What progressives often forget about oil and gas, says Allysia Finley in The Wall Street Journal, is that they’re not just used to fuel cars and heat homes – they’re also “critical” for a vast array of everyday products. One of the most ubiquitous is polyethylene – the “most common plastic in use today”, found in everything from shopping bags to water bottles to catheters. Another is polypropylene, which is used in iPhone cases, fitness kit, female sanitary products, food containers, face masks and much else besides. “Drive an electric car or ride a bike?” Just remember that the tarmac you travel on is made from bitumen, a semi-solid form of petroleum.
Of more immediate concern is the importance of oil and gas – the cost of which is soaring because of the Ukraine war – in food production. The price of fertiliser, which is made using natural gas, is at a record high. That’s forcing farmers to either scale back the amount of land they cultivate, or plant soybeans for animal feed rather than corn and wheat. That in turn is pushing food prices up, which could well lead to “severe” shortages in Africa. The “inconvenient truth” is that petrochemicals are “ubiquitous and indispensable”, in ways many of those calling for fossil fuel bans simply don’t understand. And finding alternatives – unlike in the energy sector – will be “next to impossible”.