20th Century Oil Milestones

During this century, America's dependence on petroleum became a dominant factor in its development and economy.  At the dawn of the century, all of the nation's needs were met domestically.  But by the end of the century, more than half the nation's needs were met by oil imported from other nations, especially OPEC members which accounted for nearly half of all imports for the first six months of 1999.

Some of the more significant events in the development of the oil industry during the 20th century are listed below.

1908  Oil is discovered in Persia, now called Iran.  This find begins a century-long trend of exploration and production in the Middle East.

1938  Oil is found in Saudi Arabia.  This once impoverished nation of nomads will soon become the world's largest oil exporter.

1943  Venezuela became the first nation to demand and get an equal share of the profits from oil produced on its soil.  Over time, actions in other countries would lead to the nationalization of oil company operations.

1947  The world's first off-shore well begins production 10 miles off the Louisiana shoreline in the Gulf of Mexico.

1960  The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, is created.  Over time, the original 11 members exert control over the oil production and prices oil companies previously controlled.

1973  Arabic nations embargo oil shipments to the United States and other countries.  Oil supplies in America are disrupted and prices soar. 

1978  The Shah is deposed in Iran, and oil prices skyrocket when the world's second-largest oil exporter cuts production by 75 percent. 

 Return to the Fall 1999 Newsletter