The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

In Their World

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted April 22, 2014

Let’s start with a humorous look at some of the Keystone XL pipeline’s most ardent opponents, some of whom talk and act like they yearn for the days of yesteryear. You know – getting around on horses, cooking over campfires, living in tents and such.  


It’s no exaggeration to say that their dream world would not include oil or natural gas use and no electricity – or at least no electricity generated from natural gas and coal, which the U.S. Energy Information Administration says accounted for more than 66 percent of our power generation last year. Their simpler world – without fossil fuels – actually would be pretty complicated. Think about it.

In their world … you go from one place to another on foot – on the back of an animal or in something pulled by an animal. Getting from the prairies, where the deer and antelope play, to the East Coast takes a month or more – abernathysjudging by Bud and Temple Abernathy’s 1911 journey across the country on horseback that took 62 days. (Of course, the Abernathy boys (left) were trying to complete their New York-to-San Francisco trek in less than 60 days, to collect a $10,000 prize. They didn’t make it on time. And they didn’t collect the prize. Temple, by the way, made his career in the oil and natural gas business.)

In their world … you pretty much stay put. Moving you and your household cross-country – as those who came before us knew – is quite difficult without modern vehicles running on fuels made from petroleum. (See Abernathy exhibit above.)

In their world … you might gravitate toward being a tiller of the fields or raising livestock. That’s what most Americans did before the availability of energy-rich fuels and the machinery that runs on them helped diversify the economy. Sure, there are things you can do for a living without fossil fuels, but energy from oil and natural gas is key to the choices Americans have today.

Without modern fuels and machinery, if you’re a rancher you’re limited in your operations and in your access to markets by what you can physically reach – on horseback. If you’re a farmer you’re planting and harvesting by hand. Perhaps, if you’re into a little money and have dozens of horses or mules to pull one, an old-fashioned McCormick reaper is an option. From the folks at Kansas Wheat:

By hand, farmers could cut only 2 acres of wheat a day. With Cyrus McCormick's invention of the reaper, farmers could cut 8 acres a day. Today's modern combines can harvest 1,000 bushels of wheat an hour, cutting an acre of wheat in 6 minutes or less.

In their world … your dwelling most likely is heated by a wood fire or by burning something else that provides warmth, like buffalo chips. Coal is better, but that’s out. Clean-burning natural gas, which has done the most to help the United States to its lowest level of carbon-dioxide emissions in two decades – well, is even better still, but that’s out, too.

In their world life is colder, harder, less healthy and less convenient. You labor much harder to carve out your existence. Economic and social mobility is more difficult, as is the physical chore of going from here to there. Simpler? In some ways, perhaps, but not kinder.


Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.