For much of history, energy has played an important role. Living standards have always been linked to energy. People needed to burn wood for heat and cooking. Wood was replaced by coal, and coal was later replaced by oil.
Although the history of oil may seem relatively new in the United States, it has nonetheless played an important role in the country’s economy and development.
Discovery of Oil
The history of oil first began a very long time ago. It was used by the Chinese in 600 B.C. and was even transported via bamboo pipelines.
The oil industry, however, began to truly take off in the United States when Colonel Drake discovered oil in Pennsylvania in 1859. In 1901, Spindletop found oil in Texas and the US became a major player in the world’s oil industry.
Before oil, coal was the most popular source of energy. Coal replaced wood and helped speed up industrialization, but it still had its disadvantages.
Popularity of Oil
People quickly found that oil was cleaner and more flexible than coal. In addition, it was cheaper and more reliable than whale oil and other products.
During this time, people were also actively looking for sources of fuel other than coal. Burning coal created a thick smoke that led to pollution and hazardous living conditions. People began to protest these conditions. Oil became an attractive alternative.
Oil became the fuel of choice during the rapid improvements of technology during the 20th century. Two of the most influential technological breakthroughs were the automobile and the lightbulb. Automobiles and light bulbs quickly became popular. As the demand for cars and electricity increased, so did the demand for oil, a product necessary for them to work properly.
By the early 1900s, gasoline had become even more important than kerosene. Oil grew even more significant during World War I when it was used to fuel tanks, ships, and airplanes. It became clear that oil was a valuable military tool, not just useful for fueling personal vehicles and helping create electricity.
At this point, people also began to realize that the natural gas produced by burning coal was also useful and not just a waste byproduct. They started using this gas for power and heat.
Oil has played a very important role in the history of the United States. It has helped shape both lifestyles and the economy of the country.