While anti-fossil fuel activists have continued to oppose the use of natural gas and oil – even in these unprecedented times – they seem to have missed the industry’s important role in the fight against the coronavirus. The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board recently highlighted important contributions from Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest publicly traded oil and gas company.
The Journal wrote:
Exxon’s predecessor Standard Oil invented isopropyl alcohol (IPA), the key ingredient in disinfectants and hand sanitizer, in 1920. Its Baton Rouge chemical plant is now the world’s largest producer of IPA. While refineries have been throttled back, Exxon has ramped up IPA production by 3,000 tons per month, which is enough to produce 50 million four-ounce bottles of sanitizer.
The oil giant recently noted in a press release that the state of New York has turned to the Baton Rouge plant for critical supplies. Gov. Andrew Cuomo should be grateful Exxon isn’t holding a grudge after the state’s four-year inquisition for allegedly deceiving itself about its climate impact, which finally ended last December when a state judge tossed the state lawsuit as entirely without merit.
Exxon is also increasing production of a specialized polypropylene that is used in medical masks and gowns by about 1,000 tons per month, which is enough to manufacture up to 200 million medical masks or 20 million gowns. At the same time, it is applying its expertise in material science to develop new face shields that utilize a filtration fabric.
Working with Boeing, Exxon plans to manufacture as many as 40,000 masks an hour. According to an Exxon engineer, this new design and production method won’t be vulnerable to the supply-chain hiccups that have led to widespread mask shortages. No Defense Production Act coercion necessary.
Exxon Mobil’s efforts are joined by a number of other corporations in the industry. More than forty workers at Braskem, a petrochemical company, worked and lived at a factory in southeast Pennsylvania for nearly a month to produce tens of millions of pounds of the raw materials that will end up in face masks and surgical gowns worn on the front lines of the pandemic. One of the company’s key product, polypropylene, is needed to make various medical and hygienic items.
While companies like Exxon Mobil and Braskem have long played a critical role in the American economy, providing essential products to keep manufacturing moving and fuels that power our electric grid and transportation networks, it is reassuring to see their renewed commitment and ingenuity in addressing the unprecedented challenges COVID-19 has presented.