Petroleum Harmonium

Recently I have been interested in the economics and history of petroleum along with it’s impact on sustainability. This urged me to do some research into the field and write this blog post about it.

Petroleum extraction began in China, during around 347AD. At this time it was commercially used to produce salt from brine, as well as in lighting and heating. Petroleum didn’t gain it’s modern practicality until the 1900’s when many refinements were discovered, these include: lamp oil (kerosene) and lubricant. This combined with the mechanical boom of the time to create a massive market for petroleum. In time, petroleum also became a key component of power production and transportation. Because of this necessary implementation into our lives and the massive economy created around petroleum, it’s supply has the potential to cause many problems.

In 1970 there was an energy crisis in which the economies of all the major industrial countries were heavily damaged by shortages in petroleum. The problem was only ‘fixed’ with the increase of the petroleum supply. Despite the economic boom this created in oil producing territory, it created heavy fluctuations in the world and national economies. This is a very poor economic system. Petroleum’s necessity negatively impacts our economy; the best fix to this is to simply cut our dependence on it.

As you can see, the technology associated with petroleum becomes obsolete over time. Over the years, as our technological capabilities have advanced, many sustainable methods to accomplish all the tasks we depended on petroleum for have been created. The problem with implementing this technology is the isolation of the economy created by small-scale economic booms from petroleum. People who are experiencing these booms want to keep them going. However, this will lead to another massive depression because of shortages in supply. Ideally, sustainable petroleum alternatives could be implemented now, so that the economy could ease and level off.



  1. joeylfoster · October 6, 2015

    This was very informative Bry. It seems logical that if the marketplace must be relied on, it must be easily sustainable. Using resources like petroleum as the fuel for this system, (check out that pun), then it must be a reliable one, like sunlight or wind. It must be a natural resource that will not easily fluctuate while simultaneously not pollute the Earth on a massive scale. Of course, politicians refuse to drastically change this system because they themselves receive oil money from Exxon, Koch Industries, and others. Thanks for this post my man.


  2. andrewwingfield · October 6, 2015

    As Joey says, the impediment to shifting toward cleaner fuel sources is the fact that many large companies benefit economically from the system we currently have. They have no incentive to change, or to support political leaders who advocate change. Therefore we citizens have to use our influence to make the changes we want to see.


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