The Prize: The Power Play for Oil
The world has been forcibly changed by the discovery, invention or innovation of various things throughout history, as food items, weapons and even techniques have shaped world history. However, oil stands as perhaps the premier thing to ever shape history, as oil has remained a mainstay within the global power struggle for centuries. Daniel Yergin acknowledges the power and possibility made available by oil in his renowned book The Prize, where he explains the history of oil from its initial discovery to its current place within diplomatic matters and economic stability. Yergin details the important places, people and corporations that influenced the oil business in its earliest days. As Yergin begins, he explains how rock oil became a cash cow for Rockefeller, as he was able to maintain a monopoly for several years. The book continues into how the oil industry spread across the globe, as the United States government eliminated Standard Oil’s monopoly. Oil remains a major dependency for the United States and many parts of the world, as the non-renewable resource, according to Yergin, will eventually create a serious and unmistakable predicament for the United States and the rest of the world.
The oil industry did not begin with the wealth and promise that exists today, as speculation led to the exploration for and discovery of oil. George Bissell, interested in searching for the benefits of rock oil, realized that he himself was not equipped with the necessary skills as a lawyer. Knowing that he lacked the skills, Bissell hired Benjamin Silliman to research the properties of rock oil, since Silliman was a renowned Yale professor. Bissell, looking for any opportunity to strike it big, believed that rock oil might function as a lubricant or an illuminant for lighting. Silliman performed an extensive study of rock oil, but when Bissell failed to come up with the money to pay, Silliman withheld his findings. Believing that Silliman had validated his beliefs, Bissell convinced some of his business associates to pay Silliman what he was owed to uncover the information. As Bissell hoped, rock oil could be used as an illuminant, according to Silliman. With the newly acquired knowledge regarding rock oil, the opportunities involving oil skyrocketed.
Rock oil’s potential as an illuminant inspired Bissell and his business partners to hire Edwin L. Drake for oil exploration purposes. Drake headed to Titusville, Pennsylvania to fulfill Bissell’s request, and in the process, he and his men found oil. On August 27, 1859, Drake struck oil and the search for rock oil around the country began. Pennsylvania became a haven for oil speculators, so land across the state increased in value and a massive surge of people migrated to the state in hopes of making it rich. Drake was credited with beginning the oil speculation process, but a tangible way to transport the oil to purchasers did not yet exist. Therefore, even if oil was discovered and extracted, there was no way to transport it on a regular and reliable schedule. Pipelines were subsequently created to allow for transportation from the oil fields of Pennsylvania to the refineries across the country. Pipelines allowed for the movement and distribution of oil, which was especially important because the infrastructure of the transportation system had not advanced very much. Also, since the pipelines ran underground, the amount of traffic was not worsened, especially since so many people were already heading into Pennsylvania. As the plans for a widespread distribution network advanced, the potential of the oil industry, in the United States and abroad, grew.
The idea of instantaneous wealth and the belief that oil could be discovered nearly everywhere created a massive influx of speculators into the market. Even with the possibility of massive wealth, investors were still skeptical of the oil industry, as its lack of proven...
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