulation on the energy industry in a Zoom meeting arranged by the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce and Western Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association.

The American Energy Alliance engages in advocacy and debate about energy and conservation policies, Pyle said. The AEA is part of the Institute for Energy Research, a not-for-profit organization that researches the functions, operations and government regulation of global energy markets.

Among other things, the pandemic revealed the importance of oil and natural gas to the production and distribution of medical supplies, Pyle said.

Oil and natural gas go into medical grade plastics used for everything from masks and gowns to syringes. Oil and natural gas also go into transportation fuels to distribute medical supplies and vaccines, he said. “You can’t have the vaccines without oil and gas.”

Helium, a byproduct of oil and natural gas production, is used in respiratory treatments as well as to cool magnetic resonance imaging machines, he said. “It just goes on and on and on.”

Wright oversees a firm that provides a range of services to oil and natural gas exploration and production companies.

He said he also depends on one product made from oil and natural gas in the plastic syringes he uses every day to treat his diabetes.

Moreover, Wright said he uses a variety of other products as an outdoor recreational enthusiast.

Wright said the North Face outdoor sports company uses petroleum in nearly every product it sells, making it a huge customer of the oil and natural gas industry.

Yet, North Face denied a Texas oilfield services company the rights to put its logo on 400 North Face jackets the company planned to give to employees. 

“That jacket is made out of what we produce,” he said. “That, to me, is just bizarre.”

In a larger sense, Wright said outdoor recreation plays an increasingly important role in the Colorado — especially the Western Slope and Grand Valley. More people are moving to the Grand Valley because of the outdoor recreation the area offers.

Because of the use of energy in so many industries, the price of oil and natural gas in turn effects the price of everything from construction materials to food, he added. “Energy enables every other industry.”

For that matter, traditional energy is required to produce renewable energy, he said. Coal is needed for the steel and oil and natural gas for the fiberglass used to construct wind turbines.

Because of the role of oil and natural gas in energy production and so many other uses, regulations on oil and gas exploration and production can have far-reaching effects, Pyle and Wright said.

Wright said reduced air pollution in the United States can be attributed in large part to a surge in natural gas production and the increased use of natural gas to generate electricity.

Pyle said market forces do more to reduce emissions than central government planning, he said.

A moratorium on new oil and natural gas leasing on public lands in the United States has more to do with political payback than concerns about the environment or climate change, he said.

Wright said the effects of producing natural gas are lower on the West Slope and its public lands than anywhere else.

Pyle and Wright said its important for the oil and natural gas industry and others to communicate to a wider audience the importance of oil and gas not only as fuels for energy and transportation, but also the ingredients for medical supplies, outdoor recreation gear and other products.

“We need to have more of us join in this chorus,” Pyle said.