Geology And Capitalism : Science And Technology On A World Of Oil Abundance

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“Geology and Capitalism: Science and Technology in a World of Oil Abundance” The recent drop in the price of crude oil by more than half since June 2014 involved complex causes, but much of the problem stemmed from an imbalance of supply and demand. The oil industry thrives on advances in science and technology and historically has proven remarkably adept at producing knowledge and techniques to locate, process, and transport oil but ill-equipped at using its investments into industrial research and development to create market stability. For example, American energy production has boomed in recent years due to advances in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling but those innovations created vulnerability for American oil producers and particularly for smaller independents when world production outpaced consumption and prices dropped. Despite frequent successes in industrial research and development, state intervention historically has trumped science and technology as the best solution to the oil industry’s boom-and-bust cycles of capitalism. This paper argues that government power wielded at the local, state, and federal levels offered capitalists greater remedies to balance supply and demand and stabilize markets than did scientific and technological solutions. Large and small oil producers and government bureaucrats who addressed the problem of oil overproduction often invoked the term “conservation” as a solution, but this was a highly contested term

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