Age of Oil

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Offshore oil well drilling platform
Continental Oil Co., C.A.T.C., Gulf of Mexico, 1955.

The Age of Oil,[1] also known as the Oil Age[2][3] or the Petroleum Age,[4][5] refers to the era in human history characterised by an increased use of petroleum in products and as fuel. Though unrefined petroleum has been used for various purposes since ancient times, it was during the 19th century that refinement techniques were developed and gasoline engines were created.

Although crude petroleum oil has been used for a variety of purposes for thousands of years, the Oil Age is considered to have started in the 1800s with the advance of drilling techniques, as well as the processing of products made use in internal combustion engines. Alternatively, the age of oil can be placed in the first period until the early 1900s, when oil consumption and combustion engines utilization increased. Contemporary industrial society is built largely on petroleum resources, but the future of the Oil Age has become increasingly controversial.


Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, fossil fuels have been used as sources of energy. Coal began to be widely used after 1800 and would continue to be the dominant source of energy into the twentieth century. However, two events set the stage for the Age of Oil: The first was in 1846, when Abraham Gesner invented kerosene making coal and petroleum practical raw materials for lighting fuel. The second was in 1859, when Edwin Drake invented the first modern drilling process for deep oil wells. John Davison Rockefeller founded the Standard Oil Company, which dominated the oil industry and was the first great U.S. business trust. In 1870, he founded Standard Oil Company and aggressively ran it until he officially retired in 1897.[6] Karl Friedrich Benz developed a petrol-powered automobiles by 1878 and, in 1879, obtained a patent for the practical automobile. The invention of the internal combustion engine was the major influence in the rise in the importance of petroleum.

The beginning of the contemporaneous age of oil is commonly thought of originating in 1901 with the strike at Spindletop by Croatian oil explorer Antun Lučić and Texan Patillo Higgins, near Beaumont, Texas in the United States which launched large-scale oil production and soon made the petroleum products widely available.[7]

Powered by the increased use of petroleum, the post–World War II economic expansion was a period of economic prosperity in the mid-20th century which occurred, following the end of World War II in 1945, and lasted until the early 1970s. It ended with the 1973 oil crisis. In 1956, Geophysicist M. King Hubbert deduces that U.S. oil production will peak between 1965 and 1970 (peaked in 1971) and that oil production will peak "within half a century" on the basis of 1956 data.[8] In 1989, another predicted peak was by Colin Campbell[9]

Since the 1960s and 1970s, when petroleum production peaked in many industrialized nations, a frequent topic of speculation among scholars has been when worldwide production will peak, as well as when and how the oil age will ultimately end. According to some definitions the age is defined as ending at the point where consumption outstrips the decreasing production making its use unprofitable or impossible.

Oil price trend, 1861–2007, both nominal and adjusted to inflation.

Contemporary oil[edit]

With the dawning of the so-called Atomic Age many observers in the mid-20th century believed that the Oil Age was rapidly coming to an end.[10] The rapid change to atomic power envisioned during this period never materialized, in part due to environmental fears following high-profile accidents such as the 1979 Three Mile Island accident and the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

Peak oil is the point in time when the maximum rate of petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production is expected to enter terminal decline. Many believe that we are at or close to the peak, positioning us in the second half of the oil age.[11] Some estimate, assuming current consumption rates, current oil reserves will last through at least the year 2040.[12] In 2004, OPEC estimated, with substantial investments, it would nearly double oil output by 2025[13]

See also[edit]

Wheeler No. 1 Oil Well, Edward L. Doheny, Texas Oil Boom, History of the petroleum industry in Canada, History of the Venezuelan oil industry
Fossil fuel, Unconventional oil, Oil sands, Oil shale reserves
Gluts and crisis
Price of petroleum, 1980s oil glut, 1980–1989 world oil market chronology, 1979 energy crisis, Oil price increases since 2003, Oil depletion
Chronology of world oil market events (1970–2005), Company man, Drilling Fluids Engineer, Major Drilling Group International
Extraction of petroleum, Oil well (Oil well drilling, Oil Driller), Well drilling (Drilling), Drilling rig (Wellhead, Drill string), Oil platform, Drillship, Oil well Dog House, Submersible pump, Well logging, Wellbore, Relief well, Oil well control, Completion (oil and gas wells), Pore pressure gradient, Offshore drilling, Deepwater drilling, Drilling fluid
Resource curse, Oil reserves in Saudi Arabia, Problems in oil well drilling, Oil imperialism, Energy Slave
Natural gas, Renewable energy, Renewable energy commercialization, History of renewable energy

References and notes[edit]

  • Maugeri, Leonardo (2005). The Age of Oil: What They Don't Want You to Know About the World's Most Controversial Resource. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot. p. 15. ISBN 978-1-59921-118-3.
  • Goodstein, D. L. (2005). Out of gas: The end of the age of oil. New York., NY: W.W. Norton.
  • Ash, R.. Whitaker's World of Facts.
  1. ^ The Age of Oil: The Mythology, History, and Future of the World's Most Controversial Resource. By Leonardo Maugeri. Globe Pequot, 2007.
  2. ^ The End of the Oil Age. By Dale Allen Pfeiffer. 2004.
  3. ^ The Great Oil Age: The Petroleum Industry in Canada. By Peter McKenzie-Brown, Gordon Jaremko, David Finch. Detselig Enterprise Limited, 1993.
  4. ^ The Petroleum Age: A Tale of Innovation, Risk and Enterprise. By Ruth Sheldon Knowles, Phillips Petroleum Company.
  5. ^ Beyond the petroleum age: designing a solar economy. By Christopher Flavin, Nicholas K. Lenssen. Worldwatch Institute, 1990.
  6. ^ "John D. and Standard Oil". Bowling Green State University. Archived from the original on 2008-05-04. Retrieved 2008-05-13.
  7. ^ Maugeri (2005), p. 15
  8. ^ See Hubbert peak theory.
  9. ^ "Oil Price Leap in the Early Nineties," Noroil, December 1989, pages 35–38.
  10. ^ Croly, Herbert David (1945). "The New Republic". 113: 831.
  11. ^ Hirsch, Robert L.; Bezdek, Roger; Wendling, Robert (February 2005). "Peaking Of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation, & Risk Management" (PDF). Science Applications International Corporation/U.S. Department of Energy, National Energy Technology Laboratory. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
  12. ^ "Does the world have enough oil to meet our future needs?". Energy Information Administration. Retrieved 30 October 2016.
  13. ^ Opec Oil Outlook to 2025 Table 4, Page 12