No Substitute for Products Made from Natural Gas & Oil: Saving Lives & Enhancing Safety During COVID

Pennsylvania’s medical and public health landscape changed dramatically on March 16, 2020, when Gov. Tom Wolf ordered “non-essential” businesses in the Commonwealth to close due increasing COVID-19 cases. A combination of uncertainty, anger, fear and eventual clarity followed as more was learned about the disease and how people could protect themselves against it.

Thousands of essential workers were vital to the effort to fight the pandemic: medical professionals who staffed doctors’ offices and hospitals, store employees who supplied us with food and other essential items, trucking and delivery personnel who transported items to stores and to our homes, just to name a few.

Two additional essential items helped Pennsylvania and the rest of the nation reach a turning point – where we are returning to a degree of normalcy – and deserve to be highlighted: the natural gas and oil that are essential to the manufacture of the medical, safety and consumer products Americans use every day.

Recreational and Consumer Goods

Many Americans changed their recreational habits during COVID and opted for socially distanced adventures, resulting in a huge demand for camping gear, sporting goods and related outdoor equipment. People were also diligent about keeping everything clean, using detergent, soap, hand sanitizers, plastic food packaging and other cleaning products. The thousands of items flying off the shelves for these outdoor and indoor needs have either natural gas or oil as a primary feedstock – and there are no substitutes.

Personal Protective Equipment

The initial demand for N95 masks in the U.S. resulted in panic buying by individuals and essential medical providers, to the point that they were often not available to the average consumer. Other types of PPE, from plastic face shields to disposable medical treatment clothing, were also scarce. The fact is that all of these items are also made from natural gas and oil, along with the plastic shields installed at stores and restaurants around the country, latex gloves used by many essential retail and medical personnel, and mass-produced masks that were eventually in sufficient supply that they were given away at entrances to many stores. There is no substituting for the role natural gas and oil plays in making virtually every type of PPE.

Emergency and Urgent Care Medical Needs

With some hospitals forced over the past year to convert parking garages into temporary care units, portions of our country’s medical infrastructure faced a crisis at one time or another. People with the most serious cases of COVID required intubation with a ventilator, intravenous medicine drips and scores of specialized medical devices (see a full list of medical devices shortages from the FDA here: COVID Medical Device Shortages), with most of them made possible by processing natural gas and oil.


A final and important natural gas and oil-based weapon in the fight against COVID focuses on pharmaceuticals: their manufacture and delivery. It is a fact that most pharmaceuticals are made through chemical reactions involving organic molecules, and petroleum is a plentiful source of those molecules. Pfizer’s vaccine must be stored at ultra-cold temperatures that require carbonic ice derived from petroleum. Transportation fuel is used to fly and truck vaccines quickly across the country, and each dose is administered with a plastic syringe made possible by natural gas processing.

“Approximately 3% of petroleum production is used for pharmaceutical manufacture, but nearly 99% of pharmaceutical feedstocks and reagents are derived from petrochemicals.”

Source: Petroleum and Health Care: Evaluating and Managing Health Care’s Vulnerability to Petroleum Supply Shifts” National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, 2011

PIOGA published this printable, downloadable infographic in February 2020, highlighting the nearly 100 items made from natural gas and oil found in every emergency room. From stitching up a cut finger to receiving an IV bag saline drip, these products will play a critical role in medical care for the foreseeable future – and there are no substitutes.

The Facts Are Clear
Technologies used to produce thousands of vital products made the fight against COVID winnable. Many Americans take these products for granted, but the fact remains that there is no substitute for the natural gas and oil needed to make them. Oil and natural gas is – and will continue to be – one of our most essential industries.
Click HERE to download/print the No Substitute for Products Made from Natural Gas & Oil: Saving Lives & Enhancing Safety During COVID Fact Sheet
Please share with your employees, colleagues, family, neighbors, local legislators and HELP SPREAD THE FACTS!

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