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The History of Oil

Last week, we read about the history of solar power. Today, we will be looking at the second installment in the History of Energy series. Midland, TX, home of the Bushes, has an intricate petroleum museum. The history of oil is (black) gold!

 Oil History

Lucas Gusher in Beaumont, TX. 1901.

Although it wasn’t as well-known as solar and wind power, mankind’s oil use has been around since earliest civilizations. The Chinese created oil wells back in 300 AD! During their salt harvest, illegal salt traders would dig deeper than most wells. Thus, oil was first discovered. Apparently, they kept it a secret “well” enough because oil wasn’t widely known about until the mid-1800’s. In 1847, James Young was in the Riddings Coal Mine in England when he noticed oily seepage through the dirt and coal. As a chemist, Young managed to extract more oil out of the coal. A few months prior, geologist Abraham Gesner discovered how to make kerosene extract out of oil.

Petroleum became commercialized in Pennsylvania in 1859  when the first American oil well was constructed. Then, it became monetized by the notorious John D. Rockefeller in 1865. The Suez Canal was constructed for the passage of oil ships. Then, on January 10, 1901, the Lucas Gusher at Spindletop expelled 100,000 barrels of oil a day, for 9 days. This discovery of mass amount of oil forced Pennsylvania to give up their oil capitol title to Texas. Since then, Texas remains the top producer of oil in the United States.

The earliest uses of oil was for asphalt, salt, and lamps. First, the earliest Chinese people used bamboo to drill oil and made ink out of it. Ancient Babylonians hardened oil into asphalt, which they used for construction. Lamps previously used whale oil, but they needed something more. Oil was made into kerosene, which powered lamps for centuries. It was at the beginning of the 20th century when oil’s primary use became to power automobiles.

Oil Now

Today, oil is primarily used for the internal combustion engine, or to power cars. Other uses include heating, cooking, and to produce electricity. Plastic, cosmetics, and medical devices are all made from oil or have oil in it. Paraffin wax is also an oil byproduct. The world’s biggest oil producers are United States (Texas produces 40% of the U.S.’ oil), Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Canada.

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Oil Industry Update November 2020

Our previous blog mentioned ways energy plays a part in our lives. Now, we’ll go more in depth about the oil industry & COVID-19’s impact. As a result, it is becoming more obvious that we don’t need oil as much as we thought so. We will always use it, but maybe it’s time for petroleum to step out of the spotlight. However, the presidential election will have a say on oil’s future. Here’s what major oil companies have to say about the state of their industry.

 Oil’s Current Situation

COVID-19, heightened environmental awareness, and hurricanes have not been kind to the fossil fuel industry. In March, many refineries closed, drastically slowing oil production. July and August brought in a mass amount of hurricanes, destroying rig set-ups. Environmentalists are becoming increasingly concerned about marine oil spills and fracking. CNBC states, “Due to the ongoing impacts of Covid-19, the IEA expects global energy demand to fall by 5% in 2020, with oil and coal consumption falling 8% and 7%, respectively.”

One of Texas’ biggest oil companies, EOG Resources, is determined to make a comeback as they know how crucial oil is for Texas economy. Their stocks are slowly creeping back up, indicating a slow recovery. The Permian Basin is attracting oil business. Right now, oil’s biggest purpose is for vehicles, heating, and producing electricity. So, while oil has dropped drastically, the oil industry is using this time to re-structure business to prepare for less overall production.

Oil Industry Possible Future

It’s quite possible that oil will be replaced by the much more sustainable solar energy. This is due to environmentalism conservative movement and production costs. With that in mind, companies are working towards more safe practices. Drilling is triggering more earthquakes (in Oklahoma) and refineries pollute the air with smoke. Energy experts predict that oil will be replaced by wind & solar energy for electricity production. Meaning, in a few years, oil’s main purpose will just be fueling vehicles and engines. On the other hand, it’s hard to tell. Oil could go right back to pre-March success. After all, oil will always be essential to the energy industry. Here’s more data and statistics explaining petroleum’s projected path to 2050.

 

Oil’s future also depends on the presidential election outcome. Joe Biden is calling for a major decrease in production, as much as cutting it in half. Contrastingly, Donald Trump wants the economy stimulated in any way he can and will encourage oil to continue on. Will oil be able to conquer the election, environmental activism, and the pandemic? Only time will tell, but we do know that oil will likely never go back to the height it was at pre-March, but it will never completely phase out either.

 

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