Earth, Energy


Fossil Fuels


We are a country that runs on oil. From the gasoline in our cars to the plastic in our computers to the detergents that we put in our dishwashers, we rely on oil for our modern way of life. It cannot be understated just how strong of a role it plays in our economy and politics. It is used in tractors that plow and harvest food. It is used to power manufacturing plants and as feedstock in commercial goods. It powers all the trains and trucks that bring goods to market. It runs our cars, heats and cools our homes, and powers our electrical devices. Because of its ubiquitous nature in the marketplace, any small increase in the price of oil will cause a widespread increase in the price of living. This dependence of our economy, coupled with the fact that we import over 50% of our usage, means that oil is a primary consideration in international politics. This situation has not always been so, even though ancient cultures knew of the existence of crude oil. Many years ago, oil and tar that had seeped out of the ground were used to seal boats and light lams. Its scarcity severely limited its use, though. This all changed in 1859 when Edwin Drake struck oil at a depth of 69 feet in a well that he drilled in Pennsylvania. His success spurred wells to be drilled in other locations around the world that were thought to hold oil, creating enough of a supply that new uses, such as home heating, could be actualized. These new uses spurred further production, which led to even newer uses and inventions. With the refinement of the gasoline-powered internal combustion engine in the 1880’s and its subsequent use in a car, the die was cast. Oil had become a hot commodity, and its impact on the economy and politics grew very large.