Oil wars

We would like to point out to you the dossier of L'Histoire: Les guerres du petroleum (September 2003).
A historian's point of view on these crises that have shaken our world for 150 years.

It was in 1859, in Titusville, Pennsylvania, that the first well with industrial vocation, intended for lighting. The success was immediate and speculation, the race for production and transport were already at work. In 1870, Rockefeller founded the Standart Oil Company and built a real empire using his radical methods.

At the turn of the century, the United States provided two-thirds of production, ahead of Russia, Mexico and Romania. In Europe resources were relatively scarce and prospecting was carried out towards new countries, in the Middle East, in Iran, Turkey. Electricity is gradually replacing kerosene lamps, but the internal combustion engine and then the diesel engine will give new outlets for oil exploitation. The tanks, planes and submarines of the 1914-18 war prove the superiority of these engines over other means of traction. Consumption will increase further with the acceleration of post-war industrialization. Finally, with the beginnings of petrochemicals and the diversification of applications, oil is becoming essential.

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At the start of the second war, it was already the subject of all the issues. When they go to war, Germany and Japan are disadvantaged from the point of view of access to oil resources and this is what determines the strategy of the Blitzkrieg, this "lightning war" intended to quickly obtain victory. on producing countries. This is success in France, Poland and the Balkans, but the defeat of Stalingrad will cut the Germans' route to the oil fields of the Caucasus.

The 50s saw the intensification of influence struggles in the new producing countries. Example: in 1951, Dr Mossadegh had the exploitation of oil wealth nationalized in an Iran until now under British influence. Two years later, a “popular revolt” mounted by the CIA dismisses and imprisons him while the new power entrusts the exploitation and refining of its resources to a consortium in which the Americans figure for 40%. The Suez Crisis in 1956 marked the end of European influence and everywhere the preponderance of the United States.

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In the West, throughout the 50s and 60s, keeping prices low enabled growth and considerable tax deductions. But the industrialized world has thus become totally dependent on this unique resource and the rest will be less glorious… double oil crisis, constitution of OPEC, double Gulf war… events which will be the subject of a very detailed article. soon.

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