COLEMAN, JAMES L., JR., Amoco Production Company, Houston, TX
ABSTRACT: The American Whale-Oil Industry: A Look Back to the Future of the American Petroleum Industry?
American whaling began modestly in 1649 and in 200 yr completely dominated international business economics. Eight of every ten whaling ships sailed from a New England port. Whale oil lit the late evening lamps of the American Revolution and lubricated the machines of the Industrial Revolution in Europe and the United States. Chief among other factors, the rise of the American petroleum industry led to the eventual demise of the American whaling industry. In looking back, I find it remarkable how the general direction of the American petroleum industry has taken a similar path. Comparing the American petroleum industry with the American whaling industry may be highly instructive in these challenging, economic times.
The American whaling industry rose from humble beginnings off Long Island to become an international giant. In 1846, its peak year, the whaling industry used 735 ships and employed 70,000 people. Continually decreasing reserves forced whalers to go father and farther from their home ports in New England. Voyages became longer, and risks on required return-on-investment became greater. Calamities, in conjunction with a persistent reduction in whale stocks, diversion of investment capital to more profitable ventures, and major improvement in defined petroleum products, struck the death blow for the American whaling industry. Today's American petroleum industry, while adopting some practices of the American whaling industry, also has embraced other activities that may preempt such a cata trophic demise.
AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90989©1993 GCAGS and Gulf Coast SEPM 43rd Annual Meeting, Shreveport, Louisiana, October 20-22, 1993.