Most people – including those who advocate against the use of fossil fuels – don’t realize that the vast majority of items they use on a daily basis are made from petrochemicals. I was thrilled to see that Western Energy Alliance was sponsoring a “Fossil Fuel Free” challenge this week. That’s right, national Fossil Fuel Free Week is this week. Think you can do it? This article in the Midland Reporter-Telegram sums up the challenges to living fossil fuel free nicely.
I think you will find it is much harder than it sounds to live without fossil fuels. Think you are doing your part by riding your bike to work? Try riding a bike that doesn’t have pedals, a seat, tires, or brakes. Oh, and you would get to ride this skeleton of a bike without shoes, and most likely clothes (unless everything you own is 100 percent cotton). Think you will just work from home? Let’s see how that goes without a computer, cell phone, tablet, telephone, plug or power. Yes, that’s right. All of those things are made of petrochemicals.
Many who oppose the use of fossil fuels simply ignore or are unaware the products all around us that are made from petrochemicals that make our lives better. For example, let’s say you have a routine check-up at your doctor’s office. Your doctor arrives wearing polyester blend scrubs, washes her hands before the exam and puts on gloves (made from polyisoprene, neoprene, or nitrile), and perhaps a mask. While no one enjoys routine bloodwork, you know it will be administered safely and quickly as the medical kit, syringe, and tubing is prepared (polypropylene). While you’re past the lollipop phase, you at least get a colorful bandage (polyester) for your trouble. All of these products are made from petrochemicals.
These materials are truly miracles of modern science – they protect and treat our infants in NICUs across the country, heal children’s scrapes in our homes, and make life-saving procedures possible, including blood transfusions and open heart surgery. These high-tech compounds are also expanding the frontiers of modern medicine through real-time health updates on your wearable devices (injection molded plastic, epoxy, and silicone rubber) and in virtual chats with your doctors on your smartphone (acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene). Check out the graphic below to see how petrochemicals make your daily life possible: