Posted June 14, 2017
A spray of water swats you in the face as your raft rushes down into boiling river rapids. You grab a nylon perimeter line to secure yourself, but the raft surges up, and you go tumbling out and into the cold Colorado. Bobbing up, you smile – your life preserver keeping you afloat until the guide can haul you back into the raft to continue your summer whitewater trip through Utah’s scenic landscapes.
Whitewater rafting is a wild, give-and-take with nature. A number of states have great rapids for visitors to travel, but none better than Utah. The flow of the water moves you through the picturesque, river-carved canyons of places like Arches and Canyonlands national parks. It’s a journey that petroleum-based products like nylon, plastic and polyurethane foams make as enjoyable and as safe as possible.
Posted June 12, 2017
Before folks in the Bluegrass State and parts beyond can begin sipping Kentucky bourbon – after work, after dinner, on Derby Day at Churchill Downs in the spring, or gathered around a winter’s fire – there’s a detailed, time-honored process in producing the amber-hued drink that has been the United States’ national spirit since 1964.
You might not know it, but bourbon-making is an energy-intensive process – from heating the mash, to distilling the alcohol, to creating the charred oak barrels in which the bourbon ages. Energy is all over bourbon manufacturing. Indeed, Kentucky bourbon is brought to Kentucky and the rest of the bourbon-imbibing world with an essential assist provided by natural gas.
Posted June 9, 2017
Before heading off to the wilds of West Virginia to offload your youngster for a few weeks at summer camp, you glance once more at The Checklist. No odyssey to summer camp launches without The Checklist:
- Warm blanket – check.
- Plastic shower caddy (one that drains) – check.
- Rain jacket/poncho – check.
- Sunscreen, lip balm, bug spray – check, check and check.
And that’s just a fraction of the stuff that’s headed to camp. They’ll need Sherpa porters to haul all of your child’s gear from the car to their assigned cabin – much of it fashioned from or with the help of natural gas and oil.
Posted June 7, 2017
On a warm summer afternoon in Louisiana, a chef pours Cajun seasoning into a boiling pot to season the crawfish inside. The sharp aroma of cayenne pepper, garlic and other spices wafts from the steaming pot. Natural gas flames heating the kettle is a tradition in this part of the country: Families and friends, sitting elbow to elbow, cracking shells, sucking the juices from crawfish heads and relishing each tender, meaty bite from the tail.
By the start of summer in Louisiana, crawfish season already is well underway, thanks in large part to the family-owned operations of all sizes that dot the state that produces 90 percent of the country’s domestic crawfish crop, according to the Louisiana Crawfish Promotion and Research Board. (BTW, if you pronounce it “craaay-fish,” you’ll give away your status as an outsider!) As the crawfish capital of the world, Louisiana’s farmers and chefs alike work day-in and day-out during the season to bring this product to the masses, including David McGraw, owner of Louisiana Crawfish Co.:
“It started as a hobby and evolved through the product because we enjoyed the aqua culture so much. We’ve been able to grow to what we are today, but it started as a love for the land.”
Farmers like McGraw rely on their love for the waterman’s life and the knowledge passed down to them from previous generations to make a living that provides a product enjoyed by chefs, their patrons and individual Louisiana households. They also rely on various forms of energy that support their operations from pond to plate.
Posted June 5, 2017
When country music superstar Brad Paisley steps out onto “The Circle” at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, it’s pure Tennessee – Paisley adding to the state’s storied country music legacy as he strums the strings of a Gibson J-45, an instrument produced by the Nashville-based Gibson Guitar Corporation. Also playing an accompanying role: energy.
Consider the Opry as an attraction, with energy helping illuminate, amplify and make folks comfortable. Consider also the finely crafted, exquisite guitars with which Paisley and other country artists make their music. There are a number of guitar makers, but since Paisley uses a Gibson, let’s illustrate with that.
Gibson manufactures legendary American products. And for many of the Grand Ole Opry’s stars, Gibson is an instrument of choice – from modern-day artists like Paisley and Darius Rucker, to the legendary “Father of Bluegrass,” Bill Monroe, who favored a Gibson F-5 mandolin. Now, when you think of Gibson guitars you might not think of natural gas and oil, but their versatility is instrumental for the company to continue producing its iconic line.
Posted June 2, 2017
Lee Dickey knows peaches. His family-owned Dickey Farms is the oldest continuously operating peach packinghouse in Georgia, a state synonymous with the fleshy fruit. Dickey knows soil and farming techniques. He knows heavy equipment and fertilizers. And he knows that energy is his essential partner in modern, efficient peach growing.
The peach has been part of Georgia’s identity since long before Scarlett O’Hara moved to the quiet end of Peachtree Street in Atlanta. And while Georgia isn’t alone in its association with an iconic homegrown produce – think Massachusetts cranberries, Idaho potatoes and Florida citrus – no other state has more fully intertwined its agricultural standard-bearer with its profile, from license plates and its representative on the state-themed quarter coins to upwards of 70 variations of the name Peachtree for streets in the Atlanta area alone.
Peaches do grow on trees – but the process takes a lot of energy. Dickey is the fifth generation of his family to farm Georgia peaches. He said his family’s 1,000 acres of rich, southern earth produce about 4.5 million pounds of peaches a year, and that’s largely due to energy, which is the activating force in so many aspects of modern living, from agriculture to frontier space technologies.
Posted May 31, 2017
With the NBA Finals scheduled to begin this week, here’s an idea worth pondering: Pro basketball – and any other level of basketball, for that matter – has been made infinitely better thanks to contributions from a pair of overlooked players: natural gas and oil. Seriously.
Posted May 30, 2017
Here’s the look of summer at Chicago’s venerable Wrigley Field: lush grass, immaculate dirt infield and ivy-adorned outfield walls – and of course, the uniformed players with their gloves and bats. And one more important thing: There’s a pennant fluttering in the breeze, heralding Wrigley as the home of the 2016 World Series Champion Cubs.
To which we all may say thanks … to energy. Significant contributions from natural gas and oil and have helped make Wrigley’s iconic tableau – as well as tableaus at other ballparks – while elevating our National Pastime to the colorful, exciting, fan-friendly entertainment that it is.
For example, because of materials derived from petroleum, we may take for granted the snap-crack of a bat solidly squaring up a ball – and the resulting long, soaring arc of that ball, possibly headed “downtown” beyond the outfield fence. A century ago, the game was shorter and more tactical – a concession to the less-than-lively baseball of the “dead ball” era (1900-1919). It’s not modern Major League Baseball without a modern major league baseball, made so with the help of petroleum-based components.
Posted May 26, 2017
They’ve been running races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway since 1909. The track, home of the iconic Indianapolis 500, a staple of the Memorial Day weekend, is still called “The Brickyard,” for the 3.2 million paving bricks that were laid down in the fall of 1909 as the track’s first modern surface. One of the first things first-time speedway goers may notice is that The Brickyard has very few bricks left.
The speedway’s modern asphalt skin is among the ways energy makes the Indy 500 the racing spectacle it is today. It wouldn’t be the Indy 500 we know today if it were still run over 2.5 miles of bricks – as it was in 1911, when winning driver Ray Harroun averaged 74.59 mph in his Marmon “Wasp” racer. That’s positively quaint compared to last year’s winning average of 166.64 mph logged by Alexander Rossi, traveling nearly the length of a football field every second. Because of asphalt, a viscous liquid or semi-solid form of petroleum, drivers are able to maneuver over a smooth surface with much better traction than was available in Harroun’s day.
Many consider Indy cars to be high-speed works of art. With the carbon fibers and Kevlar, a polymer derived from petroleum, that go into a racing chassis like the Dallara model Rossi won in last year, you could say it’s art made possible with petroleum.
Posted May 25, 2017
“Star Wars” is more than entertainment and pop culture. I’d argue that the film helped hold Americans’ interest in space exploration at a time when NASA needed little bump. It offered an important, if fanciful, vision of the possibilities of space – bridging the interlude between the United States’ last manned lunar landing in December 1972 and its first space shuttle launch in April 1981. Now, let’s loop the discussion back to energy, because energy makes space flight (real and imagined) possible.