Petroleum, or Oil, is one of the most widely used substances in the world. Oil and its byproducts, petrochemicals, are used in a number of ways in our daily lives. For fuel and lubricants in our vehicles, and for plastics used in our homes, shops, and restaurants. Wars have been fought over oil, and fortunes have been made extracting it from the Earth. Clearly, the substance plays a vital role in the history of humanity.
Those who created the massive oil industry we know today – sometimes known as Big Oil or The Oilgarchy – reaped massive benefits for their efforts. But were the intentions of these tycoons purely based on profit and propelling humanity forward toward’s innovation? Or, as many researchers have proposed, is there a more nefarious agenda behind the history and the future of The Oilgarchy?
The Standard Oil Monopoly
The roots of today’s major oil companies g back to the founding of the oil industry by John D. Rockefeller and his company Standard Oil. Shortly before the U.S. Civil War in 1861, Rockefeller helped establish a shipping company in Cleveland, Ohio. This company would evolve as Rockefeller and partners began investing in crude oil businesses. By 1870, Rockefeller and partners operated two oil refineries in Cleveland. They incorporated their business in Ohio under the name Standard Oil Company.
Rockefeller’s company grew to become a monopoly over the burgeoning oil industry. In March 1872, during what became known as the “Cleveland Massacre”, Rockefeller’s Standard Oil purchased 22 of its 26 competitors. Rockefeller now controlled 25 percent of the U.S. oil industry at the time.
Rockefeller is widely heralded for his work ethic, which may have lacked in ethics while it thrived in squashing competition. He believed that large industrial corporate conglomerates were destined to replace competition in business. By 1880, Standard Oil now owned or controlled 90 percent of the U.S oil refinery industry. Eventually, Rockefeller and his cronies moved Standard Oil from Cleveland to New York City to form a trust where they would be in control of the vast number of companies now wholly or partly owned by Standard Oil.
Standard Oil made its wealth by producing kerosene for lamps and controlling thousands of pipelines delivering oil products around the country. The kerosene lamps being lit by millions of Americans helped Rockefeller become America’s first billionaire as a result of the massive profits reaped by the companies which he held a majority stock in.
However, Rockefeller was not universally revered. Many began to pushback against his business practices and question the legitimacy of his oil empire. Beginning in 1887, 10 states and the Oklahoma Territory filed lawsuits against companies owned by the Standard Oil Trust. Standard lost many cases, but found that by shifting their operations from one state to the next they could evade court rulings.
Rockefeller’s luck would run out as the public grew weary of monopolies thanks to the work of investigative journalists known as muckrakers. Starting in November 1902, trailblazing journalist Ida Tarbell wrote a 19 part investigation into the practices of Stanard Oil. She detailed how John D. Rockefeller ruthlessly forced his competitors to “sell or perish.” Tarbell also reported that Rockefeller had secretly arranged for discounted shipping rates from railroads. While small businesses and farmers were forced to pay higher rates, Standard Oil received preferential treatment. This type of arrangement was outlawed by the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887. Ida Tarbell’s reporting showed that these arrangements and others made by Rockefeller were essential in maintaining the Standard Oil monopoly.
“Rockefeller and his associates did not build the Standard Oil Co. in the board rooms of Wall Street banks,” Tarbell said. “They fought their way to control by rebate and drawback, bribe and blackmail, espionage and price cutting, by ruthless efficiency of organization.”
Americans had grown to distrust the so-called Robber Barons of the day and support for antitrust legislation reached a peak with nearly 30 states passing antitrust laws to stop monopoly abuses. The reporting of Ida Tarbell and the muckrakers created the climate which led the U.S. government to sue Standard Oil of New Jersey on November 18, 1906. The suit claimed that the Standard Oil Trust had violated the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890
The trial against Standard Oil began in 1908 in a Missouri federal court. Evidence was presented showing that Standard Oil had indeed secured illegal railroad discounts, as well as blocking competitors from using oil pipelines, spying on other companies, and bribing politicians. While Standard Oil grew their monopolstic domination they also rose prices by 46 percent between 1895 and 1906. The judge and a subsequent federal appeals court found that Standard Oil was a monopoly in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. The judges recommend that Standard Oil be broken up into independent companies.
Rockefeller and his Standard Oil Trust appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and on May 15, 1911, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the ruling that Standard was a monopoly guilty of illegally restraining trade. The court agreed that the best way to restore competition in the industry was to break the company into individual companies.
In reality, the government allowed Standard Oil stockholders to receive fractional shares in all 34 companies that were formed from the trust. This essentially meant that the companies had the same stockholder owners as before.
The major Standard Oil companies that were broken up include:
– Standard Oil of NJ became Esso, before eventually merging with another company to form Exxon
– Standard Oil of NY eventually became Mobil, Exxon and Mobil would eventually merge, forming the ExxonMobil company.
– Standard Oil of California eventually became Chevron
– Standard Oil of Indiana became the American Oil Co., which is now part of BP, British Petroleum
– Continental Oil Company would merge and evolve to become Phillips 66
Although the Supreme Court decision is often touted as the “breaking up” of Standard Oil, it appears the trust had a temporary breakup before reorganizing, swallowing up competition, and merging under new names. ExxonMobil, Chevron, Phillips 66 – these are common names the average American driver knows even if they have no understanding of the Rockefeller connection.
But the Rockefeller’s were not alone in their pursuit of wealth, power, and dominance in the oil game. The infamous Rothschild dynasty was also interested in taking advantage of the wealth and power created by the Oilgarchy.
(Clip of How Big Oil 11:27-13:16 “One such competitor…”)
“One such competitor emerged from the Caucasus in the 1870s, where Imperial Russia had opened up the vast Caspian Sea oil deposits to private development. Two families quickly combined forces to take advantage of the opportunity: the Nobels, led by Ludwig Nobel and including his dynamite-inventing prize-creating brother Alfred, and the French branch of the infamous Rothschild banking dynasty, led by Alphonse Rothschild.
In 1891, the Rothschilds contracted with M. Samuel & Co., a Far East shipping company headquartered in London and run by Marcus Samuel, to do what had never been done before: ship their Nobel-supplied Caspian oil through the Suez Canal to East Asian markets. The project was immense; it involved not only sophisticated engineering to construct the first oil tankers to be approved by the Suez Canal Company, but the strictest secrecy. If word of the endeavour was to get back to Rockefeller through his international intelligence network, it would risk bringing the wrath of Standard Oil, which could afford to cut rates and squeeze them out of the market. In the end they succeeded, and the first bulk tanker, the Murex, sailed through the Suez Canal in 1892 en route to Thailand.
In 1897, M. Samuel & Co. became The Shell Transport and Trading Company. Realizing that reliance on the Rothschild/Nobel Caspian oil left the company vulnerable to supply shocks, Shell began to look to the Far East for other sources of oil. In Borneo they ran up against Royal Dutch Petroleum, established in The Hague in 1890 with the support of King William III of the Netherlands to develop oil deposits in the Dutch East Indies. The two companies, fearing competition from Standard Oil, merged in 1903 into the Asiatic Petroleum Company, jointly owned with the French Rothschilds, and in 1907 become Royal Dutch Shell.”
To reiterate, the majority of the major oil companies in the U.S. are owned in part by the Rockefeller family, while Royal Dutch Shell, the owner of the Shell Oil Company, is a product of scheming by the French Rothschilds and Dutch Royalty. While there are no exact numbers on how much the Dutch Royal family of today still owns in Royal Dutch Shell it is believed that the family has profited billions of dollars from the company.
The Dutch were not the only royalty to get involved in the oil industry. The British Crown controlled the majority share of BP, or British Petroleum. As with the Rockefellers, the Rothschild’s and Royalty from Denmark and Britian will appear throughout this series as we explore the many roles they play in the Pyramid of Power.
The families of the Oilgarchy were not satisfied with dominating the rapidly expanding oil industry. They recognized that their financial aspirations, now intertwined with the fate of oil, were better served by engineering crises and even supporting wars if it meant a better bottom line and furthering their geopolitical interests.
(Clip from Big Oil 40:05-41:02 “In the second move…”)
With the United States’ dollar now established as the official currency for buying and selling oil, the Big Oil magnates were in a position to entrench themselves within the Western political establishment so they might continue to manipulate world events.
Peter Dale Scott, author of Drugs, Oil, and War among other books, has written extensively on the role oil, along with drugs, have played in numerous wars and geopolitical disputes. (1:18:35-1:19:55)
Big Oil Conquers The Auto Industry
The Supreme Court’s decision to “break up” the Standard Oil Trust in 1911 was a hardly a setback for the Rockefeller dynasty. Because of the decision, John D. Rockefeller owned 25% in all of the splinter companies, making him the richest man in America and the first billionaire. This wealth, power, and prestige was not something Rockefeller was willing to give up. Rockefeller and the Oilgarch’s recognized that there were many threats to their power.
Throughout the early 20th century, Big Oil pushed back against the use of electricty which was replacing their kerosene lamps. These businesses and wealthy CEO’s worried that their oil products might outlive its usefulness and dominance. However, it was also at this time that their first gas powered vehicles began to appear. Gasoline had previously been seen as byproduct of oil refining with limited use. With some lobbying and promotion from Big Oil, America and the world were soon driving loud gasoline cars while the oil industry once again celebrated monumental profits.
Big Oil’s domination also faced a threat from alcohol, which was widely known as a cheap, readily available source of fuel. In 1906, the alcohol tax was repealed and corn ethanol became available at a lower price per gallon than gasoline. If this craze were to take off anyone with raw vegetable matter could produce their own fuel. As James Corbett has reported, a 1909 USGS report comparing gas and alcohol engines noted there were fewer restrictions on alcohol engines. This gave alcohol based fuels a leg up against gasoline.
John D. Rockefeller sprung into action by supporting his long-time personal friend Howard Hyde Russel to fund the Anti-Saloon League in 1893. The League was funded by yearly donations from John D. Rockefeller. This funding allowed Russell to use the League as a mouthpiece for anti-alcohol propaganda. Once prohibition became law in 1920, increasingly burdensome restrictions were placed on ethanol producers. The government required producers to add deadly petroleum products to their ethanol before being sold. The Alcohol based fuel industry could not stand up to the Rockefeller’s latest effort to smother competition.
Alcohol was not the only alternative to oil powered vehicles which appears to have been crushed by the weight of Big Oil. In the documentary, Who Killed the Electric Car?, we hear more testimony about the role Big Oil played in suppressing the electric car.
In addition to the electric car, there are also reports of inventors creating various forms of alternative energy or a cleaner fuel. Some of these inventors claim to have their creations destroyed, their lives threatened, and inventions purchased only to be shelfed and kept from the public.
Big Oil in the 21st Century
On first glance, it would appear that many people have woken up to the agenda of Big Oil. Young people all over the world have come to see climate change as the greatest existential threat of their generation. They protest and strike and demand the world’s major corporations pay higher taxes and offset their pollution via carbon schemes. By all appearances, Big Oil has been exposed.
Unfortunately, the truth is less optimistic. The reality is that many of the major corporations supporting the fight against climate change and supporting United Nations mandates, such as the 1992 UN Convention on Biological Diversity, the Sustainable Development Goals, and Agenda 2030, are the same Big Oil companies who would likely suffer the most under the proposed changes to business as usual.
Could it be that these corporations are simply seeing the writing on the wall and making moves that will ensure they maintain their wealth? Or perhaps, the Big Oil titans refuse to be dethroned and will do whatever is necessary to maintain the status quo?
Research from InfluenceMap shows that the five largest publicly-traded oil and gas majors – ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, BP and Total – have invested over $1Bn of shareholder funds on misleading climate-related branding and lobbying. InfluenceMap reports that, “These efforts are overwhelmingly in conflict with the goals of this landmark global climate accord and designed to maintain the social and legal license to operate and expand fossil fuel operations.”
Continuing to use fossil fuels is only one aspect of the Oiligarch’s faux environmental movement. They are also actively promoting dangerous solutions to ecological issues. In a report from Navdanya International titled Global Citizens’ Report “Gates to a Global Empire”, the ETC group exposes how modern robber baron Bill Gates is invested in a technology that is ostensibly aimed at fighting climate change, while he also continues to fund destructive industries. The technology is known as geoengineering, a term ‘which describes an array of technologies that aim, through large-scale and deliberate modifications of the Earth’s energy balance, to reduce temperatures and counteract anthropogenic climate change.
There are a number of geoengineering proposals, but the one that is most popular, and being funded by Bill Gates, is known as Solar Radiation Management. SRM involves spraying aerosols and other chemicals from the exhaust of planes with the hope of reflecting sunlight. Numerous studies have warned about the unknown consequences of geoengineering, including the potential for loss of blue skies, droughts, and even more extreme weather. While most reports claim that geoengineering and other forms of weather modification are only in the research phase, a growing number of citizens and researchers are documenting clear evidence of weather modification. We will expand upon this in an upcoming chapter.
The ETC Group report, dubbed The Sugard Daddy of Geoengineering, looks at the ways which the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation wield immense influence across the world. The report states:
“In fact Gates has, through personal funding and investments, been one of the major backers of the most extreme forms of geoengineering research for more than a decade. Prominent geoengineers like Ken Caldeira and David Keith are among his close advisors, and his donations are supporting some of the most controversial proposed experiments.
Hidden behind Gates’ carefully cultivated persona of detached curiosity on climate solutions are significant financial interests in fossil fuel extraction.”
The report goes on to describe how Gates has been a major shareholder in Canadian National (CN) Railroads and is making big profits by shipping crude oil from Canada’s tar sands to market. Tar sands extraction has been opposed and challenged by indigenous communities and environmental activists who say the operations are the dirtiest and most destructive form of fossil fuel extraction.
While Gates claims to be fighting for the environment, including in a book released in 2021, he continues to hold shares in Canadian National roads and promote geoengineering projects. Gates is also profiting off Big Oil money via his estimated $70 Billion stock in Microsoft. Microsoft has invested heavily in pursuing oil giants, signing deals with Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Shell, and BP.
This is but just one example of how the current corporate titans continue to profit off oil, while promoting a fight against climate change and United Nations policies that will strip away local political power, and place power in the hands of international centralized institutions. They do not care about the causes they promote, so long as they can remain powerful and influential.
While the history of these organizations and families may not be widely known, they are still impacting our world in major ways. For example, in the first week of the Trump administration, Donald Trump issued an Executive Order to fast track the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, a project that has a legacy of oil leaks and militarized police. Additionally, Trump passed Executive Orders which said the pipelines, roads, and railways along the border will take no more than 60 days to be approved or denied and that the decision will now come directly from the President himself, effectively giving the president unilateral powers for approving oil projects.
In March 2019, further evidence of the relationship between Big Oil and the U.S. government was revealed after conversations between Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and oil executives were leaked. In a secret recording oil executives can be heard discussing David Bernhardt and celebrating the access they had during the Trump Administration. The recording took place during a 2017 meeting of the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPPA) in Southern California.
The legacy of Big Oil was established by John D. Rockefeller 150 years ago and while it may appear that the mood has shifted, that the public is ready to overcome the influence of the Oilgarchy, there is still more to the story.
Understanding the full history of the Big Oil titans and the Oilgarchy they have created can be overwhelming. As we have been learning with the Pyramid, there are many powerful and ruthless powers that treat the world as their chess board. These powers include families and organizations which appear to have a history of business partnerships and relationships. These titans want to create a world where they profit off every action we take. Whether it’s from the fuel in our cars, the plastic bottles, the rubber on your bike tires, and on and on – Big Oil is big business. They are prepared to stay in power even as the narrative shifts to condemn the products which have made them rich beyond imagination.
Despite these seemingly insurmountable circumstances, there are solutions we can implement in our lives as we work to become free of the stranglehold of the Big Oil octopus.
First off, if you are determined not to enrich the oil companies, find ways to avoid using their products. This would involve not driving, maybe not even riding a bike, forgoing plastic dishes for carrout, no more plastic water bottles, and no more petroleum based products. This might sound extreme to some, while others may already be practicing these strategies. Boycotting the industry to whatever degree is possible is at least one way to stop supplying the industry responsible for so much turmoil with our hard earned dollars. However, some critics say this attempt at “lifestyle activism” is insufficient to actually stop the practices of Big Oil. Some activists will seek political solutions, supporting candidates who promise to remove the influence of Big Oil, and supporting efforts to pass laws designed to restrict Big Oil. If these solutions appeal to you, pursue them vigilantly.
At the same time, we need to acknowledge that it is the governments which have partnered with the oil titans time and time again. It might not be an effective strategy to expect the captured government regulators to be the savior of the environment and the protectors of the people. If you believe you can raise awareness or acheive lasting change, take action. Whether it’s by politics, activism, or civil disobedience, take steps which will enlighten and empower your friends and family about the realities of the Big Oil complex.
To further understand this vast and complex topic we recommend the following books:
The History of the Standard Oil Company by Ida Tarbell
Drugs, Oil, and War by Peter Dale Scott
We also recommend the documentaries:
How and Why Big Oil Conquered the World from James Corbett
Who Killed the Electric Car?