For a long time it was wood and coal that provided the energy that was needed to keep one warm, light the world when dark, run the machines and move people from point A to point B.
With the advent of the electric light and the electric motor, steam power for factories just vanished into history. Placing electric motors on each of the machines that were in the factories enabled more rapid upgrades and expansion. Steam was still the main way to move people and products and materials long distances efficiently and rapidly for some time to come.
The history of oil or petroleum is long and varied.
The earliest known oil wells were drilled in China in 347 CE. They had depths of up to about 800 feet (240 m) and were drilled using bits attached to bamboo poles. The oil was burned to evaporate brine and produce salt. By the 10th century, extensive bamboo pipelines connected oil wells with salt springs. The ancient records of China and Japan are said to contain many allusions to the use of natural gas for lighting and heating. Petroleum was known as burning water in Japan in the 7th century.
The Middle East‘s petroleum industry was established by the 8th century, when the streets of the newly constructed Baghdad were paved with tar, derived from petroleum that became accessible from natural fields in the region. Petroleum was distilled by the Persian alchemist Muhammad ibn Zakarīya Rāzi (Rhazes) in the 9th century, producing chemicals such as kerosene in the alembic (al-ambiq),[verification needed] and which was mainly used for kerosene lamps. Arab and Persian chemists also distilled crude oil in order to produce flammable products for military purposes. Through Islamic Spain, distillation became available in Western Europe by the 12th century.
Some sources claim that from the 9th century, oil fields were exploited in the area around modern Baku, Azerbaijan, to produce naphtha for the petroleum industry. These fields were described by Marco Polo in the 13th century, who described the output of those oil wells as hundreds of shiploads. When Marco Polo in 1264 visited the Azerbaijani city of Baku, on the shores of the Caspian Sea, he saw oil being collected from seeps. He wrote that “on the confines toward Geirgine there is a fountain from which oil springs in great abundance, inasmuch as a hundred shiploads might be taken from it at one time.”
Leave it to the Chinese to be the first to use oil. But as you can see the Middle East was in the thick of it from the get go. Here is a LINK to a longer history of oil production and use. It’s quite interesting actually. But oil use did not really take off until the advent of the internal combustion engine. Then the improved ability to drill through deep rock with the rotary drill bit, developed by Howard Robard Hughes, Sr..
On 20 November 1908, he filed the basic patents for the Sharp-Hughes Rock Bit, and on 10 August 1909 was granted U.S. Patent 930,758 and U.S. Patent 930,759 for this rock drill. Hughes’ two-cone rotary drill bit penetrated medium and hard rock with ten times the speed of any former bit, and its development revolutionized oil well drilling.
And just in time too. Since the automobile was beginning to take off. Coal was still the main material for heating homes and gas was used for lighting and cooking. It wasn’t until gas pipelines began to be installed did gas heating become practical and even them most gas was either from coal or then from refined from oil. Oil was becoming the civilized world’s elixir of choice.
The use of petroleum based products did not really take off until the 1930s with the invention of Nylon and Neoprene. Replacing Bakelite and natural rubber respectively. Polymer technology started to take off and by the 1960s there were petroleum base products of every kind and shape and they replaced nearly every other natural product of the same type. Suffice it to say oil was everywhere. By the 1950s oil was replacing coal for home and commercial and industrial heating and the coal fired steam locomotive was becoming a thing of the past.
And it won’t be long before we have exhausted our finite supply of petroleum.
Our problems will come way before you start hearing that empty sucking sound like the last bit of coke from the straw. Because as supplies diminish, the price will rise dramatically. And the worlds consumption is ever increasing.
And there is very little, if anything being done to find any kind of reasonable replacement.