EGEE 120
Oil: International Evolution

Lesson 1 Introduction


Concepts to Consider for the Lesson

In this Lesson, we see the birth of the modern oil industry. I say “modern” because fossil fuels and hydrocarbons have been in use for thousands of years. We learned that what defines this new era was driven by several factors- the growth of the “business” aspect, the advent of new technologies and efficiencies, and the shift to “rock oil” or oil recovered by drilling as compared to finding seeps and skimming off the surface. In other words, we started digging for it rather than stumbling onto it. Another fact defining the “modern” oil industry was the incredible diversification in uses. We tend to think of fossil fuels as mainly for heating and transportation, but those uses are relatively recent arrivals to the story. The early years were focused on oil as a source of lighting, as a lubricant, and to an extent, for medicinal purposes. In regard to efficiencies, the rapid evolution from horse-drawn carriages carrying barrels to railroads to seafaring tankers completely altered the dynamics and economics of the business.

The textbook frames these aspects as themes- oil as the rise of modern capitalism; oil as a commodity important enough to impact politics and national strategies, and as something that permeates society so thoroughly that we are in what the book calls the age of “Hydrocarbon Man.” This short half-century from the mid to late 1800s saw this industry go from its birth to unseating coal as “king,” and making itself one of the world’s most important commodities even to this day. As we will see as we go further into the textbook, many of the characteristics of the industry back then still exist and occur today. We will also see how we got to be where we are today.

However, the focus of the first few chapters actually highlights another effect altogether of the oil industry and that is how it shaped and molded the business world as a whole and helped define the era of the giants of the industry. The oil industry taught us many things about the general aspects of being successful in business. We learned that it takes an immense risk, confidence in convictions, patience, and tolerance for failure or at best, long delays between successes. Without this mindset, the giants of their day, most exemplified by Rockefeller, would not have been able to create what they did. Unlike typical manufacturing, in the oil industry, you need to go to where it is. You also need to move it great distances to get it from where it is to where it is needed, with the intermediate elements of processing and refining. It is truly amazing then that it was the oil industry and not typical manufacturing, that was the early pioneer of fully integrated and multinational giants.


Learning Objectives

By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Recall course concepts relating to the history and development of the oil industry in America and throughout the world
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the role of oil in relation to pivotal events in history
  • Discuss the role of oil in business applications, global markets, conflicts, energy security, and various unconventional applications

What is due for Lesson 1?

This lesson will take us one week to complete. Please refer to the Course Syllabus for specific time frames and due dates. Specific directions for the assignment below can be found within this lesson.

Lesson 1 Checklist
Activity Location Submitting Your Work
Read The Prize: Chapters 1, 2, & 3 (select sections) No Submission
Discuss Participate in the Yellowdig discussion Canvas


Each week an announcement is sent out in which you will have the opportunity to contribute questions about the topics you are learning about in this course. You are encouraged to engage in these discussions. The more we talk about these ideas and share our thoughts, the more we can learn from each other.