The History of Oil in the United States

In 1941, the United States produced approximately sixty percent of the world’s oil supply. In 1941, the United States was the equivalent of a modern-day OPEC.

Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 was precipitated by the United States stopping all oil supplies to Japan. The United States stopped oil supplies to Japan because of Japan’s invasion of China.

After World War II, the United States experienced a major economic growth period. By 1950, the United States produced 5.41 Million Barrels of Oil per Day (MMBOPD) and consumed 6.46 MMBOPD a day.

The average price for oil in the United States in 1950 was $2.77 per barrel (42 gallons = 1 barrel). The average price for gasoline in the United States in 1950 was $0.27 per gallon, which is equivalent to $2.14 per gallon, when the price is adjusted to inflation (March 2015). In the 1950s, the United States became a net oil importing country. However, global oil supply, demand, and competition kept oil and gasoline prices relatively flat.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the United States developed a love affair with the automobile. In 1969, oil sold in the United States for an average price of $3.32 per barrel (42 gallons = 1 barrel), equivalent to $21.81 per barrel, inflation adjusted (August 2016). The average price for gasoline in the United States in 1969 was $0.35 per gallon, or $1.77 per gallon inflation adjusted (March 2015). Even with the escalation of the Vietnam War, abundant supply of oil kept gasoline prices relatively stable in the United States.

In 1969, the United States was producing 9.24 Million Barrels of Oil per Day (MMBOPD), while consuming 14.14 MMBOPD. The rate of foreign oil imports into the United States was rapidly increasing. In only four more years, the United States would experience its first “oil crisis”. Our country would be faced with an energy conundrum of finding sustainable, reliable oil supply.

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