EGEE 120
Oil: International Evolution




Here we will explore oil discovery in the area that was not supposed to have oil, Arabia (Bahrain, Kuwait, and Saudi), and the problems posed by the troublesome Red Line agreement. The reasons for the economic hardships of the area that made concessions possible in these areas will be discussed. The different objectives of the American and British companies that made it possible for America to beat the British in Arabian oil dominance will also be explored.

Followed by the rise of nationalism and military expansionism in Japan in the 1930s and the deadly paradox/dilemma Japan faced in choosing food to be a synthetic fuel instead of feeding their citizens. This will lead Japan into the Pearl Harbor attack, its key success elements, objective, impact, and the miscalculations of both sides. We will then discuss the innovations in chemistry that helped with synthetic oil production in Germany, and how synthetic oil shaped Hitler’s WWII plans and strategy in Europe. We will also discuss the role of the chemical giant I. G. Farben and the objectives of Hitler’s Blitzkrieg and grand strategies and why they failed. Finally, we conclude with a ponderable comparison to the Iraq War of 2003.

Major Lesson Themes

  • Efforts to expropriate & renegotiate concessions or contracts
  • Americans beat the Brits to Saudi oil
  • Increasing ties between Saudi Arabia & United States
  • Economics & oil
  • Cultural differences can be profound
  • The host countries wanted the companies in just as much as we wanted their oil
  • Oil as a central element in strategy, but not really the cause of the war
  • Other motivations for the war
  • Poor economic conditions opening the door to despots
  • Lessons from history for today
  • Access to oil is important
  • But sea lanes can be blocked easily
  • Access to oil was critical
  • Logistics & FUEL were critical
  • Synthetic oil production

Learning Outcomes for Lesson 5:

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

  • chronicle the nationalistic events in Persia and Mexico and their eventual outcomes;
  • provide a historical perspective of oil discovery in Arabia and the problems posed by the Red Line Agreement of Gulbenkian and the IPC;
  • explain the causes of the economic hardships in Saudi and Kuwait before oil discovery;
  • explain the different objectives of the American and British oil companies as well as Britain’s dilemma in having America in the Middle East;
  • explain the reasons for the military expansionism of Japan;
  • articulate the deadly paradox/dilemma Japan faced with respect to the US;
  • explain the underlying objectives of the Petroleum and Synthetic Oil Industry Laws;
  • detail the propaganda campaign of the Japanese government to its citizens;
  • provide the objective, key success elements, and impact of the Pearl Harbor attack;
  • explain the miscalculations and mistakes of both sides;
  • explain why destruction of the Pearl Harbor oil tanks would have been problematic;
  • explain why freezing the assets of Japan was essentially the equivalent of an oil embargo;
  • explain the hydrogenation and Fischer-Tropsch methods of making synthetic oil;
  • distinguish between the objectives of Standard Oil and I. G. Farben in their agreement;
  • explain how I.G. Farben became an arm of Nazi Germany;
  • account for why mobility and long supply lines create vulnerability;
  • explain why the grand strategy failed to get the grand prize.

What is due for Lesson 5?

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 5 Checklist
Activity Location Submitting Your Work
Read The Prize: Chapters 15, 16, & 17 - (select sections)

The Quest: Chapter 7 - (select sections)
No Submission
Read Online Lesson 5: Boom and Bust Cycles No Submission
Complete Lesson 5 Participation Activity Canvas
Lesson 5 information will be on the Quiz 5 / 6 Quiz next week 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.