gbsteve (gbsteve) wrote,

So not a new thing then

I've been looking at the history of Indiana for my Gen Con Trail of Cthulhu scenario. The largest oil and gas discovery in the 19th Century was there, the Trenton Field. Here's an extract from Wikepedia about the Indiana Gas Boom and how waste was legislated for (not sure about the use of "drug" for "dragged").

Producers lit a flambeau at the top of each well to show the gas was still flowing. The Indiana General Assembly attempted to stop the practice by limiting open burning. The law met with tough opposition. Many town leaders, who had come to rely on the gas revenues dismissed claims that the wells would run dry. This practices wasted much gas, and INGO conducted its own investigation and found that its flambeaus wasted $10,000 in gas daily, and ordered the practice stopped. Despite their findings, the other companies did not follow their example. Although INGO implemented anti-waste measures, they were virulently opposed to the regulations that they viewed as hampering to productivity—primarily the regulations aimed at artificially increasing gas pressure.

Elwood Haynes filed a suit a month after the regulations were passed into law, claiming that the government had no authority to regulate the industry. The challenge drug on in court for several years until the Indiana Supreme Court declared the regulatory laws unconstitutional in 1896. The flambeau practice continued and grew in popularity. Several towns set up elaborate flambeau displays containing dozens of flames, designed to attract tourists. Other towns set up multiple arches over streets with smaller flambeaus that burned day and night.

Almost every community in the Trenton Field had a gas well. Many were purchased by local governments, which used revenues for community amenities. Many towns and cities installed free gas lighting throughout their communities, supplied by their own gas wells. Communities also piped gas to private homes to provide cheap heating fuel. This helped make urban living more desirable. The gas also produced electricity that ran electric street cars in several cities. Businessmen also established corporations to purchase the gas from the local markets and sell it wholesale on the national market.

The wasteful practices rapidly depleted the gas field. By the turn of the century, output from the wells began to decline. Some flambeaus had been burning for nearly two decades; slowly their flames became shorter and weaker. Modern experts estimate that as much as 90% of the natural gas was wasted in flambeau displays.

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