The Eminence of Oil
Long before oil’s rise to prominence in energy production, its entry into daily use
was brought by peoples need for a cheaper and more flexible source of illumination.
Petroleum derivatives have been exploited since the beginning of human civilization,
particularly in ancient Mesopotamia and elsewhere in the Middle East, where a primitive
oil industry supplied asphalt for building roads, mastic for waterproofing ships,
architecture, hydraulics, and essential components for many medicines and treatments.
Oil production slowed down and reemerged in the mid 1850’s, when parallel experiments
by chemists were undertaken in Europe and the United States to refine oil (Maugeri 24).
The famous Canadian scientist, Abraham Gesner, was responsible for the discovery of
modern oil distillation. He patented a new oil product, kerosene, to be used for
“illumination or other purposes,” in the United States in 1854 (Maugeri 66). Since it was
cheaper, safer, and better than whale oil, which was quickly running out as a result of
intensive over fishing, it was quickly adopted by western civilization (Maugeri 72).
However, because modern society runs on oil, misconceptions and fallacies have been
accepted as truth on oil depletion.
In the twentieth century there have been at least three major cycles of oil
catastrophe: the fist one started during World War I and ended with the tremendous oil
glut of 1930, the second one erupted in the U.S. during World War II, and was a few
years later denied by the growing petroleum overproduction up to the end of the 1960’s;
the final cycle came with the beginning of the 1970’s, terminating in the two oil shocks,
and was dramatically reverted by the oil countershock in 1986 (Maugeri 15). However
past experience has failed to warn against such fears of apparent scarcity. The Medias