Natural gas and our current standard of living
When people think about natural gas, they usually think about their home water heater. In fact, most people know that approximately half of the electricity in Texas is generated by natural gas, but it is uncommonly known that natural gas is part of virtually everything we use, wear and eat.
Natural gas is a key ingredient in the production of some of the most basic, everyday items we depend upon for our existence. Virtually everything we use on a daily basis contains a component that uses natural gas or crude oil in its manufacture, either as a fuel or as a "feedstock." A feedstock is the raw material used to manufacture plastics or other intermediate products.
There are no alternatives for these petrochemical feedstocks. Without them, our product choices are limited to wood and stone. Using natural gas and oil, the petrochemical industry manufactures chemicals that serve as building blocks in making everything from plastics and clothing to medicine and computers. They contribute essential materials for making food and beverage containers, surgical gloves and gowns, fertilizer, blankets, cold-weather and rain gear, sneakers, computers, insulation, cameras, medicines, artificial joints, auto and aircraft parts, disposable diapers, CDs, and many more key consumer products.
Consider the graphic below that shows what the petrochemical industry makes from natural gas, the primary components of which are methane, ethane, propane and butane (except in the dry gas region of the Barnett Shale around Fort Worth, Texas). Methane is processed into methanol (a building block for many products), and ammonia, which is used in fertilizers and many other products. Ethane is processed into ethylene, which is a feedstock for plastics. Propane is processed into propylene, which is the second most important feedstock after ethylene. Butane is processed into n-butylene and isobutylene, both of which are feedstocks for other products.
These feedstocks are the basic building blocks of virtually everything we use. If you consider the items you use on a daily basis, there are probably very few that are not related to the intermediate or manufactured products listed below.