EGEE 120
Oil: International Evolution

Lesson 2 Introduction


Concepts to Consider for the Lesson

In the short time passage covered from Lesson 1 to Lesson 2 we see the inevitable consequences of the appearance of a new industry sector. Recall in Lesson 1 the diversification of uses for oil, and the meteoric growth of Standard Oil. We saw in Lesson 1 that with this rapid growth came great success. But brewing underneath that success was the focus of the competition and others' suspicion of ulterior motives.

As with Lesson 1, the readings teach us two stories in parallel. The evolution of the oil industry itself, and the oil industry as an example of the evolution of capitalism as a whole. For example, the appearance of competitors, the obsession with “cutting Standard Oil down to size,” and the expansion of markets. There are two ways to succeed in business- get a bigger piece of the pie, but also see what you can do to make the pie bigger! Consider what you read about the early days of the oil industry to what you see today with electronics, social media, and the entertainment industry.

Another significant takeaway from the readings in Lesson 2 is that what may seem like a solid business that will last forever rarely does. In a short time, the oil industry almost disappeared simply because of the invention of electric lighting. It was only by sheer luck that the automobile came along at the same time and innovation found a way to utilize oil products for that market. The key was the ability of the oil industry to see what was happening and find a way to adapt. The oil industry never stopped innovating since then, and today, the uses of crude oil products are staggering. A common misconception by society is that if we can eliminate the automobile, there will no longer be a need to drill for oil and gas. Many people will be quite disappointed if they knew how many day-to-day household necessities come from crude oil products. So even if phased out of transportation or power generation, there will be a lot more innovation needed to phase out its other uses entirely.

With Lesson 2 we will discuss the loss of oil markets with the invention of electric light and the almost simultaneous regaining of new markets with the development of the automobile. It also discusses the decline in the dominance of Standard Oil with the discovery of oil in other parts of America and the subsequent emergence of competitors. But at the same time we will also discuss the growing public hatred against big oil, and the cry for the Federal government to break up Standard Oil as a way of overcoming its monopoly. Concurrent with the desire to break up the monopoly that was Standard Oil, the concept of the major international oil company was born. The rise of Royal Dutch/Shell as a major international oil company and the fall of the Russian oil industry will also be discussed.


Learning Objectives

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

  • Recall course concepts relating to the Standard Oil Trust and to the “Oil Wars”
  • 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 2?

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 2 Checklist
Activity Location Submitting Your Work
Read The Prize: Chapters 4, 5, & 6 (select sections), and The Quest: Chapters 2 & 4 (selected sections) No Submission
Discuss Participate in the Yellowdig discussion Canvas
Complete Complete Quiz 1 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.