AIME Annual Meeting, 16–20 February, New York


You will excuse the writer if he looks at the world of petroleum law from both practical and philosophic viewpoints. Forty years in the industry brings to one certain trends of thought; the French have a term for it - the deformation professional. One of my gray-headed friends advised me against entering the service of this extraordinary industry because, he said, it was certain that we would run out of our raw material, and coal would then be the main fuel and source of power. It is now 40 years later, and the world's oil resources seem immensely larger than in those days. We have, it is true, thoroughly explored most of the U.S. on land, but we are just somewhat timidly venturing to sea. Elsewhere we have just begun.

Forty years ago the amazing story of the Mexican fields was coining to its climacteric. Revolution was imposing slowly its paralyzing theories on the industry which in the end resulted in nationalization and slow decline. But despite the shortage that was supposed to loom in the U.S., there were few in those days who had the courage to face the political hazards of the times and go abroad. Unless one could divide the risk one could scarcely afford the huge investment necessary to develop production only to have it snatched away on the basis of some political theory. In Russia the industry had been confiscated. The legislation with reference to oil in many countries was written by soldiers who could see it only as a source of military power upon which they must lay their paralyzing nationalistic hands. They forgot that the bomber made refineries the unsafest of plants to have in one's own country. The last great war finally drove home that lesson.

So it was that in the history of the industry in the two decades following 1918 we find foreign exploration operations confined mainly to companies with extensive marketing organizations in foreign countries or to a few bold wildcatters who attempted to supplement production at home with fields abroad. Few indeed were those who had the money to risk on these ventures.

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