I’m a cattleman and a farmer and I support the development of Ohio’s natural gas resources. For 16 years I served as Director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture and later became Chairman of the Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corporation. From the farm to the fridge, it is important for every Ohioan to understand where their food comes from, how it got there, and how a variety of energy sources, especially natural gas, play a significant role in each of those steps.
One of my most worthwhile accomplishments was the creation of the Ohio Proud program. For 25 years this statewide program has highlighted food and agricultural products that are made and grown throughout Ohio, contributing more than $105 billion to Ohio’s economy. Today, Ohio Proud notes that there are more than 1,000 food processing companies in Ohio, and we grow more than 200 commercial crops. Do you know the one thing that most of these companies have in common? Almost all utilize natural gas in one form or another to produce their crops and products.
To help put this use of natural gas into perspective, let’s make a lasagna for your family. Start with heating the oven. Seven out of 10 homes in Ohio use natural gas to heat their homes and run their utilities. This doesn’t take into consideration the electricity in Ohio being generated by natural gas – but we’ll come back to that.
The pasta needs boiled so let’s look at how those noodles are produced. In the springtime a common sight across Ohio is the use of anhydrous ammonia to improve soil fertility. This fertilizer, primarily comprised of natural gas, contains nutrients like nitrogen that help to grow healthy crops, especially corn.
Many farmers use compressed natural gas (CNG) to fuel equipment that harvests these crops – releasing up to 20-30 percent less carbon dioxide than oil. Some farmers drive CNG semis to haul grain to the local elevators, where they are often dried with natural gas.
The grains used to make pasta, usually durum wheat grown in the Upper Midwest, are loaded onto trains increasingly powered by natural gas to be sent
for processing. The pasta is then manufactured and dried typically using an assortment of natural gas-powered equipment. By the way, most packaging pasta comes in was also created with natural gas products.
Let’s look at your sauce. According to the USDA, Ohio ranks near the top of the list for tomato production and processing in the U.S. Many tomatoes in Ohio are peeled and prepared using a steam process called thermo-physical peeling, and you guessed it, that steam is produced by natural gas. Natural gas also runs the commercial grade stoves used to cook pasta sauce before it is canned.
You might throw some mushrooms into the pan. Those mushrooms were grown in facilities that were almost certainly heated with natural gas. And the cheese, you guessed it, most commercially produced cheeses come from dairy processing facilities that use natural gas during the manufacturing process.
You’re ready to put the lasagna into the oven and maybe you use an electric stove. Very soon, Ohio will see an expanding number of natural gas plants producing electricity.
Just like Ohio Proud food products, natural gas is a homegrown energy source that helps keep our economy running. We should continue to support the production and safe transport of this abundant and affordable fuel to our homes and factories. By supporting the expansion of natural gas across all segments of the agricultural spectrum, the foods we eat and the products we use will be safer for the environment and realize great financial savings for all Ohioans.
Fred L. Dailey is the former director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.