Energy matters — a lot. Throughout most of human history, global life expectancy was 30-35 years. In the past 200 years, global life expectancy has doubled. Extreme poverty has dropped from 90% of humanity to 10% and falling. The growth in human liberty and the dramatic increase in available energy are likely the two main catalysts for this tremendous progress.

Few doubt that energy has improved lives and enabled human progress. Yet one of the biggest challenges facing the world is the polarized debate over the future of energy. Facts and economics are too often replaced with assertions and emotions. Discussions about fossil fuels and alternative energy sources often degenerate into a battle to delegitimize the other side. This is a recipe for inaction. And it keeps billions of people trapped in energy poverty.

The oil and gas industry has done such a good job of creating abundant, affordable, always-available energy that the world takes it for granted. Energy is so woven into our daily lives that few question whether it will be there, or where it comes from.

Oil-based products are likely the first thing you touch at the beginning and end of each day, whether it is your alarm clock, television remote or cellphone. Those who wear makeup or synthetic fibers, such as polyester or nylon, are using or touching petroleum nearly 24 hours a day. As a key component in heart valves, seat belts, helmets, life vests and even Kevlar, petroleum is saving tens of thousands of lives daily. Furthermore, oil and gas are key components in many medicines and antibiotics, such as antiseptics, antihistamines, aspirin and sulfa drugs.

Around the world, billions of people are expecting a middle-class quality of life and its requisite available, affordable, reliable energy. None of this demand is going away soon. Because energy is so reliable and available, the public believes they no longer require it.

We often encounter this paradox anytime we engage in a conversation about energy and the environment. Some folks assume that we don’t need fossil fuels anymore. A stark example is anyone who wants to end oil and gas production while still benefiting from oil- and gas-based materials and fuels.

There is a very real opportunity to create a stronger, more effective connection between oil and gas development and the public that allows us to work together on a common goal to create prosperity for people around the world.

Companies in the Kansas oil and gas industry understand responsibility comes through what we do and how we do it. Responsibility is an integral part of considerations and decisions. While the oil and gas industry will continue to address public concerns about important economic and environmental issues with accurate, fact-based, scientific information, we also recognize it is just as important to address big-issue visceral concerns with information that demonstrates how industry and companies care about people’s needs and concerns.

The U.S. has a unique opportunity to show the world how energy abundance can be used as a positive force to lift people up. To rise out of poverty and enjoy health and safety, people need more energy, not less.

We should all work together to ensure more people have access to safe, affordable and reliable energy, no matter which state, nation or continent they reside.

Edward Cross is the president of the Kansas Independent Oil & Gas Association.