The comprehensive guide into the past and future of OilJun 2, 2019
How many times have you noticed the world’s great concern about oil prices in breaking news and international newspaper?
Do you have any idea how oil has lit the spark to set up wars that resulted in tremendous losses and victims?
Are you aware of the oil’s impact in determining the power and authority of each nation?
All these thoughts will lead you to a single fact. Oil is so powerful in the present world.
However, things did not use to be the same the time when the natural resource was first explored.
That said, let me guide you through the milestones of oil spread worldwide since the mid-19th century.
Also, I will navigate you over the stages when oil has attained such a powerful influence.
Also, I would like to state a worthy point regarding the oil’s rule to decide the fate of nations.
In the last portion of the guide, You and I will go through a couple of statistics and some of the current imaginations for the future of oil.
The birth of oil In the U.S
As it is known nowadays, U.S is a major supplier for oil, the exploration of oil has set off in the U.S.
The story went as Oil was first found in Titusville, Pennsylvania in 1859. With the turn of the 20th century, oil excavation was extended to more and more states.
Titusville, Pennsylvania in 1859
The inception of world oil exploration kicked off on August 27, 1859, in a remote valley in northwestern Pennsylvania. However, a point should get cleared here so you get the whole detailed story.
People actually used to seek for oil at the beginning of the 1800s. Instead, it was used for medical purposes.
Back in 1814 and 1818, the Ohio and Kentucky respectively witnessed the bottling of crude oil as medicine.
There were many drawbacks for oil exploration:
- The drillers were based upon a primitive ancient method called the spring pole.
- The quantity of the oil extracted was so little and insufficient.
The motive for extracting crude oil for technical and commercial reasons arisen in 1859 in Pennsylvania.
Indeed, the rise of the first commercial oil well is credited to Colonel Edwin Drake and his backers.
The value of Colonel Drake’s work lies in the innovation he displayed in his way of extracting the rich resource.
Indeed, Drake managed to introduce unfamiliar technologies that led to accelerating the extraction and refining of oil.
But it is worth to mention that Drake’s Journey was not always a success. The so-called father of oil and gas has gone through periods of hopelessness and skepticism.
By his time, the conventional drilling techniques seemed to be useless. Hence, he was loaded with inventing a totally developed technique rather than the existing ones.
Sometimes things went extremely down that his employer hardly decided to cut off his cash supplies. People even started to title him “The Crazy Drake”.
Finally, things have worked out on a hot Saturday afternoon dated back on 27th August 1859. The Pennsylvania well that launched America’s petroleum age was 69.5 feet deep.
One of Drake’s assistants, William Smith noticed some floating oil atop the good hole. Having notified, Drake hurried up to witness the harvest of his painstaking work.
He used a pump to absorb the floating liquid and sold it for one of his clients. This client later has verified the quality and workability of Drake’s first ever finding.
The contributions of Drake have always been acknowledged by the consensus. In addition, many authors have devoted some of their writings to undercover the value he added to humanity.
For instance, the author William R.Brice has shown his admiration of Drake throughout his published biography Myth, Legend, Reality – Edwin Drake and the Early Oil Industry.
“Drake is known as the ‘father of the petroleum industry’ because the technology he devised revolutionized how crude oil was produced and launched the large-scale petroleum industry.” noted Brice in his book.
The motive behind oil hunting in the mid of 19th century
A common saying used to prevail in America at this time; when the sun went down, the day went down.
You can obviously relate the saying to the nature of this era. Prior to the invention of the electrical lamp and kerosene-based lamps, the sun was the dominant and only supplier of light to humans.
Although some trials to illuminate the darkness of night has taken place, they were not basically seen as a reliable success.
First: The traditional candles
Candles used to help for some time but very far from the required efficiency in industries.
Second: whale oil burned lamps
Another solution that some have resorted to was the whale oil.
Whale oil was found to be burned up in everyday lamps, therefore, people saw a strand of hope within it.
Unfortunately, fleets of ships may have sailed for days craving for this matter, however, the outcome was usually unsatisfying to do it once and more.
Third: the illuminant camphene
One more alternative risen at this time was the illuminant camphene. This highly volatile composition of turpentine and alcohol was once used for illuminance.
In spite of its cheaper cost than whale oil, it had not put in use for so long. The camphene frequently starts deadly fires when sparked.
Obviously, the entire world was in an urgent need to enlighten its darkness.
Discovery of Kerosene-burnt lamps and oil prosperity in the mid 19th century
In the early 1850s, The Canadian chemist Abraham Gesner managed to introduce a new solution to the lighting issue.
He patented the invention of a hydrocarbon liquid matter which was named after Kerosene.
Quoted from Abraham’s patent, he said:
“I have invented and discovered new and useful manufacture or composition of matter, being a new liquid hydrocarbon, which I denominate Kerosene.”
Prior to the exploration of oil in The U.S, kerosene was retrieved from coal tar and shall oils.
However, things have totally altered upon the success of Edwin Drake’s first oil well.
The reliance upon kerosene as a cheap and efficient fuel for burning lamps has flourished since the beginning of the 1950s.
It was just its source who was transformed from coal into oil. The more oil wells continued to conquer more regions of the U.S, the more dependence on oil to distill kerosene it became.
By 1961, the U.S pioneered the refining of crude oil and several hydrocarbon substances were distilled from it.
Furthermore, the country has launched its first exported shipments of refined oil to England.
By 1880, the United States became the supplier of 85 percent of the world’s produced and refined crude oil.
Accordingly, kerosene was titled the U.S forth export.
It is worth to mention that oil byproducts were not limited to kerosene at this time.
Conversely, there were around 200 byproducts used as fuels for stoves and various combustion engines as well as lubricants for industrial machines.
The global trend manifested this age to industrialize and mechanize the everyday activities pushed the extension of oil products into more life aspects.
Over the next few decades, the government has announced oil supplanted coal as the U.S predominant source of fuel. Also, it was deemed one of the U.S major key factors to establish its economic power.
It was not until the invention of the electric lamp in the late 1870s, kerosene-burnt lamps were the primary source of luminance for most of the world.
The invention of the electric lamp and its consequent impact on oil spread.
The evolution of the electrical lamp has always represented a cornerstone in the history of human development and prosperity.
On the other hand, there was not a good sign in terms of its consequences over oil usage. The introduction of electrical-based lamps will result in a decline in the use of oil-fueled ones.
This is typically what happened soon after After Thomas Edison has presented his development of the first electrically powered lamp on October, 21st, 1879.
Soon after his remarkable invention, more and more people have directed the attention to electrical light bulbs. What made it worse for oil is Edison’s launch of the first commercial electrical generating plant in 1882.
By the end of the century, a piece of statistics showed the increasing dominance of electrical bulbs on the U.S.
The oil industry has lost its major market when 18 million light bulbs were detected to be in use in the United States.
Oil recovers again by the invention of automobiles
The declining oil witnessed upon the onset of the electrical lamp have not continued for so long.
The invention of the automobile by the turn of the century has changed the situation at all.
These automobiles were essentially powered by fuels resulted from the distillation of oil such as gasoline and kerosene. Hence, the oil industry found its way to rise up again.
By 1900, there were around 8000 recorded vehicles and this was only the beginning.
Two decades later, the number of automobiles skyrocketed to hit 23 million cars by 1920.
The battle between gasoline-powered cars and electric cars
However, electricity again was a competitor for oil even in the scope of automobiles.
Early models of cars used to be powered not only by gasoline. Some cars who were manufactured on the Tesla model was operated by electricity. Others used steam within the engine to supply torque to the car.
However, the gasoline-powered cars have proved their accountability and reliability by the time. Unfortunately, electrical powered cars lacked dependability due to a serious reason.
The batteries integrated into the car design required to be charged regularly over the day.
By the time, the gasoline-powered cars dominated the market. As a result, this has launched a series of procedures that worked for the good of oil spread.
Obviously, these cars require to be fueled from time to time. Hence, the existence of gasoline filling stations started to be seriously considered while designing the infrastructure of the cities.
Also, the need for these stations to be charged with oil meant a consistent supply of oil from oil wells and companies should be ensured.
Wars’ rule to magnify the prominence of oil for the power of nations
Another factor that considerably contributed to the spread of oil was unfortunately wars.
Prior to the first world war, oil was just thought a commodity that serves the people of a country in lightning, transportation and some other life aspects.
The wars took place during the 19th century revealed the other side of how nations can make use of oil.
Before the introduction of vehicles, horses were the primary mean of transportation in wars. Oil did not represent an advantage for any side who possessed it.
The involvement of trucks carrying troops in wars has changed the game. These trucks clearly required fuel to run, which was not available for all countries.
As a result, some nations then had privilege over some other nations.
Oil was not only critical for the sake for transporting the military troops. The development of tanks and airplanes have turned the human perception of warfare upside down.
The possession of tanks and airplanes represented a revolution when it took place in 1918. Most importantly, countries owned oil to operate tanks and airplanes have the upper hand in deciding how a war goes.
After the first world war, oil stated to be looked upon as a weapon and a powerful mean for countries to reach its goals.
Is oil always a blessing?
There is no room for doubts about the revolutionary influence of oil on the history of human beings.
Upon its exploration, oil has largely contributed to maximizing human capabilities and his control over the surrounding environment.
Not only this, but oil has also enabled human to go far beyond this world and possibly colonize other planets very soon.
Furthermore, I have shared with you over and over the power and economic growth, oil has donated for countries having it.
However, is it always the same case for all oil-owner countries? Is it enough to possess that natural resource to achieve prosperity and good living conditions for people?
A quick comprehensive look at the geographical oil map may give you positive indications to answer this question.
According to statistics published on Codocvia, Countries like The United States, Russia, and the United Arab of Emirates are on the top producing oil countries.
For most of the people, the U.S and Russia are regarded as the two economic and political giants of the globe. Hence, you are more likely to go with the notion that oil offers a shortcut to power and money.
However, let me highlight that some of the top oil-producing countries including Brazil, Iraq, and Nigeria are not very supportive leads to your conclusion.
Indeed, these countries have relatively been loaded with depts, suffering from high poverty rate and going through several economic deteriorations.
Therefore you may want to know the real impact of oil on countries. Is it a standalone key factor to reach prosperity and economic development? Or there are more decisive elements to reach this endeavor.
“Crude oil: The Violent Twilight of Oil” by Peter Maas
The American journalist and author Peter Maas has devoted some of his work to dig deep and find answers to this concern.
He wanted to know if the damages of oil can for some cases outnumber the privileges of the priceless natural resource.
Mass published his book “Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil” in 2009. As explained, the book has emphasized the potential dark side of oil for its producing countries.
“Oil is money, and money tends to be power, and the problem with oil and the money and the power that it generates is that it’s incredibly concentrated. So it’s in a few places in very large quantities, and it leads to a struggle because the stakes are so high.” Said Maas on the introduction of his book.
”And the problem is — and this is the paradox really — is that people who live on top of the oil, have a tremendous amount of poverty. And it’s not despite the oil, but because of the oil.”
Throughout his book, Maas has done tremendous researches on various countries that represented to him real case studies.
From Saudi Arabia to Equatorial Guinea passing by Venezuela, Iraq, Nigeria, and more countries, Maas has come with his book.
Maas even was involved in travels to some countries such as Nigeria. This was where he investigated, reported and collected stories about the social, economic and political impact of oil on these countries.
Reflections on Maas journey to Nigeria
On his pursuit to write the book, the American author made his journey to Nigeria, a village lying in the Niger Delta in particular.
There, he personally witnessed the inequality of oil economy on its clearest forms. The village was nothing but a total slum.
No clean running water was available to the inhabitants of the village. No facilities including electricity, education and health care were afforded to the children and people.
On the other hand, a totally different scene was depicted just cross the creek hundreds of yards far from the poor village.
A modern oil facility operated by Shell, the giant oil corporate was located to extract the very plentiful underground oil.
The air-conditioned complex was equipped with all required facilities such as clean water and uninterrupted electricity.
Sanitation and proper atmosphere were considered for the employees of Shell facility, conversely to the atmosphere outside in the village.
In his description for the scene in the village, Mass explained,
“ I could see there was oil dripping down into the creek, into the water, and there were times when there weren’t even any facilities around us, but I could smell the petroleum in the air. And I looked down, and there’s a film of petroleum on the water.”
By the end of Nigeria’s journey, Mass was able to conclude that the success equation cultures used to think unchangeable is no longer working.
Oil is not necessarily the core ingredient of economic prosperity. There are more variables that determine the output of the equation of prosperity.
Democracy: a key factor to achieve economic growth from the oil industry
Mass believed that the non-secret ingredient to best exploit oil for the good of the country is to establish a solid base of democracy.
To support his claim, he resorted to Norway as an ideal example for a country who attained some of its economic power thanks to the gold mine.
Long before it discovered oil beneath its lands, Norway has founded democracy in the minds of its people, according to Mass.
The northern European country has established several transparent and open institutions. Once the country has found oil, immediate debates have taken place to discuss the best way to make use of the natural resource.
Also, the government has bear in mind the good of the following generations. The country eventually reached a series of decisions which included not to spend all its reservoir of oil.
One more policy Maas has emphasized on his book was that:
“And then the money that was put into the Norwegian economy was done so in a very honest, transparent way, and so this kind of open process was just absolutely key.”
To strengthen his analogy, Maas compared successful Norway to a far unsuccessful example of how the absence of democracy ruins the oil’s economic value.
Throughout another field travel, the American Author managed to understand the oil rule in the West African Equatorial Guinea.
Back to the 1990s, oil was found in Equatorial Guinea. Unlike Norway, the African country has not adopted a democratic approach.
To make it short for you, I will quote from Maas’ own words.
“when the money started coming in, what happened to the money is that it was all deposited into secret bank accounts that were controlled by the dictator of the country, Teodoro Obiang. And so there was zero transparency, and to a degree, there still is almost zero transparency in that country and others.”
Obviously, Maas, through his book related the accomplishment of economic development from oil to the transparent utilization of the money resulting for the good of the people.
What is the destiny of the precious natural resource?
The human dependence on oil has shaped a descending curve over years. As anticipated, the more technology humans have developed by the time, the more energy required to operate this technology.
But would this pattern continue till eternity? Or the world will run out of oil soon.
Normally, you will have a positive answer based on the fact that oil is a non-renewable energy resource. One day, close it is or far the world will have no more oil to be extracted.
I cannot actually agree more. Being a natural resource, humans do not have yet sufficient knowledge or technologies to create oil. Therefore, once it has gone, it has no return.
False anticipations about the world future energy resources
The world has always been wondering about the future of energy resources since the past century.
For example, nuclear energy has been anticipated as a cheap source of energy since the 1950s. However, the use of nuclear power is so limited and bounded with various constraints.
Another alternative energy source was biofuels. Fuels generated from biological substances portrayed a promising solution in the early 2000s. But again most countries seem to forget that source in practical.
Even oil sounds to have fooled us. Where reports showed a drastic decline in oil reservoirs, shale drilling has boosted the world’s production of oil and gas in the past few decades.
The increasing global warming and its impact on the world’s consumption of oil
This topic has been of great concern to the world for many reasons. One significant reason is the earth climate. The world climate is correlated somehow to the energy we are using every day.
Since the burning of oil byproducts such as gasoline and diesel releases heat to the atmosphere.
That heat accelerates the rate of global warming.
Hence, a decline in oil supply will limit the burning of its byproduct and accordingly minimize global warming.
Obviously, the world agreed upon its need to find a solution for the climate issue.
That is exactly the reason why all nations have gathered in the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
Quoted from the official website of the Paris 2015 agreement, the agreement’s 3 goals were as follow:
“The Paris Agreement central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”
Additionally, the agreement aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change. To reach these ambitious goals, appropriate financial flows, a new technology framework, and an enhanced capacity building framework will be put in place”.
“The Agreement also provides for enhanced transparency of action and support through a more robust transparency framework.”
The world’s key oil players’ response to the Paris agreement
Despite the world confession about the challenging goals set in Paris agreement, serious steps seemed to be undertaken to be the gigantic oil companies.
Beginning with ExxonMobil and BP, the two companies have focused a portion of their work on manufacturing advanced batteries. Scientists of the Royal Dutch Shell also started to work on hydrogen fuel cells.
Even more, interestingly, the Saudi Arabian fortunes have recently been directed into investing in Tesla rather than the oil industry.
Minimizing the reliance on fossil energy was not actually limited to oil corporates. Some countries have adopted futuristic strategies to reach this goal.
For instance, India has announced that by 2030 all the new sold cars will be electrically powered.
Generally talking, experts anticipate that despite the efforts made now the oil demand will reach a peak until 2030. Soon after 2030, there will be a drastic decline in oil production and the demand on it.
By this time, other energy resources will flourish and be largely involved in supplying energy to the planet.
Estimates showed that by 2040, renewable energy including wind turbines and solar power will rise from a 7% current share to a 25% share by 2040.
This guide has represented oil from various unfamiliar perspectives the public do not usually consider about oil.
First, I accompanied you on a tour back in the state of Pennsylvania the year 1859 in particular. That is where and when the first oil well was discovered in the United States.
In this portion of the guide, I have emphasized the efforts of Colonel Edwin L.Drake and his contributions to the industry.
Drake’s journey to drill the first commercial oil well was not an easy one. Conversely, the man was exposed to many hardships and doubts from the people around.
Therefore, the legacy this man has left will always be preserved for eternity. To honor his achievements, the U.S has moved the original drilling site to a National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark.
A note has been curved on the stone of the landmark saying,
“The drilling of this oil well, by Edwin L. Drake in 1859, is the event recognized as marking the modern phase of the petroleum industry.”
Moving from Drake’s work, the guide has gone through the initial uses of oil in the mid-1850s.
During the period, the world was looking through a fuel to be burnt in lamps to enlighten the darkness. However, the solutions prior to oil such as whale oil and camphene were far reliability.
Therefore, when oil was vastly found and kerosene was discovered a good burning fuel, oil was directly credited for resolving the problem of lighting.
Then, some challenges started to threaten the spread of oil when Thomas Edison discovered the electric bulb in 1878.
As a result, The dependence on kerosene-burning lamps witnessed a short decline at the end of the century.
But soon when the world launched the age of motorized vehicles, oil returned back to the lead to supply the vehicles with the required fuel. Furthermore, the series of wars the world went through in the onset of the 20th century has indirectly magnified the importance of the natural resource.
The guide was then moved to discuss a controversial viewpoint the American Author Peter Maas has adopted on his book “Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oi”.
The Author throughout his book explained how oil could be a curse if not exploited in a proper manner.
He supported his claim by reporting the stories he witnessed from his travel to some oil-producing countries who are still trapped in huge poverty and deterioration.
Also, Maas has related the economic growth to be achieved via the oil industry with one major quality; Democracy. He emphasized the importance for the government to establish a transparent policy that clearly displays how the profits from the oil industry are spent.
Finally, the guide gave some answers to the question of the destiny of oil in the long terms. The goals of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015 were shared to give a vision about the future of oil.
You can imply from the goals of the agreement that the world is on its way to discard oil as the essential energy resource on the planet. Strategies are now built to maximize the share of renewable energy resources such as wind, solar and biofuels.
However, this does not deny that reliance on oil will continue to reach its final peak by 2030 when it then starts to constantly decline until it totally vanishes.