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Monday, Jun 2, 2008, 9:53 am

100 years of plenitude

By Jeremy Gantz

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One week ago - May 26 - marked a milestone of dubious distinction: the 100th anniversary of the first Middle Eastern oil geyser.

The 1908 discovery of oil in Persia (i.e. Iran), detailed in yesterday's Chicago Tribune, was announced by British driller William Knox D'Arcy (co-founder of the company now called BP) with this succinct biblical message: "See psalm 104 verse 15 third sentence." It reads:

"... that he may bring out of the earth oil to make a cheerful countenance."

The rest, of course, is history. But American drivers' countenances are growing less cheerful every day. If oil fuels American smiles, grimaces lie ahead:

The Age of Coal in America lasted for about a century. How long will the Age of Oil last?

These days, a growing number of energy experts have come to accept the "peak-oil" theory: that demand and production will soon outpace the ability of oil companies to find new sources, causing reserves to deplete and prices to cycle ever higher.

For 100 years, Middle Eastern oil has been as fixed as the stars. It seems nearly impossible that my grandfather could have been born just 8 years after that first Persian geyser sparked a new world order. Maybe if I live to be his age, I'll see the last derrick there die - an end to the greatest regional resource feeding frenzy the world has ever known.

Jeremy Gantz is a contributing editor at the magazine. He is the editor of The Age of Inequality: Corporate America's War on Working People (2017, Verso), and was the Web/Associate Editor of In These Times from 2008 to 2012. A graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, he worked as a reporter for The Cambodia Daily in 2007. After graduating from Carleton College in 2004, he lived in Sri Lanka on a Fulbright scholarship, studying the intersection of ethnic politics and public education. His articles have also appeared in Chicago-area newspapers, Alternet and the Onion’s A.V. Club.

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