Oil Field Engine News

Fuel: 1916 and Today


| May/June 2003



Oil Field Engine

Nick Poncelet of Columbia Falls, Mont., recently sent us some copies of Gas Review magazine, a publication popular in the first decades of the 20th century, and of which he has quite an extensive collection. Among those Nick sent was a copy of the June 1916 issue, which particularly caught my eye because of the cover photo of an oil derrick. The cover is credited inside the magazine, where the reader is told: 'Power Manufacturing Company of Lima Ohio, very kindly presented us with the photograph from which we made the cover illustration this month. You can't see the engine, but we are told there is a Primm oil engine in the shed back of the derrick and that it is boring for oil.'

Reading further, I found an interesting article on the subject of gasoline, and reading the article I was struck by how little has changed over the last 87 years as regards oil and gasoline.

The article's subject was the rising price of fuel, and the article's writer was lamenting rising gas prices, noting that the Standard Oil Company reported in March 1916 that the price of gasoline in San Francisco, Calif., was '18 cents per gallon, which is now from 2 to 12 cents lower anywhere in the country.' This was in light of a story in the San Francisco Star newspaper that reported, 'There is to be a government investigation into the recent frequent advances in the price of gasoline.' If they only knew the prices we face today!

Interestingly, the main focus of the article revolved around the author's disgust at the quantity of oil the U.S. was exporting. Now we argue over how much we should import, and from whom. The author also made reference to war boiling to a head in Europe, war which ultimately turned into World War I, and its effects on gas prices.

The author further wrote: 'Gasoline has come to be a necessity for our national development. Farming, which stands at the basis of our national prosperity, is largely dependent upon cheap power in the form of gasoline engines. Our stocks of petroleum are not unlimited, and yet we are shipping petroleum and its products to all parts of the world. We are permitting one of our most valued possessions - a product needed for our national development - to slip away from us without a murmur of protest.

'Isn't it high time something was done about it? Would any other people permit a favored few to exploit their natural resources without some restraint? Hardly. Yet that is what we are doing and we are paying the penalty in rising prices of gasoline, They tell us it is the demand caused by the war that is responsible. If that is so, why don't we put an export duty on gasoline that will at least put a damper on its exportation? There will be enough people killed and mutilated even if they can't get gasoline.