Petroleum is a fuel that is often called "crude oil" or "oil." Like natural gas and coal, petroleum is a fossil fuel. This means it was formed from the remains of plants and animals over an extremely long period of time. Heat and pressure eventually changed the remains of the animals into petroleum. All of the fossil fuels (petroleum, natural gas, and coal) are nonrenewable. This means once the supply is used up, they cannot be replaced.
People have used petroleum since ancient times. The ancient Chinese and Egyptians burned oil for lighting their homes. The first oil well in the United States was drilled in 1859 by Edwin Drake near Titusville, Pennsylvania. Today, petroleum is the number one U. S. energy source, and most of it is used in transportation. Texas produces more oil than any other state in our country.
Each day, the United States uses about 17 million barrels of oil. However, we produce only about 8 million barrels. This means we have to import (bring in) about half of our oil from other countries. Much of our oil comes from Canada and Mexico. Most of the rest comes from the OPEC countries.
OPEC stands for Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. These are Middle Eastern countries with large oil reserves. They have formed an organization to regulate how much oil they will sell to other countries and the price they will charge for it.
The typical oil well is about one mile deep. The oil is pumped through a pipe to the surface. It is then sent to an oil refinery (a factory that cleans and processes the oil). At the refinery, the oil is made into several products. The most important one is gasoline. After the refinery, most petroleum products are shipped through underground pipelines.