In modern times the backbone of the industrialized world is energy. While electricity is the dominant form of energy for manufacturing, the dominant form of energy in transportation comes from crude oil. Regardless of whether it is used in a car, truck, bus, or airplane. Oil is the basis for plastics, epoxies and synthetic fibers.
So there is a lot of revenue created. And where there is a lot of revenue, there is frequently a lot of investment. The technology of oil production is significantly based on pumps, motors, pipe, cutting tools and control systems. The classic pump-jack is mechatronic marvel that uses a flywheel to manage a cyclical pivoting load that pushes and pull on a string of pipes to get oil out of the ground.
Oil & Gas environments are among the most demanding in the world from the frozen North Sea to equatorial jungles in Nigeria and the deserts of the Middle East. Mechatronic systems for use in the Oil & Gas industry are usually explosion proof, which is a huge burden for most manufacturers.
The design and manufacture of exotic parts required by the industry have been the driving force in metallurgy to create alloys that are more robust. CNC machining of rock bits drove the demand for sophisticated control systems. Now, 3D metal printing technology is making possible complex parts that cannot be made by traditional means.
What is most interesting is that US energy policy has been formulated based on the belief that energy, especially oil, is a scarce resource. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Bakken find in the mid-west is dwarfed by the Permian Basin find. The US has enough proven resources to supply our own requirements for 500 years.
Oil producing countries in the Middle East have dominated the world supply for the last few decades. Now, the US no longer has to depend on them for supply. Since the US is also one of, if not the largest user of oil, the potential loss of income to foreign producers could be huge. Falling prices change the balance of power for all producers.
Low gasoline prices and a growing economy are likely outcomes of an independent energy producing industry in the US. Let’s start acting like it.