Transcript for The Future of Energy Gases, segment 02 of 13


Two hundred years ago wood fueled our homes and businesses. Thick forests covered the land, and timber stood at our doorsteps. But as a fledgling steel industry grew, it devoured immense amounts of wood. Two acres of trees were burned to produce the charcoal needed to smelt one ton of iron. Forests began to disappear, and wood prices soared.

Coal began to fuel railroads in an expanding industrialized society. It was cheaper, cleaner burning, and more compact. Still, coal is bulky and expensive to transport. So early industrial development was limited primarily to the coal-bearing regions in eastern United States.

After the discovery of oil in Pennsylvania in the eighteen sixties and the later Texas oil boom that began in nineteen oh one, the more convenient liquid fuels caught the public's attention and demand grew rapidly. When the automobile captured our vision and imagination, the future importance of oil was assured and then guaranteed further by the advent of air transportation. Oil and gasoline underwrote an unprecedented worldwide industrial expansion and two world wars.

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Today our economy runs on oil, a commodity of immense strategic importance that fires international tensions while it fuels our society.