The Gift of Petroleum

By Tessa Sandstrom | December 26, 2013

Before the holidays, many of us hit the shopping mall in search of perfect gifts for loved ones. What many don’t realize, however, is that nearly every one of us will either give (or receive) the gift of petroleum this holiday season. 

“Petroleum!?” you say.

When talking about petroleum, most people likely have the image of a barrel filled with a black gooey substance, or at best, a gift card for your local gas station, neither of which seems like an ideal holiday gift. But, what I’m talking about and what most people don’t realize is that petroleum is part of some of the most popular gifts, from the iPad, Kindle, or TV on the top of your wish list, to the PlayStations or Barbies that will be asked for in children’s letters to Santa. 

When thinking about the role of oil and gas in our lives, most people look only as far as their vehicles and the price of gasoline, but petroleum plays an integral role in nearly every aspect of our lives. Oil-based products are likely the first thing you touch at the beginning and end of each day, whether it is your alarm clock, television remote, iPhone, or even the toothpaste and toothbrush you use to brush your teeth. Those who wear make-up or synthetic fibers, such as polyester or nylon, are using or touching petroleum nearly 24 hours a day, and, as a key component in heart valves, seat belts, helmets, life vests, and even Kevlar, petroleum is saving tens of thousands of lives daily. Furthermore, oil and gas are improving our living environments by heating our homes in the winter, cooling them in summer, and keeping our lights on and petroleum-based gadgets fully charged. 

These are just a few of the improvements that oil and gas makes in lives and societies around the world, and as the nation’s second largest oil producer, North Dakota has become a major contributor to that. And, in the same way that we take great pride in our agriculture sector and the role it plays in feeding people around the world, we should also begin taking pride in this new role our state plays in providing a commodity essential to our very way of life.  

Some may criticize this declaration saying it does not consider the impacts. Certainly, as in any industry, sector or business, there are inherent risks and impacts. The petroleum industry, however, remains committed to mitigating these risks through extensive training for employees and by developing safety and response protocols to prepare and protect their employees and the environment around them. There are state and federal agencies involved in regulating every phase of oil and gas production, and more often than not, companies voluntarily place more strict regulations upon themselves to ensure our energy resources are produced and transported as safely, efficiently and responsibly as possible. 

Accidents do happen, but overall, petroleum remains a tremendous benefit and has helped fuel years of progress. Steve Jensen, the landowner affected by a recent oil spill near Tioga perhaps put it best in an article printed in the Tioga Tribune in October:“If you had to shut progress down, what sort of future would you have? We all like our cars, our planes, our warm houses. If I had to go back to horses to farm and chopping wood to stay warm, I don’t know. […] It’s all about progress to the future.”

This year will go down as another year of historic growth of oil production and opportunity. As we approach the historic benchmark of producing 1 million barrels of oil per day in 2014, we should take a moment to recognize the incredible impact North Dakota has had on our nation and the world. The technology that has been developed here to unleash the Bakken is now being deployed in other shale formations across our nation, bringing us ever closer to energy independence. 

North Dakota will continue to be a top oil producer for years to come. As an industry, we are proud to produce a resource that is used to fuel the airplanes and vehicles that will bring families together this holiday season; the resource that will go into the gifts that will be exchanged in the coming months; and, with time, the resource that will bring us closer to that goal of energy independence, which will help bring our servicemen and women home for future Christmases. This is a legacy North Dakota can be proud of.   

On behalf of the industry, we wish you all Happy Holidays and Happy New Year.

Author: Tessa Sandstrom
Communications Manager,North Dakota Petroleum Council