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The Little Oil Well that Could

The Civil War wouldn’t start for another 2 years when a former railroad conductor named Edwin Drake began a new era by successfully drilling for oil. Towns and Cities soon began to grow around the site; In one of the drilling areas about 70 miles north of Pittsburg lies the McClintock No. 1. At an age of 153 years, the McClintock is the oldest producing oil well in the world, producing 1/10th of a barrel of oil per day. It has ticked steadily along through a Civil War, 2 Great World Wars, a Great Depression, and MUCH recently, the latest price shakiness in the Oil Industry.

The American Oil Industry itself has been no stranger to “Shakiness.” Originally used to fuel lanterns, the oil industry seemed doomed to become obsolete due to the invention of the light bulb not long after the McClintock was built.

It wasn’t until Ford’s automobile that oil took on its current significance and mass drilling then began. From the Civil War to the Great War, America saw no need to acquire oil abroad, but when the US government was faced with a possible meltdown during the war, it pressured oil companies to buy oil internationally.

During the Great Depression, the price of oil withered down to ten cents a barrel. Despite the upheaval, our little Oil Well that Could was still producing oil day after day. At those prices, it would have been making about a penny per day with its current production rate. It wasn’t until World War II that the Oil industry was reborn.

Despite its ups and downs, the American oil industry has grown tremendously. Since the McClintock No. 1 was built and put into production, the US has been the industry’s global forerunner. McClintock No. 1 was a small part of this exponential growth. According to Historical Marker (explorepshistory.com), after Clubertson McClintock died, his wife leased a portion of his farmland for drilling and spurred what is now considered the Pennsylvania equivalent of the California gold rush. By 1862, the McClintock farm became the epicenter of the oil region, located twelve miles from where Drake made history. In this day and age, the crude oil from the well is now sold to a small fuel company (Doan) that manufactures motor oil.It seems McClintock’s well, tucked away at the end of a Pennsylvanian country road, is of little importance compared with the politicized complications of our modern oil world.

This week, USA Today reported a “collapse in oil prices,” noting that crude companies such as West Texas Intermediate have fallen 4.6% to $46.22 a barrel, while Brent dropped 2% to $47.67. Experts claim that the main reason for this decline is US mainland’s ramping up of production. Due to this increase in production, the new supply of crude has flooded the market and, therefore, has lowered prices.

This fluctuation in market and at-the-pump prices since the 40s is just one of the many changes and challenges McClintock No. 1 has survived. Some argue that the current production rate of “No. 1” is not economically viable, but, given the unreliable nature of the oil industry, its value might lay in its old-fashioned, American-made durability rather than modern, global practicality.

As this little oil well continues to pump, it serves as a symbol that the American Oil Industry can and will withstand any economic challenge that might come its way.