** World War II -- oil economics raw materials United States America








American World War II Economics: Raw Materials--Oil


Figure 1.--.

The automobile and the internal combustion engine appered in the late-19th century, first in Europe and then in America. It was a relatively small industry dominated by aarge number of smll companies, more craft shops than industrial comanies. The automobile was the play thing of the rich and well-to-do. Workers went to work on public transport, often horse-drawn trollies, and bicycles. Henry Ford changed everything, at least in America. The Model T Ford had been developed before the outbreak of World War I. The Model "T" brought the automobile within the price range of the average American. And Fordand other manufactures bgn to build cars and trucks in large numbers. One of America's contribution to the Allied World War I war ffort was trucks. The Allies were much more mechanized than the Germans by the end of the War. . This changed the face of America and cities as was a key step in creating the American car-culture. Not only was it amajor cog in expanding American industry, but it created greatly increased demand for oil to produce gasoline and lubricants (POL) products. The first oil was discovered in Pennsylvania, but vast new fields were developed in Texs nd Oaklahoma. Cities began to devlop around the automobile which became the very center of the country's econonomy and had profound consequences for the American life style, affecting work, leisure, sexuality, architecture, music, movies, and much more. Both the automobile and mass-consumerism played a key role in making modern America. It meant that the average American worker could aford an automobile and the Model T and other cars were built in the millions, it was an important factor in the expansion of American industry. And an oil industry was developed to supply the needed gasoline and other POL products. American oil production for military use by the end of the War was 18 times greater than in World War I. The productin of aviation gasoline about 80 times greater. Increadibly, about half the tonnage of supplies America shipped overseas was gasoline and other petroleum produvts. America was the largest producer of oil at the time of World War II. It fully supplies American needs as well as other countries. Japan was almost entirly dependent on American oil exports. Allied supremecy in World War II is commonly attributed to the industrial factories of America which overwealmed the Axis with an incrdible output of the instruments of War. They in many cases were not the best weapons, although quality rapidly improved during the War, but the sheer volume of procuction was decisive, arming not only American armies, but those of it allies. Sometimes neglected in this discussion is the important of American naturl resourcs. The Allies literaly floated to victory on aea of American oil. Even before America entered the War. American oil almost entirely supplied Britain in its life and death truggle with the Germans. And all the mecganized implements of war which flowed out of American factories were powered by American oil. The Soviets had plentiful oil, but needed American high octane aviation fuel. The British had Iraqi oil to supply the Desert Army. Other than this, it was primarily American oil that powered Allied armies.

Automobile Industry

The automobile and the internal combustion engine appered in the late-19th century, first in Europe and then in America. It was a relatively small industry dominated by a large number of small companies, more craft shops than industrial comanies. The automobile began as the play thing of the rich and well-to-do. Workers went to work by walking or on public transport, often horse-drawn trollies and bicycles. This meant that the workers had to live near the factorie where they worked. Henry Ford changed everything, at least in America. The Model T Ford had been developed before the outbreak of World War I. The Model "T" brought the automobile within the price range of the average American. Ford and other American manufactures began to build cars and trucks in large numbers. The Europeans were slow to adopt these methods. American companies opened subsidiuaries in Europe and even played a role in developing the Soviet motor vehicle industry. These developments had enormous economic consequences as well as ramifications in noth World War I and II.

Hydrocarbons

Hydrocarbons are organic compoundd consisting exclusively of hydrogen and carbon. Carbon has four electrons in its outermost shell and thus four bonds to make. It is only stable if all four bonds are made. The carbon atoms join together to form the framework of the compound, and the hydrogen atoms attach to them in many different configurations. The various hydrocarbon molecules contain different numbers of carbon anf hydrogen joined together in different patterns. There are two types: Aliphatic Hydrocarbon (open chain) and Cyclic Hydrocarbon (closed chain). Some of the important molecules include: benzene, butane, ethene, hexane, keroscene, methane, napthene, octane, propane, propene, and others. The most important fuels (diesel, gasoline, and aviation fuel) are not molecules, but are made up of a mix of hydrocarbon molecules. The exact mix defends on the crude oil and the refinery process. Oil drilling and petro-chemocals are sometime included within the mining sector. Drilling and mining are different and the product, oil and gas, is not a metal. Hydrocarbons occur in two primary forms: petroleum and natural gas. They at first were used fo lihting and lubricants. When the internal combustion engine was developed, it became a primary fuel. Chemists over time developed many othes uses for oil as a raw material to produce: plastics, fibres, rubbers, solvents, explosives, and industrial chemicals. Just as the 19th century was dominated by coal. The 20th century was dominated dominated by a whole new enery source--oil.

Oil Fields

The first oil was discovered in Pennsylvania, but vast new fields were subsequetly developed in Texas and Oaklahoma. This meant that America was the only major insustrial power that as the intenal combustion engine began to become important anf oil=fired turbines began to replace coal at sea that had important domestic oil fields. This was of impprtanced in World War I. It was vital in World War II. It has been said that the allies floated to victory on a sea of oil. Britain did not have domestic oil fields. It did have access to oil fields in the mpire and assocuated cvountries, especially Iraq. And of course they had access to American oil as well as oil fields in Latin America (especially Venezuela), developed by the American-dominated oil majors. Germany had only access to small domestic fields. And after the War began the important Ploesti oil fields. This and a domestic synnfuel industry were inadequate to feed the voracious appetite of the Wehrmacht. The need for oil drove the German of the Soviet Union which has developed important oil fields in the Cacauses. On the other side of the world, Japan had developed an industrial economy but like Germany had no domestic oil resource. They were dependent on American oil. In the inter-War era British and Dutch companies had developed oil fields in the Dutch East indies and Borneo. This would be the basic dynamic of the Pacific War.

Petroleum Industry

Oil drilling and petro-chenicals became a part of the American mining complex (mid-19th century). At the time, there was only a limited market for oil, but this changed as kerosene began to become an important home lighting product and then with the perfection of the internal combustion engine, creating a demand for gasoline and diesel. America and Russia were the only industrial countries with domestic oil resources. This would have a major inpact on the 20th century. A black gold rush began in Pennsylvania (1850s). It was part of a series of developments that would make America the most important industrial power by the turn of the 20th century. One of the titans of indudtry was John D. Rockefeller who created a vast mononoly--the Standard Oil Company. The United States controlled most (85 percent) of the world production and refining of oil. Much of this came to be controlled by Rockefeller's Standard Oil monopoly. Rockefeller's monopoly was not to sell gassoline, but primarily kerosene (paraffin) which became the primary home lighting fuel with the decline of the whaling fleet. Standard Oil began to face legal issues after the passage of the Sherman Antitrust Act (1890). The company also began to be criticized in the court of public opinion. Ida M. Tarbell, a McClure's Magazine begn to investigate. Standard Oil was forced to break up into 34 smaller companies (1911). [Standard Oil] Several of the derivative companies became oil giants in their own right. This changed after the turn of the century as America elecrtified and Henry Ford's Model T-Ford and internal combustion engine put America on wheels (1909). Gasoline and diesel replaced keroscene as the primary refinery products and the market grew far beyond that for keroscene. Gasoline had been nearly worthless up to this point. The perfection of the internal combustion engine chnged this. This process began in Europe, but Henry Ford's mass produced Model-T Ford was so inexpensive that even workers could afford it. This spawned a huge new industry that required vast quanities of steel, copper, and rubber. Nothing like this occurred in Europe where automobile construction remained a craft industry. The major source of oil in the early-20th century was the United States. European countries were developing oil fields, but except for Russia in their colonies or countries they influenced. Here the major effort was British in Iraq.

World War I

The industrila development of Europe and America was based on coal. Coal fired steam engines powered factories as well as the locomotives and ships that transported goods. This was for long distance transport. Local transport was by hoese-drawn carts and waggons, the same system that had prevailed for over two millennia. The same waa true for armies. They moved on foot away from rail heads. Supplies and artillery were moved by horses. This began to change at the turn of the century as oil began to replace coal. The first change occurred with naval warfare. Oil had many advantages over coal. It meant that large areas in ship design did not need to be devoted to coal storage. Oil was amuch greater storehouse of energy than coal. It also eased refueling. And the smoke trails were much more limited. The British Royal Navy and the U.S. Navy converted to oil from coal after the turn-of-the 20th century. The German Imperial Navy was unable to do so because Germany had no major donestic source of oil. nd nuch of the oil it hs would be reserved for U-boats and aircradt. When Germany launched World War I, there was a world oil glut that changed. There were still limited practical uses for oil beyond the initial major use--kerosene for lighting. This was cahnging in Americ with the Model-T Ford, but this change was not effecting Europe in a major way yet. The German Army failed in its major wae winning drive because the drive into Belgium was limited to the speed of the German foot soldier. And the French using taxi cab transports to move trops in the Battle of the Marne where the Germans were stopped. When America entered the War, it did not have an imprtant arms industry to upport the Allies. It did have a growing autombile industry which had vegun producing trucks in large numbers. The Allies as a result had a mnuch more mechanized transport system than the Germans by the end of the War. The availability of oil were one of the reasons that the Allies and not the Gedrmnans developed tanks. At the end of the War, government leaders, military officers, and industrial managers had no doubt that a nation�s future was tied up with access to oil. Eorld War I was the transitiin from thed 19th-century world of coal to modern ideas and technologies, strongly tied up with access to hydrocarbons.

Impact on America

The automobile changed the face of America and cities as was a key step in creating the American car-culture. Not only was it amajor cog in expanding American industry. Cities began to devlop around the automobile which became the very center of the country's econonomy and had profound consequences for the American life style, affecting work, leisure, sexuality, architecture, music, movies, and much more. Both the automobile and mass-consumerism played a key role in making modern America. It meant that the average American worker could aford an automobile and the Model T and other cars were built in the millions, it was an important factor in the expansion of American industry.

Oil Industry

The automobile industry also created greatly increased demand for oil to produce gasoline and lubricants (POL) products. An important oil industry was developed to supply the needed gasoline and other POL products.

Mobilizing the Industry

Even before Pearl Harbor, the United states Government began preparing for War. President Roosevelt as war approched turned to American oil companies to provide the oil that would be need in the coming war. There were several important oil companies to support the war effort, in part because the Standard Oil Company had been broken up. The different companies responded to the war effort. Not all industries were initially as supportive. It was immediately apprent that larger production would be required to met both American and Allied neds. American production already large, but unprecedented quantities of oil would be needed. And only the Government could orovide the needed organization nd coorination to expand production. . .President Roosevelt established the Petroleum Administration for War (PAW) (May 28, 1941). The mobilization effort of course accelerated after Pearl Harbor. The President appointed Harold L. Ickes, who had been Secretary of the Interior and thus involved in erergy isues, to head PAW. Ickes selected 72 leaders of America's oil industry to form the Petroleum Industry Council for National Defense, which is better known as the Petroleum Industry War Council (PIWC). Ickes was a New Deal beaureacrat. To assist in this enormous effort, he turned to the oil industry. Ralph K. Davies, was vice-president of Standard Oil of California. He became the Deputy Petroleum Coordinator. Ickes like many New Dealers was often critical of businessmen and industry. And as Secetry of Interior he had many acrimonious confrontations with the oil industry. The appointment of Davies and a meeting with 1,500 key oilmen, made it clear that the Roosevelt Administration and the industry would cooperate fully inwar mobilization. They held their first meeting by coimcidencer the day after Pearl Harbor. (December 1941). {Ickes] PIWC oversaw a national rationing plan, They also ebrked on an effort to expand priductionm.

War Time Production

American oil men drilled more wells and sunk them deeper than ever befpre. The Permian Basin was especially important. Importnt new oil reserves were discovered in every geological formation from the Cambrian Period to the Permian Period. Thi imcluded two of the largest areas of oil concentrations discoivered up to that time -- the Spraberry Trend and the Horseshoe Atoll. The Permian woul;d produce almost 25 percent of the world’s oil and gas production. Because of U-boat attcks, the United States began two massive pipeline projects: the Big Inch and the Little Big Inch (nune 1942). They began in the Texas oilfields and transported thousands of barrels of crude oil and petroleum products every day to the Northeast. They were completed in only a year. They delivered more than 500,000 barrels of oil per day. The $95 million project covered 1,200 miles and was the longest ever petroleum pipeline construction undertaking in the United Stares. Notbonly was it secure, but it substabtially reduced the demands on the Allied over-streached tanker fleet. The results were astonishing. American oil production for military use by the end of the War was 18 times greater than in World War I (1914-18). The productio of aviation gasoline about 80 times greater. Increadibly, about half the tonnage of supplies America shipped overseas was gasoline and other petroleum products. America was the largest producer of oil at the time of World War II. It fully supplies American needs as well as other countries. The United States provided some 85 percent of the Allies total oil. The Unmited States invreased output rose from 3.7 million brrells per day (mbpd) (1940) to 4.7 mbpd (1945). American compaies in Mexico and Venezuela also produced oil. American oil would amount to some 6 billion barrels, out of total of 7 billion barrels consumed by the Allies during the War. After the War, the Joint Chiefs of Staff's Army-Navy Board infoirmed the PIWC, 'at no time did the Services lack for oil in the proper quantities, in the proper kinds and at the proper places.' [Miller]

Japan

Japan was almost entirly dependent on American oil exports. This put Japan in a diificult position position. It wanted to go to war to seize the Southern Resource Zine (SRZ), buts its industry and military was dependent on American oil. Japan had no way of seizing the American oil fields. There was oil the Japanese so despeartely needed in the SRZ. The coveted oil fields were located in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) and British Borneo. Britain fighting for its existence and the Occupied Netherlands could not effectively resist. But astride the sea lanes between the Japanese Home Islands and the SRZ were the American Commonwealth of the Philippine Islands. The problem for the Japanese was that America still not involved in the War could resist. And President Roosevelt had moved the Pacifuc Fleet forward to Pearl Harbor. The United States was in the process of granting independence to the Philippines, but in 1941 the Philippines was still an American commonwealth. And when the Japanese began moxung siuth tieard the SRZ, President Roosevelt embargied oil shioments to Japan. The Japanese had to dedcide. TYheu could enfd their agression in China or wage war. They chose war.

Technology

The American oil industry did not just produce crude and the standard prodfucts of the 1930s. It cionsiderablr advanced hydro-carbon technology. Toluene is a key component of the TNT used in explosives. Toluene had been a byproduct of coke production but Standard Oil of New Jersey (now ExxonMobil) greatly expanded the production of toluene by using from crude oil. Half of the the toluene produced for the Allies during the World War II was refined by Standard Oil and 15 percent came from Shell Oil. Majir advances were made in fuels as well. Hydrofining resulted in increased gasoline priduction. It also resulted in 100 octane aviation fuel thst gve Aallied fighter planes with a technological edge over Luftwaffe and Japanese aircrsft. This fuel advantage was first demonstrated in the Battle of Britain and gave the British Spitfire fighter planes power thrust advantage over the more advanced and numerous German Me-109s. [Mawn] The initial demand for higher octane gasoline was pushedd by the Vice President of Aviation Products at Shell Oil (US) -- World war I hero James Doolittle (late-1930s). [Mawn] Doolittle was recalled to active duty (July 1940) and would lead the famnous carrier based Tokyo Raid (1942).

The Big Inch

A major development was the completion of the Big Inch and the Big Little Inch pipelines which moved huge quanytitie of crude oil 1,400 miles from Texas to refineries New Jersey. The 24 inch Big Inch Pipeline was started (August 1942) and completed 12 months later. The Big Little Inch pipeline was 20 inches in diameter and delivered finished petroleum products to various break out product terminals along the way to New Jersey. Before these pipleines, oil had been moved by tanker, creating inviting targets for German U-bots. The Big Inch carried over 334 million barrels of crude oil to the Northeast refineries and 240 Million barrelk of refined product (. gasoline, heating oil and diesel fuel) to the military and East Coast markets. All of this was the equivalent of almost 1,500 tanker voyages per year. [Mawn]

Impact

Allied supremecy in World War II is commonly attributed to the industrial factories of America which overwealmed the Axis with an incrdible output of the instruments of War. They in many cases were not the best weapons, although quality rapidly improved during the War, but the sheer volume of procuction was decisive, arming not only American armies, but those of it allies. Sometimes neglected in this discussion is the important of American naturl resourcs. The Allies literaly floated to victory on aea of American oil. Even before America entered the War. American oil almost entirely supplied Britain in its life and death truggle with the Germans. And all the mecganized implements of war which flowed out of American factories were powered by American oil. The Soviets had plentiful oil, but needed American high octane aviation fuel. The British had Iraqi oil to supply the Desert Army. Other than this, it was primarily American oil that powered Allied armies.

Sources

Ickes, Harold. Fightin' Oil.

Mawn, Paul E. "Oil & War".

Miller, Keith. OAH "How Important Was Oil in World War II?"






CIH -- WW2







Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Return to Main World War II strategic materials oil page]
[Return to Main World War II strategic materials page]
[Return to Main World War II economics page]
[Return to Main strategic bombing campaign page]
[Biographies] [Campaigns] [Children] [Countries] [Deciding factors] [Diplomacy] [Geo-political crisis] [Economics] [Home front] [Intelligence]
[Resistance] [Race] [Refugees] [Technology]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Return to Main World War II page]
[Return to Main war essay page]




Created: 5:01 PM 8/30/2012
Last updated: 5:09 AM 4/22/2022