Fuels and Society: 8. Fear of Limited Petroleum
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|8. Fear of Limited
The rapidly growing demand for gasoline caused concern over the long term supply of petroleum. As early as 1906 the U.S. Geological Survey (U.S.G.S) issued the first of many warnings about oil shortages. [ii] There were only 100,000 cars and trucks that year, but the number would quadruple by 1910. With each of 400,000 cars and trucks needing, for example, 400 gallons of fuel per year, over 160 million gallons of gasoline were required.
By 1920, nine million cars would be consuming over three billion gallons of fuel per year. With growing demand, the long term outlook for domestic oil supply was precarious, with perhaps 20 years remaining, the U.S.G.S. said. [iii]
Compounding fears of a domestic oil shortage, the U.S. had no reliable foreign sources of oil. Where Britain and the Netherlands, for instance, had developed oil in the Persian Gulf and Indonesia, Americas major foreign oil investments in Mexico had been politically troubled.[iv] Fear of oil shortages became the most important factor in international relations, [v] [vi] becoming so great that some alarmists warned that the U.S. might go to war with Great Britain to secure access to oil in the Persian Gulf region.[vii]
[ii] James Ridgeway, Powering Civilization (New York: Pantheon, 1982), p. 90.
[iii] Anthony Sampson, The Seven Sisters (New York: Viking 1975), p. 60
[iv] John M. Blair, The Control of Oil, (New York: Random House, 1976), p. 32, citing 66th Congress, 2nd Session, Senate Document No. 272. Romanian fields and refineries had been sabotaged prior to a German invasion in 1917, and had to be rebuilt.
[v] U.S. Dept. of Commerce, World Petroleum Production 1900-1925, cited in Ludwell Denny, We Fight For Oil (NY: Knopf, 1928), p. 279.
[vii] Denny, We Fight For Oil,p.274; also see E.H. Davenport and S.R. Cooke: The Oil Trusts and Anglo-American Relations, London 1923.
|Copyright 2001, Laurence
I. Peterson and Matthew E.
College of Science and Mathematics
Kennesaw State University
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Kennesaw, GA 30114