Oil and Natural Gas

Black Gold, Texas Tea

by Andy Davey & Jesse J. Gant


Welcome to the world of oil and natural gas. Here you will find a concise introduction to these important fossil fuels, along with helpful information on where they are found, how they are used, and most importantly, why they matter. You will also find a series of resources to help you learn more about the changing meanings and perceptions of these resources over time, along with handy reference tools to help guide you in your future research.

Table of Contents

  1. What is it?
    1. Oil
    2. Natural Gas
  2. Where in the world is it?
    1. Oil
    2. Natural Gas
  3. How is it used locally?
  4. How have people's uses and understandings of it changed over time?
    1. OPEC
    2. Companies
  5. Why do people argue about it?
    1. Climate Change
    2. Peak Oil
  6. How do we recognize it in the landscape?
  7. To Learn More
  8. Works Cited
  9. Glossary
  10. References

What is it?

Both natural gas and oil are made out of decomposed organic matter that has been trapped and preserved in the earth's crust for millions of years. High temperatures and the passage of time together turn this organic matter into oil and natural gas. Both oil and natural gas collect in the pores of sedimentary rock where they migrate and accumulate with the shifting of the earth. Think of them as really old compost.


Figure 1: Dr. Herbert Tanner (left), a Wisconsin historian turned oil man, standing in front of a well in Eastland, Texas. WHi 63886.

When you ask yourself, "What is Oil," several images likely pop into your head. Many baby boomers, for example, have fond memories of the original Beverly Hillbillies television show, which chronicled the daily antics of a family from rural Missouri named the Clampetts. The Clampetts famously made a fortune off of oil they discovered in their backyard. In the opening credits, Jed Clampett, the lovably simple-minded patriarch, is out hunting rabbits when, as the narrator explains: "one day he was shootin' at some food, and up through the ground came a bubblin' crude. Oil that is, black gold, Texas tea." The spurting fountain of black stuff is the last we see of the oil, as the Clampetts head off to California to live the American Dream. If you are like the authors of this article, you might have wondered what that "Texas tea" stuff actually is. How is it made and where does it come from?

Basic Facts about Petroleum:

  • Oil, or petroleum, is composed primarily of hydrocarbon molecules, which are a mixture of hydrogen and carbon atoms. Specifically: 84-87% carbon and 11-14% hydrogen. There are also trace elements of nitrogen, oxygen, and sulfur.
  • Sulfur is an undesirable component because if burned it produces sulfur dioxide, a nasty air pollutant and major source of acid rain.
  • The word petroleum comes from the Greek petra, meaning rock, and the Latin oleum meaning oil.
  • Crude oil is the stuff that comes straight from the ground – if it has less than 1% sulfur it's called "sweet crude" and can actually smell fruity; more than 1% sulfur it's called "sour crude" and smells pretty funky.
  • In terms of density, light oils are the most valuable. Light oils are often transparent, extremely fluid, and full of gasoline (see refining section below). Heavy oils are more like the sludge in your car if you're lazy about oil changes: dark, thick, full of asphalt and not as valuable. The color can vary too, from transparent to greenish-yellow, reddish, and brown to black.1
  • Oil forms at much deeper levels than natural gas, between 7000 and 18,000 feet, and requires temperatures between 150° F and 300° F.

Drilling: Oil companies use a variety of techniques to locate pockets of oil. One technique is to send sound waves or electrical current into the ground and then measure how these move through the rock. Another technique is to drill an exploratory well, remove a core sample, and determine if there are traces of oil. When companies locate a favorable location they drill a well. Oil is under great pressure from the surrounding rock. In the early days of industrial drilling the oil reserves would be tapped and the immense pressure would force the oil to shoot out through the surface, creating "gushers." More sophisticated wells are now able to tap the reservoirs while losing significantly less oil. The oil collected from the natural pressure in these wells is called "primary production" (and often referred to as the "easy oil") which usually yields only about a quarter of the oil in the reservoir. When the pressure subsides, water is injected into the ground to force the remaining oil out. This process is "waterflooding" and requires more energy and resources to accomplish. Even after waterflooding a particular well site, somewhere between 40% and 70% of the oil often remains in the ground.2

Refining: When crude oil is refined into the kinds of materials everyday people want to use, it's first boiled into vapor, which is then pumped into a distilling column where it is cooled. The vapor consists of different kinds of hydrocarbon molecules. As the vapor cools, the molecules separate into different liquids, which are captured by various trays in the distilling column. The liquids produced are heavy gas oil, light gas oil, kerosene, naptha, and straight gasoline. Gasoline is the most common product refined from crude oil, given its high demand. Crude oil can also be refined into chemical "feedstocks" or pure chemicals to produce a number of products, including plastics, synthetic fibers, rubbers, fertilizers, drugs, dyes, explosives, and antifreeze.3

Distribution: Below is a simple illustration of how crude oil is processed and distributed to gas stations.

Figure 2: Source: U.S. EIA "Where Our Gasoline Comes From"

Natural Gas

We tend to most commonly associate natural gas with the stuff we smell coming from the stove, but natural gas is best described as an odorless and colorless fossil fuel made primarily of methane.

  • Natural gas can be "associated" (found in oil fields), "non-associated" (isolated in natural gas fields), or found in coal beds. Industry specialists are developing ways to harvest natural gas from other sources, as well.
  • Biogas: Methane-rich gases are also produced by the decay of non-fossil organic matter (biomass). Sources of biogas include cattle, swamps, marshes, and landfills, as well as sewage and manure by way of digesters.

Figure 3: Torches help burn off excess gas in landfills. Look for them the next time you drive by your area garbage dump. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Figure 4: The above chart maps the distribution of natural gas from oil wells to the private home. U.S. Department of Transportation. "Guidance Manual for Operators of Small Natural Gas Systems," 2002.

Companies and governments take tremendous care to conserve and distribute natural gas from the well to the consumer in the home or workplace. Since it is both colorless and odorless, gas companies add an odorant for safety, which gives natural gas a tell-tale smell - you easily recognize it when a stove's pilot light or gas fireplace goes out. Since it is lighter than air, natural gas will dissipate into the atmosphere when it leaks. As a major greenhouse gas, natural gas dissipation can have negative health and environmental effects.

Where in the world is it?

Much of the oil left to be extracted is in the Middle East, as you might suspect. What might surprise you is that countries like Russia, Mexico, and Norway are also top producers. The United States consumes the most oil, but China is approaching fast. All of the top consumers are either heavily industrialized countries, or large in terms of area, or both. The geographic distribution of natural gas is quite different: the United States and Russia clearly dominate both production and consumption.


Figure 5: Proved oil reserves in billions of barrels (British Petrol Report, 2005). Wikimedia commons.

Top World Oil Producers, 2008

(Thousand barrels per day)

1 Saudi Arabia 10,782

2 Russia 9,790

3 United States 8,514

4 Iran 4,174

5 China 3,973

6 Canada 3,350

7 Mexico 3,186

8 UAE 3,046

9 Kuwait 2,741

10 Venezuela 2,643

11 Norway 2,466

12 Brazil 2,402

13 Iraq 2,385

14 Algeria 2,180

15 Nigeria 2,169

Top World Oil Consumers, 2008

(Thousand barrels per day)

1 United States 19,498

2 China 7,831

3 Japan 4,785

4 India 2,962

5 Russia 2,916

6 Germany 2,569

7 Brazil 2,485

8 Saudi Arabia 2,376

9 Canada 2,261

10 Korea, South 2,175

11 Mexico 2,128

12 France 1,986

13 Iran 1,741

14 United Kingdom 1,710

15 Italy 1,639

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration. "Country Energy Profiles."

Natural Gas

Figure 6: Natural Gas Production in cubic meters per year as of 2006. Wikipedia.

Top World Gas Production, 2006* Top World Gas Consumption, 2007*

1 United States 23,507

2 Russia 23,167

3 Canada 7,785

4 Algeria 6,837

5 Iran 5,951

6 Norway 4,760

1 United States 23,641

2 Russia 16,897

3 Iran 4,169

4 Japan 3,723

5 United Kingdom 3,426

6 Germany 3,407

* (Billion Cubic Feet) Quadrillion (1015) Btu

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration. "Natural Gas."

How is it used locally?

Look around you. Chances are good that most of the items you see were either constructed by machines that used oil as a primary lubricant or were shipped on transportation networks built by oil. Here is an outline showing the primary ways oil and natural gas are used in the Upper Midwest:

  • Residential - Cooking, heating of homes and workplaces, and hot water.
  • Commercial - Cooking, heating, drying and hot water.
  • Manufacturing/Industrial - Processing and manufacturing of virtually any materials commonly found in the modern workplace and home.
  • Power generation - Fueling power station turbines and co-generation plants.
  • Transportation - Serving as fuel for vehicles such as trucks, ships, and buses.

If these fuels are so common, why do you rarely see oil and natural gas infrastructure? Oil and natural gas have to be imported to residential neighborhoods. Here in the Upper Midwest, twenty-six interstate and at least eight intrastate natural gas pipelines are in operation, with most supplies arriving from Canada or from domestic production centers located in the Southwest. Natural gas infrastructure is located primarily underground, and goes mostly unnoticed by the majority of Americans. That being said, you will be surprised by how common oil and natural gas infrastructure become once you become sensitive to the ways they are used.

Figure 7: Diagram showing how natural gas powered turbines help distribute electricity throughout southern Wisconsin, as well as heat and steam to the University of Wisconsin campus. "West Campus Co-Gen Facility Brochure," MG&E Energies.

If oil and natural gas are everywhere, are they dangerous? Oil is toxic, and you should avoid touching and ingesting it. Natural gas has no known toxic or chronic physiological effects, but don't spend a lot of time around natural gas concentrations, either. The presence of significant amounts of natural gas in the atmosphere indicates the relative lack of breathable oxygen in the air.

Does the distinctive smell also provide a warning of imminent explosions? The presence of natural gas in the atmosphere can be dangerous, but natural gas will not explode until it reaches a specific concentration in the air. Below a certain level, natural gas is often too "lean" to burn and above a certain level it may be too "rich" to burn. Within a flammable range, the gas could ignite and, yes, cause an explosion.

What are some of the places I might recognize where oil and natural gas are used for heat?

  • Famous buildings: Did you know some of the country's most famous buildings rely on natural gas for their heat? They include the Pentagon, the White House, and the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. Closer to home, the capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin, is heated by plants that rely on coal and natural gas.
  • Your own neighborhood: In the United States, natural gas provides one quarter of the nation's energy, and it serves the needs of nearly seventy million customer meters.
  • Beneath your feet: You would notice infrastructure everywhere if you were to look underground.

How have people's uses and understandings of it changed over time?

Petroleum's popular associations have led many people to assume that it was only recently discovered. People have known about petroleum for some time, however. Ancient Persians and Babylonians worshiped pools of petroleum as "liquid fires". A natural gas well, located near modern day Kirkuk in Iraq reportedly burned continuously for 2,500 years until the 1920's when it was tapped by an industrial well. Flaming balls of petroleum were used in wars between Alexander the Great and the ancient Hindu armies.4 Some European cities, like Prague, also used petroleum to light street lamps.

Today's petroleum industry began around 1859, when American E. L. Drake drilled a producing well on Oil Creek in Pennsylvania, near present-day Titusville. At the time, oil was used to produce Kerosene first and foremost, as kerosene became a viable alternative to whale oil lamps and candles. Lamp fuel remained the primary use for petroleum until the combustion engine was developed. The rise of major transportation industries and manufacturing industries eventually made oil one of the world's biggest fuel sources.

Timeline of key events in the industrial history of oil and natural gas:

1859: E.L. Drake drills a well on Oil Creek in Pennsylvania

1865: John D. Rockefeller begins refining oil in Cleveland, Ohio

1882: Rockefeller merges various oil operations into Standard Oil Trust

1901: Oil is discovered near Spindletop, Texas

1907: Royal Dutch Shell founded

1908: The first Model T Ford automobile produced

1909: Anglo-Persian Oil Company founded (later becomes BP)

1911: U.S. Supreme Court finds Standard Oil guilty of monopolization, divides company

1956: Geologist Hubbert predicts U.S. oil production will peak in 1970 (proves accurate)

1960: OPEC founded

1961: OECD founded in response to OPEC

1969: Santa Barbara oil spill on California coast

1973: International Oil Crisis begins

1975: The creation of the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserves

1989: The Exxon-Valdez oil spill on Alaskan coast

2030: USGS estimation of global Peak Oil (as of 2004)

Over the course of the past few decades, and especially within the past twenty years, people's uses and understandings of oil have dramatically changed. Here is a quick introduction to some of the key players and organizations in this continuing saga.


In 2006, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez visited Harlem in New York City to promote his heating oil for the poor program. 5 Chavez's program, which donated millions of barrels of Venezuelan oil to poor American families for household heating, was carried out, in part, as a symbolic snub to the United States. Chavez argued that Western-style capitalism failed to serve the poor, and that the Venezuelan socialized government with a nationalized petroleum industry was better suited, by contrast, to provide underprivileged groups with necessary services and a high standard of living. To better understand this episode of political theatrics, it's necessary to understand a little twentieth-century history, especially the institution called OPEC.

The origins of OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum-Exporting Countries) date to the 1880's, when American and European oil corporations forged deals with developing nations to extract their oil. For a long time, up and through the 1950's, companies had simply paid a royalty on extracted oil to the host country, with the size of the royalty being based on a prediction of how much oil could be extracted from that host country, and what the market price for that oil would be at the time of its extraction. Often, however, the market price for oil turned out to be much higher than the predicted price, a reality that favored western companies to the detriment of host countries in the developing world.6 For example, in Venezuela, long before Chavez became President, Standard Oil and Shell dominated the oil industry.7 Host countries expected foreign oil investments to help create jobs, but only rarely did western companies invest in infrastructures beyond what was necessary to export oil. Massive inequality forced laborers to the slums as foreign managers and technicians moved into the wealthiest parts of the cities.8

In the 1950's Venezuela and other oil producing nations renegotiated for more beneficial contracts and sometimes nationalized their oil industries. Venezuelan economist Juan Pablo Perez Alfonso and Saudi Arabian geologist Abdullah Tariki9 developed a shared vision of partnership between oil-producing nations. If the major producing nations could be made to cooperate, developing nations could wrest control from foreign oil companies. The vision became a reality when Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela formed OPEC in 1960.10 Member nations meet regularly to determine quotas for how much oil will be pumped from the ground in order to stabilize prices and profits. Arab members of OPEC decided to further their ties, not only economically but politically as well, and formed the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) in 1968. Two major events in the 1970's solidified the power of OPEC and spurred reactions with long term consequences by Western powers: the oil price revolution and the oil embargo.

In brief, the oil price revolution resulted from 1) the devaluation of the U.S. dollar when Nixon decoupled it from gold; 2) oil revenues for OPEC countries, which were measured in dollars, also declined; 3) global oil demand was increased far beyond predictions; 4) the, other Western governments, and the major oil companies being forced to relinquish power to OPEC countries or risk being cut off from the oil supply. The oil embargo was a result of the 1973 Arab-Israeli conflict, or October War. OAPEC decided to take the aggressive step in cutting off oil to supporters and financiers of Israel, namely the United States. OPEC countries continue to wield considerable power and tensions between them and major oil-importing countries like the U.S. remain high.

U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserves

The creation of OPEC began a shift of global energy power. The 1973-1974 Oil Crisis shocked Western powers in Europe and North America, spurring them to protect their future energy supplies. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) formed in 1960 to promote unity and energy security among developed, mostly Western nations. The United States, specifically, took action by creating the Strategic Petroleum Reserves in 1975. The creation of large oil reserves had been proposed several times since WWII. But it took the looming threat of OPEC to make the petroleum reserves a reality. According to the government, the stockpiles are meant to reduce "the nation's vulnerability to economic, national security, and foreign policy consequences of petroleum supply interruptions." The reserves hold 727 million barrels of oil stored in underground salt caverns in Texas near the Gulf of Mexico – a practical choice because salt caverns are an inexpensive method of storage and the Gulf Coast is connected to networks of pipelines, tankers, and oil barges. In 2005, Congress authorized the expansion of the reserves to allow a maximum capacity of one billion barrels. The reserves have only been tapped twice since their creation: 17.3 million barrels during the 1991 Gulf War, and 11 million barrels after the extensive damage caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Yet, since U.S. consumers use 19.5 million barrels of oil per day, complete national dependence on the oil reserves would deplete the reserve in a little over a month - 38 days.11

The Oil Companies

Figure 8: Standard Oil, depicted as a menacing octopus, extends its tentacles over the U.S. Capitol building, a state house, and the White House. Wikimedia Commons.

Oil companies (private and state-owned) control the vast majority of the world's petroleum and natural gas reserves. Two principal types of oil companies form the industry: the private major oil companies and their subsidiaries, and the state-owned companies. Perhaps the most notable company in the United States is ExxonMobil, which originated as John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Company. Rockefeller joined two other men in 1865 to buy a refinery outside of Cleveland. By driving his competitors out of business, Rockefeller formed the Standard Oil Trust in 1882. Scholars have devoted tremendous attention to chronicling "big oil's" rise, and we encourage you to explore both our works cited page and these selected company websites to learn more.

Private Companies:

ExxonMobil http://www.exxonmobil.com/

BP http://www.bp.com/

Royal Dutch/Shell http://www.shell.com/

State-Owned Companies:

Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (Nigeria) http://www.nnpcgroup.com/

PDVSA (Venezuela) http://www.pdvsa.com/

Saudi Aramco (Saudi Arabia) http://www.saudiaramco.com/

Natural Gas Companies to Note:

Gazprom (Russia) http://www.gazprom.com/

Why do people argue about it?

People argue about oil and natural gas because the widespread consumption of these valuable yet finite fossil fuels pollutes the planet. The failure of modern nation-states to guarantee a surplus of oil and natural gas can easily translate into a serious national security threat. For these and other reasons, all fossil fuels are at the center of an ongoing and dynamic dialogue about the effects of climate change and the sustainability of the world's energy supply. At the same time, oil and natural gas are reliable fuel sources that can, when delivered at a rate equal to the world's increasing demand, help sustain a high standard of living precisely because they are a high-energy, high-calorie generating fuel source. Weighing the dramatic and terrifying costs of continued dependency on these fuels with the undeniable benefits they bring will continue to frame policy debates for decades to come.

The debate over climate change

Oil-industry lobbyists are perhaps the most vocal critics of the scientific consensus that anthropogenic climate change poses a threat to the sustainability of life on earth. As the world's number one source of pollution and international instability, oil and natural gas both deserve place in the discussion about climate change. Yet natural gas is often described as the cleanest fossil fuel, producing less carbon dioxide than either coal or oil and far fewer pollutants than other fossil fuels. However, in absolute terms it contributes substantially to global carbon emissions, and this contribution is projected to grow on par with increasing global demand.

In addition, natural gas itself is a greenhouse gas (methane) far more potent than carbon dioxide when it is released into the atmosphere. A ton of methane in the atmosphere traps in as much radiation as twenty tons of carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide still receives the lion's share of attention over greenhouse gases because it is released in much larger amounts. Still, it is inevitable in using natural gas on a large scale that some of it will leak into the atmosphere.

The debate over "Peak Oil"

Just about everyone knows petroleum is not a renewable resource. The question is when it will run out. Peak oil refers to the point of maximum production after which production (oil extraction) begin a terminal decline. So, it's not the point when we run out of oil, but the point when we start getting less and less from the ground – when we've pumped out half all available oil and are moving into the second (and final) half. Geologist M. King Hubbert predicted in 1956, that U.S. oil production would hit its peak in 1970. Yet experts and non-experts alike thought he was crazy until 1970 when his prediction proved correct. Now, analysts are applying Hubbert's techniques to global oil supply, but they disagree on how much is left. 12

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) believes global oil production will peak in 2030. They estimate there are about 1.7 trillion barrels of "proven" oil, in places that have already been discovered by companies like ExxonMobil or petro-nations like Norway or Saudi Arabia, but has not yet been pumped out. They estimate there are also likely to be 900 billion barrels of "undiscovered oil", in places like Siberia, western Africa, and eastern South America. So we've got 20 years until we hit the peak, given rising consumption and the 2.6 trillion remaining barrels. 13 Critics like Colin Campbell, a former Amoco oil geologist, believe the USGS estimates are incorrect. 14 These critics argue that petro-states have been known to over-estimate their reserves, and it's not likely there's very much undiscovered oil left – petroleum and natural gas require very rare combinations of specific geologic conditions, with just the right heat and pressure over millions of years. Many analysts believe we've already hit the peak.15 In either case, the reality is also that most of the remaining oil is controlled by OPEC countries. So, for Americans, peak oil not just a looming geologic reality but a political one too.

How do we recognize it in the landscape?

We recognize oil and natural gas by looking everywhere around us. As we have seen, industrial landscapes are shaped by oil and natural gas. On the other hand, the presence of these fuels on the landscape is often so common that we overlook their more commonplace occurrences.

  • Much of the natural gas and oil infrastructure in the Upper Midwest is hidden from view: Pipelines and oil rigs crisscross the planet, but regionally the major distribution pipelines are found way underground.
  • When you do see regional infrastructure, it can surprise you

Figure 9: The Marathon Oil Refinery (left) in Detroit, Michigan, painted one if its spherical tanks to commemorate the Piston's win in the NBA finals. Uniroyal Tires (right) placed a monument to the auto industry outside Detroit several years ago, as well. Together, they offer two rather eccentric examples of oil and natural gas infrastructure found on the landscapes of the Upper Midwest.

Figure 10: Sucker-rod pumps can be found in the Midwest, too. Wikimedia Commons. We tend to associate these structures with the American Southwest, but here is an image of a pump at work in central Illinois, near Decatur. These pumps bring oil to the surface from a well when subterranean pressure is inadequate to bring the oil to the surface. The pump's raised beam rocks back and forth. You can see the small motor that powers the pump at bottom-left.

  • Don't just look for infrastructure, try smelling it, too! Oil and natural gas can be smelled in the air. Think of the smell you notice when a pilot light goes out in your stove or when you drive by a landfill.
  • Propane Tanks: Propane tanks used to be a fairly common feature for rural homes in Wisconsin. As networks become more fully integrated, however, they are rapidly disappearing.
  • Gas Stations: Hopefully, this page has given you a new perspective on the vast infrastructure and complexity underlying your next trip to the gas station.

Figure 11: A Madison, Wisconsin Metro Hybrid Bus

  • Transport: Hybrid cars and buses are rapidly changing the consumer landscape. The City of Madison, Wisconsin, for example, recently added five hybrid buses to its fleet, and hopes to add nine more by the summer of 2010. According to city estimates, such buses will cut Madison Metro diesel fuel usage by thirty percent.

To Learn More

U.S. Energy Information Administration. "Homepage." http://www.eia.doe.gov.

Hyne, Norman J. Nontechnical Guide to Petroleum Geology, Exploration, Drilling, and Production. 2nd ed. Tulsa, Oklahoma: PennWell, 2001.

The basics of chemistry and geology as they relate to petroleum and natural gas.

Margonelli, Lisa. Oil on the Brain: Petroleum's Long, Strange Trip to Your Tank. New York: Broadway, 2008.

A journalist's approach. Readable and fun!

Mass, Peter. Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil. New York: Knopf, 2009.

A synthetic work of analysis that gives you a full introduction to an important topic.

Roberts, Paul. The End of Oil. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2004.

A broad overview of all the key issues, including a history of energy, where the oil is and how much is left, geopolitics, and alternative energy sources.

Works Cited


City of Madison. "Hybrid-Electric Powered Buses." http://www.cityofmadison.com/metro/Hybrids/Hybrids.html

CNN. "Democrats warn Chavez: Don't bash Bush". http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/09/21/chavez

TRUenergy. "Natural Gas." http://truenergy.com.au/

U.S. Department of Energy. "Fossil Energy: U.S. Petroleum Reserves" http://www.fossil.energy.gov/programs/reserves/index.html

U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. http://www.phmsa.dot.gov/portal/site/PHMSA

U.S. Energy Information Administration. "Country Energy Profiles." http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/country/index.cfm

U.S. Energy Information Administration. "Homepage." http://www.eia.doe.gov

U.S. Energy Information Administration. "Where Our Gasoline Comes From." http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/energyexplained/index.cfm?page=gasoline_where

U.S. Energy Information Administration. "Natural Gas." http://www.eia.doe.gov/oil_gas/natural_gas/info_glance/natural_gas.html

U.S. Department of Energy. "Fossil Energy: Introduction to Oil Well Technology." http://fossil.energy.gov/education/energylessons/oil/index.html


Beck, Bill. Transforming the Heartland: The History of the Wisconsin Power and Light Company. Madison: Wisconsin Power and Light Company, 1990.

Deffeyes, Kenneth S. Hubbert's Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001.

Draeger, Jim and Speltz, Mark. Fill ‘Er Up: The Glory Days of Wisconsin Gas Stations. Madison, WI.: Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2008.

Fayola, Toyin and Ann Genova. The Politics of the Global Oil Industry: An Introduction. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 2005.

Hyne, Norman J. Nontechnical Guide to Petroleum Geology, Exploration, Drilling, and Production. 2nd ed. Tulsa, Oklahoma: PennWell, 2001.

Margonelli, Lisa. Oil on the Brain: Petroleum's Long, Strange Trip to Your Tank. New York: Broadway, 2008.

Mass, Peter. Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil. New York: Knopf, 2009.

Mayor, Adrienne. Greek Fire, Poison Arrows, and Scorpion Bombs: Biological and Chemical Warfare in the Ancient World. New York: Overlook Duckworth, 2003.

Pfeiffer, Dale Allen. Eating Fossil Fuels: Oil, Food, and the Coming Crisis in Agriculture. New Society Publishers, 2006.

Roberts, Paul. The End of Oil. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2004.

Rubin, Jeff. Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller: Oil and the End of Globalization. New York: Random House, 2009.

Watts, Michael. Curse of the Black Gold: 50 Years of Oil In The Niger Delta. New York: PowerHouse Books, 2008.


Lower Explosive Limit ("LEL") and Upper Explosive Limit ("UEL"). The LEL is the concentration of natural gas in the air below which the propagation of a flame will not occur on contact with an ignition source. The natural gas LEL is 5%. This means that, in most cases, the smell of gas would be detected well before combustion conditions are met. The UEL is the concentration of natural gas in the air above which the propagation of a flame will not occur on contact with an ignition source. The natural gas UEL is 15%.


1 Norman J. Hyne, Nontechnical Guide to Petroleum Geology, Exploration, Drilling, and Production 2nd Ed., (Tulsa, Oklahoma: PennWell, 2001), 1-6.

2 This information is assembled from the Department of Energy website on fossil fuels, http://www.fossil.energy.gov. See also Kenneth S. Deffeyes, Hubbert's Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001),106.

3 Hyne, Nontechnical Guide, 7.

4 Adrienne Mayor, Greek Fire, Poison Arrows, and Scorpion Bombs: Biological and Chemical Warfare in the Ancient World (New York: Overlook Duckworth, 2003).

5 CNN, "Democrats warn Chavez: Don't bash Bush" http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/09/21/chavez, 2006.

6 Fayola Toyin and Ann Genova, The Politics of the Global Oil Industry: An Introduction (Westport, Conn: Praeger, 2005), 43-46.

7 Ibid., 232-233.

8 Ibid., 46-47.

9 Ibid., 64.

10 Ibid., 62-65.

11 United States Department of Energy, "Fossil Energy: U.S. Petroleum Reserves."

12 Deffeyes, Hubbert's Peak, 1.

13 Paul Roberts, The End of Oil (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2004), 48.

14 Ibid., 46.

15 Ibid., 48-52.