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The History of Oil 1859 to 1950 Norman W. Garrick Lecture 5.2 Sustainable Transportation.

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Presentation on theme: "The History of Oil 1859 to 1950 Norman W. Garrick Lecture 5.2 Sustainable Transportation."— Presentation transcript:

1 The History of Oil 1859 to 1950 Norman W. Garrick Lecture 5.2 Sustainable Transportation

2 Based mostly on Kunstler, The Long Emergency, 2005, Atlantic Monthly Press, New York, pg. 73-87 (Chapter 2: Modernity and the Fossil Fuels Dilemma)

3 Ancient Use of Oil Much of the world’s oil is found at the level of the ‘oil window’ but some has also seeped to the surface Examples of surface oil include Trinidad Lake Asphalt La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles Surface and shallow oil are relatively rare but were used in antiquity for Caulking boats Paving streets Flaming weapons Medical treatment Large scale commercial use of oil only started once the first oil well was drilled in the 1850s

4 1859 The Start of the Oil Industry The oil industry started with the drilling of the first ever oil well in the world in NW Pennsylvania in 1859 Drake’s effort to drill for oil was backed by financial sponsors in New Haven, Connecticut In 1859, the industrial revolution was well on the way, powered by wood, water and coal so the ‘Age of Fossil Fuel’ pre-dated the commercial exploitation of oil In fact, Drake and his backers were not necessarily looking for a machine fuel rather they were looking for a substitute for whale oil to light America’s towns and cities Whale Oil Lamp

5 The End of Sperm Whale Oil In 1859, Sperm Whale Oil was the highest quality illuminant known but it was very expensive and supplies were dwindling Gaslight was used to light the streets but was not good for homes - noisy, hot, dangerous and inconvenient since it was fixed to the wall In the 1850s, kerosene emerged as an attractive substitute to whale oil it was similar to whale oil in brightness and did not need pipes for delivery and was not noisy when burning However, the kerosene used then was from rock oil The Drake experiment was in search of another source of kerosene During the American Civil War, the kerosene lamp was new technology

6 The End of Sperm Whale Oil

7 The First Oil Bust Other big use of oil was to replace lard as lubricant in the burgeoning factories of the time However, this did not save the oil industry from quickly encountering the first of many busts in a continuous cycle of bust and boon Since the system was not geared up to distribute all the oil produced this led to a glut of oil and resulted in the first bust for the nascent industry However, by 1890 may of the great Oil companies had already been formed including Standard Oil (US) Royal Dutch (Netherlands) Shell (UK)

8 1900 to 1920 By 1900, the fields of the east had been played out and extraction moved to Ohio and Indiana and then Texas and Oklahoma In 1911, Standard Oil was broken up by the government into multiple companies due to anti-trust concerns Also, this was around the time that electrification had replaced kerosene in most cities However, at around the same time Ford’s assembly lines for the Model T were just coming into production and gasoline replaced kerosene and lubricants as the major use for oil

9 The Great Wars and Oil The changes in WWI illustrate the rate at which the switch to oil power occurred In 1914, the British started the war with 15 motorcycles and 827 motorcars By war’s end in 1918, they had 34,000 motorcycles, 23,000 motorcars and 56,000 trucks According to Kunstler, oil and the control of oil played a role in the outcome of both WWI and WWII In WWI, Germany suffered from being oil poor Britain bought a control of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company that shipped oil from Iran through the Suez Canal to supply British oil powered warships He states that WWII was fought with and for oil The war was partly an effort by Germany and Japan to extend control to oil producing regions – they lost the war because they failed to do so

10 The Roaring 20s and the Birth of Modernism Between 1880 and 1930 American cities grow to a scale never seen before According to Kunstler, the intelligentsia, especially in architecture and urbanism, assumed that human life had crossed an evolutionary threshold that rendered human history and tradition obsolete Modernism in architecture and urban planning come out of this period It has left a huge impact on our cities and how we live, work and travel in them Kunstler goes further in saying that the Modernist Machine Ethos found an analog in Fascism Nazism Soviet Communism

11 Norman W. Garrick A Bold, Shiny New World ”Abundant sunshine, fresh air, fine green parkways would blend together seamlessly with dazzling skyscrapers and seven-lane highways” Futurama, 1939 New York World’s Fair

12 True American Exceptionalism American exceptionalism is an ugly term in its common usage but Kunstler points out one way in which America was different from other industrialized countries – We had oil, they did not Of the countries that started down the road to industrialization in the 19 th century America had by far the most oil America was the first to exploit oil in commercial quantities and use it fully The auto industry started in America Plastics and synthetics fibers also started here The USA has always been the world’s leading consumer of oil

13 Hints of Trouble During the Great Depression in America, oil was so plentiful and demand was so low that the price of oil fell to 10 cents per barrel However, oil discovery in America also peaked in 1930s –a hint of trouble to come that few, if any, noticed

14 The 1940s and 1950s After WWII America emerged with its manufacturing and oil infrastructure intact While Europe and industrialized Asia were devastated Although oil discovery was decreasing, production continued to rise until 1970 In the 1950s, America had much more oil than it could use This was the timeframe that cemented Americas dependency on oil with two major, interrelated policy decisions Continued suburbanization The building of the freeway system

15 The Decision to Suburbanize America According to Kunstler, the suburbanization of America started in the 1920s but was interrupted by the Depression, and later, WWII Kunstler felt that the desire to suburbanize American cities was totally understandable given how overcrowded and how artless American cities were “Americans were sick of them and saw no way to improve them” In addition, the ethos of country life was idealized in American (Anglo?) culture People equated suburbia with country living in their minds “That suburbia turned out to be a disappointing cartoon of country living rather than the real thing was a tragic unanticipated consequence”


17 The Biggest Public Works Project in History The American Freeway System The decision to construct the freeway system was made in 1955 Kunstler attributes the decision to the fact that the American public was entranced with cars and saw the highways as a reward for winning the war The disinvestment in American cities and the debasement of the countryside was an unforeseen consequence of this decision (although a number of voices did predict what would happen – including Lewis Mumford) These two decisions, the suburbanization of the cities and the construction of the freeways, locked us into our current dependency on oil

18 Why Did Europe Not Follow This Same Path? After WWII, America had oil Europe did not have a ready supply In fact, it could be argued that Germany lost two wars trying to get a secure source of oil Thus, Kunstler argues that Europeans have always been much less complacent about oil For this reason, after the war Europeans maintained compact living arrangements And taxed oil as a luxury Americans made different decisions Kunstler says that we were overconfident and complacent about the future

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