Fueling Healthcare: The Unseen Impact of Natural Gas on Pharmaceuticals 

  • Adam Kay
  • Pharmaceutical Manufacturing underscores the critical importance of natural gas and other petrochemicals to maintaining a modern pharmaceutical industry, keeping Americans healthy and communities safe. The critical role natural gas plays in the pharmaceutical industry is detailed in the latest entry in AGA’s ongoing Advancing America studies: Advancing America’s Pharmaceuticals: The Value of Natural Gas to U.S

    According to the National Center for Health Statistics, approximately half of all Americans took at least one prescription medicine in the last thirty days. If you’re one of them, it’s a safe bet that the medicine you took and the sterile packaging it came in were made with natural gas or another petrochemical. Per Advancing America’s Pharmaceuticals, 99% of all pharmaceutical feedstocks and reagents are derived from natural gas or other petrochemicals. Without those vital materials, pharmaceutical manufacturing would look very different and be vastly more expensive. 

    The average doctor sees up to 20 patients per day, and the ability to rapidly swap disposable gloves and put on a new face mask allows doctors to spend more time with their patients and see all those patients without getting sick themselves or spreading disease from one patient to another. Every year, about 300 billion medical gloves and 129 billion face masks made from petrochemicals like natural gas are used. These products keep patients and doctors safe, something that would not be possible in their current form without petrochemicals. 

    The physical aspects of healthcare are only half the equation. Affordability of care matters, particularly at a time when 86% of American adults agree that lowering pharmaceutical costs should be a priority for Congress. Natural gas is critical to preventing pharmaceutical costs from rising.  EIA projections suggest that natural gas prices will remain half to a third of alternatives like electricity through at least 2050. Without natural gas, pharmaceutical manufacturers would have to pay more to manufacture medicines. This would raise costs for customers and cost a total of approximately $7.22 billion through 2050 in direct and indirect costs. The economic damage from the higher costs would cost thousands of jobs, with an estimated 22,000 job years lost because of higher costs. 

    Affordable energy underpins every single aspect of modern life. As Advancing America’s Pharmaceuticals make clear, lifesaving medicines are only one more place where Americans benefit from access to safe, affordable and reliable natural gas.