An appraisal of the America of our times need not wait upon an historian of the
twenty-first century to look back and note the primacy of oil. Oil has resettled our
population , elected our presidents, swayed our foreign policy, and legislated our morality.
Oil has not only fueled our wars- the two World Wars, Korea and Vietnam - but is equally
the sinew of our might in peacetime: it takes oil to be a superpower.
Of the fossils fuels ripped from the earth by modern industrialism, oil from the first was
thought to be a peculiary American form of wealth. America produced the most and, with
the growing use of the internal combustion engine, consumed the most. Once oil and gas
had ousted coal as the principal source of energy, America was on its way to the zenith of
power. Even when oil was found in other countries, Americans exploited it - almost if by
The fact that oil flows also led, through control of its transportation, to the emergence
first in the oil business of the form of the supercorporation, then known as the trust, on
which all large-scale enterprise in this country has since been patterned. Oil, rewarding
both risk and its avoidance, thus produced the prototypical modern business organization.
Oil, the lifeblood of industry, does not course through pipelines and tankers only to
refiners, power plants, and factories. It also flows through pipes and tank trucks to homes
in every corner of the land to heat, to cool, to generate power for innumerable appliance.
And, of course, it pours through filling stations hoses into automobile gas tanks. Thus oil
sweeps us quite literally off our feet.
If oil runs through the bloodstream of our daily lives, it also permeats America`s public
affairs. The political power packed by oil is commensurate with its economic and social
importance. Oil is embedded in the power