The United States’ oil history did not end with World War I! The next several decades saw companies beginning to drill for oil abroad, fluctuations due to the Great Depression, and changes due to World War II.
Drilling for Oil Abroad
Although the United States marketed most of its oil abroad, very few reserves were American owned. Herbert Hoover, Secretary of Commerce at the time, and Charles Evan Hughes, the Secretary of State, began convincing American companies to look for oil outside of the United States. Oil firms began investing in South America, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. They continued to export oil from the United States as they searched for resources across the world.
The Great Depression and World War II
The Great Depression changed the oil industry. During this period of time, the United States’ economy struggled, and so did the oil industry. The price of oil dropped dramatically to only ten cents in 1931. The industry was in shambles. Thanks to the activities of the New Deal and World War II, however, the oil industry started to pick up again.
Like World War I, World War II stimulated the oil industry. Once again, oil proved that it was a necessary component in US military activities. Researchers discovered additional uses for oil and petroleum such as artificial rubber and TnT. They also refined oil to increase the speed of aircraft.
Post World War II
Oil continued to play an important role even after World War II. The war depleted American oil reserves by about 6 billion barrels. During the Vietnam War, the US supplied another 5 billion barrels of oil. Much of this oil came from American owned properties in the Middle East. The United States was forced to maintain diplomatic relations with oil-rich countries.
Although the United States is rich in oil, during wars they have used more oil than they can produce. US oil production has also declined. This has forced the US to start importing oil from other areas such as the Middle East and Venezuela. Oil influences many important foreign policy decisions.
The US has a complex history with oil. The product is one of the country’s most important resources, but it has recently turned to foreign sources. As a result, oil does not only influence the US economy and the lifestyle of its citizens. It now also plays a role in foreign policy.