Abstract: A Speculative Look at the Future of the American Petroleum Industry Based on a Full-Cycle Analysis of the American Whale Oil Industry
James L. Coleman Jr.
A full-cycle, industry-scale look at the American whaling industry of the 19th century suggests a number of comparisons with the American petroleum industry of the 20th century. Using the King Hubbert production profile for extraction industries as a guide, both industries show a similar business life span. An understanding of the history of American whaling will, perhaps, gives us a more complete understanding of the history of the American petroleum industry.
The rise of the American whaling industry to the premier investment opportunity of its day is little known to most in today's oil and gas industry. Yet, we all know that abundant and inexpensive crude oil was a key factor in its demise. From a careful study of the history of the American whaling industry a set of factors (or stages of transition), common to similar extraction industries, can be developed, which may help investors and workers determine the state of health of our industry: (1) defection of highly skilled personnel to other, comparable, technical industries; (2) discovery and initial development of a replacement commodity; (3) major calamity, which adversely affects the industry in terms of significant loss of working capital and/or resources; (4) loss of sufficient inve tment capital to continue resource addition; (5) rapid development of a replacement commodity with attendant decrease in per unit price to a position lower than the primary commodity; (6) significant loss of market share by the primary commodity; and (7) end of the primary commodity as a major economic force.
AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90957©1995 AAPG Mid-Continent Section Meeting, Tulsa, Oklahoma