The Original North American Petroleumscape: Oil-and-Gas Empire, Petrochemical Nation

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Abstract

This chapter traces the transformation of the US into the archetypal petroleumscape between the 1850s and 1950s. Over this century-long period, the petroleum industry expanded from its original center in Western Pennsylvania across the US West and into Mexico and Canada. As uses of oil and gas multiplied—from kerosene lighting to industrial and domestic purposes, gasoline for automobiles and diesel for trucks, trains, and farm equipment, petrochemicals, plastics, and other synthetics—an all-encompassing landscape of production, marketing, and consumption took shape. Cities reorganized around automobiles, while the petroleumscape encompassed rural areas and coastlines. Massive complexes for shipping, refining, and petrochemical processing emerged in East Coast ports such as New York and Philadelphia and then in Southern California and along the Gulf of Mexico, where Houston became a diversified headquarters for the energy sector and its support industries. The spatial patterns and material culture associated with oil and gas became fundamental to Americans’ imagination of themselves as a nation, while the multinational operations of US petroleum firms helped to catalyze the country’s emergence as a neocolonial empire. The US serves as a case in point for the analysis featured in this book.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOil Spaces
Subtitle of host publicationExploring the Global Petroleumscape
EditorsCarola Hein
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherRoutledge - Taylor & Francis Group
Chapter2
Pages21-42
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)978-0-3678-1604-9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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