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.[1] 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.[2]

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),[3][verification needed] and which was mainly used for kerosene lamps.[4] 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.[2]

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.

Here are a couple of lists of products that come from petroleum. List1 and List2.

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.


7 thoughts on “Petrol

  1. Oh there is plenty being done to find alternatives C.

    What isn’t being done is ending the totally stupid billions of $ in subsidies for oil and redirecting those dollars to development of alternative resources.

    The other thing that isn’t happening is the private sector isn’t stepping up to the plate to make the necessary investments to supply us with power. They’re waiting for gov’t to give them a handout. They won’t take any risk at all. They want all the risk to be at the expense of taxpayers but want all the profit. I say screw them. If they’re not going to do their job then take it away from them. Take them over and tell them tough shit.

    Actually, current gen nuclear plants are what we need to be doing. The technology is way advanced and is very safe with modern designs. Some of these have been built but scaled way down for testing and verification.

    1. cmaukonen

      Natural gas is one alternative, at least for heating and cooking and short distance transportation. It is already being used for electric generation but not near enough.

      I am afraid that nuclear power would be a very difficult sale though. Both from an economic as well as environmental point of view. And we still have not solved the disposal problems of the spent fuel. Europe is already try to deactivate their nuclear facilities.

      1. Natural gas has serious issues because getting it out of the rock formations where it’s stored is making a mess with the water aquifer everywhere. Hydrofracking is poisoning our water supply nationwide. And hydrofracking uses millions of gallons of water. A resource which is under serious pressure worldwide.

        Modern nuclear is vastly improved and the only reason it’s expensive is because we won’t make a committment to deployment. Done on a proper scale the costs would drop precipitously. The same applies to waste products, which, by the way, are seriously reduced with the newer designs.

        1. cmaukonen

          The problem isn’t gas or oil extraction methods. or even nuclear plants. The problem is that nobody wants to put the time and money and resources into doing it right.

          As long a profits trump anything else, no matter what is done – it will be done on the cheap and then we have disasters.

          What is needed and what is not likely to happen is for government to take over the utilities and make damn sure it’s done right.

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