Energy to Power an Economy

This was the age of wood and coal power sources.They went hand-in-glove with the development of the steam engine. Although the first oil well was brought in at Titusville, Pennsylvania, in 1859, petroleum and its by products were not used as fuel for some years. In the meantime, coal and wood drove the nation's machines. To get them, Americans cut down forests and dug in the ground with reckless abandon. Some idea of the enormous amounts of both fuel sources burned up in running the nation's growing number of steam engines can be gleaned from the amount of each required to power steamboats on the western rivers. To keep the vessels running, it was necessary to have enormous stacks of wood and piles of coal always on hand at the landings where they made regular stops. Such "fuel dumps" were unsightly, created fire hazards, and provided breeding grounds for rats.

TABLE 1.9 FUEL CONSUMPTION OF SOME TYPICAL STEAMBOATS ON WESTERN RIVER, CA. 1870s

(per trip)

TABLE 1.9 FUEL CONSUMPTION OF SOME TYPICAL STEAMBOATS ON WESTERN RIVER, CA. 1870s

(per trip)

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