Understanding how oil fueled the “American century” is fundamental to understanding the sources, dynamics, and consequences of U.S. global dominance. Essential to both military power and the functioning of modern society, oil fueled American power and prosperity during the twentieth century. The United States was the world’s leading oil producer for the first three-quarters of the century, and five of the seven great oil corporations that dominated the international oil industry from the 1920s to the 1970s were American companies. Control of oil bolstered U.S. military and economic might and enabled the United States and its allies to win both world wars and the Cold War.1

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The U.S. government worked closely with the oil industry to gain and maintain control of overseas oil reserves,...

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