Without a doubt, 2020 has been an unforgettable year. It’s been a year filled with events that many of us will never see the likes of again in our lifetime. As we approach Thanksgiving, we give thanks to the many that fill our lives with joy and love. This year more than ever, we must give thanks to the hospital workers, utility linemen, and all the other essential frontline workers that have held the line throughout this challenging year.
As the true extent of the Covid-19 pandemic became apparent in March, many of us began to hunker down at home as an endless stream of Zoom calls became the new norm in our daily work ritual. But not all of us. Some had to keep critical infrastructure afloat, making this “new normal” possible.
Take the electric lineman, for example. There’s a reason we celebrate the critical, understated, and often dangerous work of electric linemen every July 10. They restore power after an ice storm in the Dakotas. They get the lights back on after a record-breaking hurricane season that repeatedly knocked out the power along the Gulf Coast. And, they rebuild power lines after catastrophic wildfires wreak havoc on Western communities. Through all these events, linemen never retreat from ensuring we have access to affordable and reliable power. Without their unyielding commitment to their essential infrastructure jobs, our way of life over the past eight months would not have been possible. Frontline workers stepped and came through!
Any piece discussing the critical role of frontline workers amid the Covid-19 pandemic would be remiss without discussing the doctors, nurses, paramedics, and other medical heroes who have tackled this debilitating virus head-on, at times without regard for their own safety. Their work is fraught with peril, but would be much more perilous without the commitment of the thousands of workers in the fossil fuel industry. This industry produces the chemicals needed to make the personal protective equipment (PPE), hand sanitizer, and many cleaning disinfectants that have become part of the fabric of everyday life.
We’ve written extensively about the vital role that natural gas plays in ensuring we have a stable supply of affordable and reliable power. Yet, we’ve also highlighted the indispensable role this fossil fuel has played during the pandemic. In May, we highlighted the herculean efforts of the men and women of the natural gas industry. We highlighted how natural gas is a critical feedstock for producing little-known petrochemicals like isopropyl alcohol and polypropylene, essential inputs in the production of vital supplies.
At ExxonMobil’s isopropyl production facility, for example, workers ramped up production of this critical petrochemical to 3,000 tons per month. That’s enough to produce 50 million four-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer. These workers also stepped up polypropylene production to 1,000 tons per month — enough to make 200 million medical masks or 20 million gowns. As we’ve sadly come to realize, our frontline medical heroes desperately need this PPE.
You could use many adjectives to describe 2020: historic, unimaginable, unprecedented, and even catastrophic. Fortunately, actions by our lineman, healthcare workers, and the many thousands of workers in our fossil fuel industry have illustrated just some of the reasons we gather this year to give thanks.