What to Read Next

January 10: The Spindletop oil gusher launches the gasoline era on this date in 1901

January 10, 2014

Before Jan. 10, 1901, the nascent industry of mechanized transportation had an energy problem. Inventors had found ways to harness electricity, steam and various petroleum distillates to power their creations, but all had drawbacks, many of them dangerous. (Henry Ford ran his first cars on ethanol.) That was until the Lucas Oil Company drilled 1,139 ft. into a bit of barren Texas land known as Spindletop and struck oil — the largest gusher the world had ever seen. Pure crude shot 150 feet in the air; workers needed nine days to bring the oil under control, and global oil prices sunk from $2 a barrel to 3 cents on news of the discovery. Spindletop brought an era of plentiful crude oil and gasoline to North America, giving it the competitive edge for powering vehicles that it hasn't lost yet. Spindletop ran out of oil in 1936; the best guess for when the rest of the world will stands at 54 years.