1901 — William Knox D’Arcy negotiated a prospecting arrangement with the Shah of Persia for exclusive rights to extract oil from the lands that would be known after World War II as Iran. He would come to sell the majority of that interest to the Burmah Oil Company, which in turn would fall under control of APOC (Anglo-Persian Oil Company) — a company later known as British Petroleum, or BP.
1907 — A failed cornering scheme on the United Copper Company in the United States led to the Panic of ‘07, a financial crisis marked by several bank runs and multiple bank and trust failures within a very short period of time. Injected liquidity by J.P. Morgan saved the American banking system, and led to cries by the banks that were still standing — and soon after, several politicians — that a central banking system of some kind needed to be put in place to prevent such failings in the future. This bank would have to be a private interest with the ability to provide financial liquidity for other private interests as needed, in the way that J.P. Morgan had done. It would be unique in its ability to provide vast ‘emergency funds’ backed by the government.
Some historians pointed the finger at J.P. Morgan himself for spreading the insolvency rumors that led to the panic, and at members of a ‘Gilded Senate’ as being corrupt for allowing Wall Street to make decisions that primarily benefited them instead of the American people. This was most directly evidenced in the bailout packages to major corporations who assisted said Senate members, including Aldrich, in maintaining their positions. The packages were delivered on promises that the money would be used to create jobs and increase employment, but in the majority of cases, it went directly to the personal accounts of the financiers and executives of the companies.
1908 — APOC discovered a large oil field in Masjed Soleiman, Iran. The first oil extraction from the Middle East began. In the United States, the Aldrich-Vreeland Act created the National Monetary Commission. This commission released thirty total reports in the following four years which concluded that a central banking system was needed.
1913 — The Aldrich Plan, put forth by the National Monetary Commission, resulted in the creation of the Federal Reserve, the latest and last central banking system employed by the United States.
A middle-aged Winston Churchill saw to it that the British Crown took a controlling interest in the Burmah Oil Company’s assets in Persia. The United Kingdom acted not just as a hidden partner in the newly formed APOC, but as the actual controller of the decisions and moves of the company.
1914 — World War I began. The first British troops (The Dorsett Regiment, 2ndBattalion) were deployed to Basra in order to guarantee the safe flow of oil to the Empire while cutting off German supply lines. They were immediately reinforced with fifty-one additional infantry divisions.
It is worth noting that in the course of the previous decade the British Royal and German navies, along with those of many other industrialized nations, switched from coal to petroleum fueled engines. As a result, the first British military actions were solely directed at interrupting German access to the Middle Eastern oil reserves promised to Germany by other sovereign states. The Berlin to Constantinople train line, also known as the Orient Express, only needed to be extended nine hundred clicks further to secure an amazingly flush oil trade in Baghdad for the Germans. Given their superior engineering and industry at the time, Germany stood to finally overtake England economically if they could establish a rail route to high quality petroleum.
The Berlin to Baghdad railway was well under construction prior to the overwhelming British force sent to Basra to fight for control of what was even then understood to be a severely limited resource.
1929 — The Great Depression began. A period of famine and poverty struck America and the rest of the world when speculative financing and overblown stock markets collapsed across the planet. Only through radical change and another World War were economies and nations returned to a period of growth, nearly ten years later, at the cost of millions upon millions of lives.
1933 — An alleged political conspiracy between Du Pont, Remington, Morgan and Co, and other American corporations was hatched — referred to as The Business Plot. A year later it culminated with Gerald C. MacGuire, a bond salesman for Murphy and Company, approaching retired Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler with a plan to overthrow the American government through a Fascist coup. The retired patriot instead gathered information on those responsible for the plan by pretending to be willing to participate, until he had enough evidence to attempt to bring the men to justice.
1934 — By November, the McCormack-Dickstein Committee convened to investigate the treasonous charges surrounding The Business Plot, and immediately took on a narrow focus that left free of examination any person of power or anyone with a connection to the financial elite. By the end of the hearings three months later, Butler accused the committee of having perverted the process, stating “Like most committees it has slaughtered the little and allowed the big to escape. The big weren’t even called to testify. They were all mentioned in the testimony. Why was all mention of these names suppressed from the testimony?”
Independent journalistic investigation in the following years revealed heavy redaction and even outright deletion / loss / omission of pages of court records. No explanation was ever given by any federal authority on why these inconsistencies existed (especially rare in such a heavily organized era as FDR’s presidency) nor was any explanation provided for why investigation into the discrepancies was not undertaken.
Inquests throughout the years would never turn up the complete record of these hearings or the full extent of the accusations — the final report of the Congressional committee was simple, and it focused on MacGuire, mentioning nothing of those who were thought to be the organizers and financiers of the plot:
In the last few weeks of the committee’s official life it received evidence showing that certain persons had made an attempt to establish a fascist organization in this country. No evidence was presented and this committee had none to show a connection between this effort and any fascist activity of any European country. There is no question that these attempts were discussed, were planned, and might have been placed in execution when and if the financial backers deemed it expedient.
This committee received evidence from Maj. Gen Smedley D. Butler (retired), twice decorated by the Congress of the United States. He testified before the committee as to conversations with one Gerald C. MacGuire in which the latter is alleged to have suggested the formation of a fascist army under the leadership of General Butler.
MacGuire denied these allegations under oath, but your committee was able to verify all the pertinent statements made by General Butler, with the exception of the direct statement suggesting the creation of the organization. This, however, was corroborated in the correspondence of MacGuire with his principal, Robert Sterling Clark, of New York City, while MacGuire was abroad studying the various forms of veterans organizations of Fascist character.
This was the final official report on the subject.
1944 — The average American farm produced two thousand calories of food per calorie of fossil fuel expended on the agricultural process.
1951 — Iran elected Mohammad Mosaddegh to the post of Prime Minister, and his first major policy was the nationalization of the oil assets his country held, in violation of the exploitative arrangement made at the turn of the century with the British. He explained his position in a speech in June the same year:
Our long years of negotiations with foreign countries… have yielded no results this far. With the oil revenues we could meet our entire budget and combat poverty, disease, and backwardness among our people. Another important consideration is that by the elimination of the power of the British company, we would also eliminate corruption and intrigue, by means of which the internal affairs of our country have been influenced. Once this tutelage has ceased, Iran will have achieved its economic and political independence.
The Iranian state prefers to take over the production of petroleum itself. The company should do nothing else but return its property to the rightful owners. The nationalization law provides that 25% of the net profits on oil be set aside to meet all the legitimate claims of the company for compensation.
It has been asserted abroad that Iran intends to expel the foreign oil experts from the country and then shut down oil installations. Not only is this allegation absurd; it is utter invention.
There was immediate conflict in the global marketplace between Iran and Britain, as the pressure the English placed on other countries hampered the emerging Middle Eastern giant’s attempts to sell their own oil. Iran responded by completely cutting all British involvement out in their national oil interests, dealing a significant blow to the economic strength of the United Kingdom.
1953 — Operation Ajax, a joint British and U.S. intelligence effort, succeeded in deposing the democratically elected leader of Iran, Prime Minister Mossadegh, and replaced him with the authoritarian Shah Pahlavi. Pahlavi immediately began to rule the nation with an iron fist, jailing dissidents and executing those he considered a threat. His reign — especially with his Mossad/MI6/CIA trained SAVAK secret police — would later be described by Amnesty International as the worst violation of human rights in history.
1960 — OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) held its first meeting in Baghdad. Founded by Iran and Venezuela, the initial membership also included Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. It was formed as a way for petroleum producing nations to have closer and more frequent dialogues.
1968 — OAPEC (Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries) was created, with the aim of “separating politics and oil production” in the wake of the previous year’s failed oil embargo — a response to the Six Day War, also known as the Third Arab-Israeli War. All of the members of OAPEC were Arab nations with grievances against the West and Israel that they felt could be best addressed through economic and political action spurred on by their organization.
1970 — The United States hit its peak oil production, at which point its remaining oil reserves produced declining amounts of crude. This marked a transition to a much heavier reliance on foreign oil to shore up the federal reserves, especially given the tense environment of the Cold War with Soviet Russia and the need for emergency supplies for both public and private interests. Shifting to heavier trade for oil slowed the post-war growth of the American economy, and started a series of small tremors in financial markets in both Americas, Europe, and Asia.
1971 — Caving to Western pressure and with many promises of foreign aid greasing the wheels, OPEC announced that moving forward, all trade of any petroleum commodity under its control would be done in U.S. Dollars, much to the chagrin of many Arab and Communist nations. No concrete proof ever emerged that U.S. or other foreign intelligence services directly influenced this decision, but multiple nations ascribed to it as being historical canon, which further damaged diplomatic relations in the region.
The many nations that were forced to buy U.S. Dollars helped strengthen the American economy, but did not stop it from firmly becoming a heavy debtor nation.
1973 — While dealing with the emerging energy crisis caused by disrupted production in the Middle East and declining domestic production, the United States House Subcommittee on Foreign Relations published a report titled “Oil Fields as Military Objectives: A Feasibility Study.” This served as a blueprint for the military industrial expansion of American might in following decades.
OAPEC, in response to the Yom Kippur War and the emergency resupplies that enabled Israel to withstand the joint Egyptian and Syrian forces, established an oil embargo against the United States and several other western countries. This, combined with inflation pressures, monetary collapse, and the Nixon Shock (the end of convertibility between USD and gold, also known as American withdrawal from the Bretton Woods Accord), led to the Stock Market Crash of ‘73-’74: the most long felt economic meltdown at that point in the United States since The Great Depression. This would only be superseded by the last financial collapses of the 2000s and 2010s.
1974 — With the Fourth Arab-Israeli war ended in October the previous year, OAPEC ended the oil embargo against Western states through a series of negotiations and conferences. Only Libya continued to withhold supply.
The average American farm produced one calorie of food per calorie of fossil fuel input. This was primarily due to changes in pesticides and fertilizers that were becoming more and more petroleum dependent. Market demands also caused a surge in out-of-season growing, which required energy intensive land grooming.
1976 — Iran hit peak oil production.
1977 — Trinidad and Tobago hit peak oil production.
1979 — The Iranian Revolution took place, removing Shah Pahlavi and his cronies from rule. In the power vacuum that remained, the Islamic Republic of Iran, ruled by a Guardianship of Islamic Jurists and a Grand Ayatollah, Ruhollah Khomeini, was established, marking a significant change in the rule of the country from a modernized monarchy to a theocracy.
1980 — The Iran-Iraq war, also known as the Eight Year War, began when Saddam Hussein launched a multi-pronged attack against neighboring Iran.
1981 — Despite massive support from many Western and Middle Eastern countries, Iraq’s offensive terminated in a stalemate by December, primarily due to an overwhelming civilian resistance from the Persians and the lack of morale in the Iraqi army. Their massive desertion back to Iraq led to the recapture of Iranian cities, and the break of multiple sieges.
1982 — Hussein offered Khomeini a ceasefire agreement. The Grand Ayatollah refused, and Iranian forces pushed further, into Iraq. This continuation of the war eventually evolved on several other fronts, taking in both the local shipping routes in the Tanker Wars as well as resulting in massive civilian death tolls during the War of the Cities, a series of bombings, missile attacks, and air strikes against population centers in both countries.
1984 — Sarin nerve agents and mustard gas were used by Saddam Hussein to attack Iranian soldiers. These and the vast majority of other munitions were supplied by NATO members such as West Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and most notably, the United States of America, which provided the American Type Culture Collection Strain 14578, the basis for Hussein’s Anthrax bio-weaponry program. There was also significant aid to Iraq from neighboring Arab nations including Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Interestingly, Israel also lent support during the Eight Year War — to Iran alone. This contrasted with the contributions of most other major powers — the U.S., U.S.S.R., and Chinese all supported both sides through various agreements and supplies.
1987 — October 19th, known as Black Monday, marked the greatest single day decline in the U.S. stock market, and held similar records across the globe. Financial panics, the result of illiquidity and market psychology, encouraged furious sell-offs that resulted in a major drop in inflation and the collapse of several small markets around the planet. Many nations settled into slow growth periods instead of continuing to pursue their post-war recovery growth patterns.
1988 — Iran, realizing that the offensive into Iraq could not be won, offered to participate in a ceasefire arrangement. Saddam insisted that this could not take place until the Grand Ayatollah renounced his call for the overthrow of Hussein’s regime, a move that was ignored at first by Khomeini. Only after the cyanide bombing of an Iranian Kurdish village did Khomeini accept United Nations Security Council Resolution 598, which established a tentative peace between the two nations.
It is worth remarking that the cyanide bombing in Iran mirrored a similar bombing Iraqi forces had done to their own Kurds as part of Hussein’s homefront genocide during the same time period. None of these attacks caused cessation of supply from Western nations, and while little mention of the Iranian bombing was made in the press or in history books, Hussein’s bombing of the domestic Kurdish population was often cited as one of the reasons for the first and second Gulf Wars.
2000 — Venezuela hit their peak oil production.
On October 30th, the U.N.-administered account in New York where Iraqi oil was traded switched from the USD to the Euro, at a penalty of 80 cents per dollar for the weaker Euro. Iraq claimed this was both in protest of American foreign policy as well as to express faith in global currencies other than the dollar. While seen as outright foolishness given the exchange rate, Iraq would profit the following year when the Euro came into its own as a global currency.
2001 — On the morning of September 11th, the United States watched in horror as two passenger planes crashed into the World Trade Center. Another crashed into the Pentagon, and a fourth went down in Pennsylvania when civilians on the aircraft retaliated against the hijackers.
As the nation reeled from the damage, the administration searched for those responsible. First indications pointed to Al Qaeda and its CIA trained mastermind, Usāmah bin Lādin. Within hours of the attacks, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld gave the orders: “Best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H. at same time. Not only UBL. Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.” The reference to Saddam Hussein foreshadowed a later expansion of the War on Terror — a war announced by U.S. President George W. Bush with the support of NATO Article 5 and Article IV of the ANZUS treaty.
In October, the war began in full in Afghanistan with bombing campaigns followed by infantry insertions, with the stated goal of eliminating Al Qaeda, capturing or killing Usāmah bin Lādin, and overthrowing the Taliban from the region.
(Ten years later, Usāmah bin Lādin was found and killed in Pakistan, having narrowly escaped his hideouts in Afghanistan.)
The Euro gained 25% against the USD, and changed the global investment scene. Iran responded by switching its entire central bank reserve funds from the USD to the Euro. The flood of dollars onto the market further damaged the US economy, but was not heavily felt in the ramp up to and beginning of war time production.
2002 — The United Kingdom, with all its holdings, hit peak oil production.
North Korea began to carry out all commodity trading, not just oil, in Euros. China started to buy up massive amounts of the dollar, a move promoted as a friendly overture in the West, despite the obvious strengthening of Sino financial markets by the new holdings.
In April, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela headed an OPEC meeting in Spain. The possibility of switching oil commodities held by OPEC members from USD trade to Euro trade was discussed, among other measures.
2003 — Citing known false intelligence that Saddam Hussein was actively working on nuclear weaponry, while using the media to promote a likewise false connection between Hussein and Al Qaeda, the United States launched Operation Iraqi Freedom in March. This established the second front of the War on Terror as the Hussein loyalist forces were quickly routed and broken up into guerrilla fighting groups. An influx of terror organizations over the next decade turned Iraq into as much a hotbed for insurgency and anti-Western Islamist thinking as Afghanistan or Pakistan. A U.S.-friendly government was put into place in Iraq.
2004 — U.S. farms produced one calorie of food for every two thousand calories of fossil fuel input into the agricultural process. Nitrogen fertilizers, global reliance on refrigerated transport, and genetically modified crops only further skewed the ratio. Many activists rallied to solve this global hunger emergency before the world began to starve, but media and press glossed over the issue, attempting to portray it as a problem only in famine-struck foreign lands.
Colombia hit its peak oil production.
2005 — In May, Saudi Arabia hit its peak sweet crude oil production, the most sought after and easily refined form of petroleum. With Saudi Arabia as the world’s foremost oil producer, this translated to the global peak production point of easy oil. In order to avoid loss of investor confidence, the Saudis supplemented their petroleum production with increased heavy sour crude supplies. This dirtier oil was less desirable, especially in industrialized nations, due to increased refinement costs.
As Saudi Arabia began offshore drilling in admittance of their dwindling supply of easy oil, many other nations started looking to alternative energy solutions, or new attempts at petroleum reclamation. Internationally, many plans and facilities were approved quickly in order to gain political favor in respective constituencies; however, most proved to be a zero sum gain in actual production of usable resources. Though seemingly opposite of the direction most governments should have been moving in, many saw it as a way to maintain a sense of normalcy in the face of an overwhelming issue with no clear solution.
Classic examples from the time period would be: a number of offshore drilling rigs that required more petroleum input in the exploration phase alone than could be brought up from an impossibly ideal oil field; ethanol fuel replacements that required more oil input through pesticides and fertilizers than refinement to gasoline would cost; unsafe drilling practices that could cause massive environmental devastation, or in some cases, even threaten to release methane bursts that were capable of causing extinction events; ‘clean’ hydroelectricity that created flooding and destabilized local ecosystems; expensive solar panels with low yield and poor storage implementation.
Media suppression of outcries at these policies were the norm as it became more and more taboo to mention the economic and strategic rationale of political decision making. As speakers and activists warned against wasting resources trying to capture “dwindling deposits of the last hours of ancient sunlight”, the general population was kept in the dark to the issue by sharply increasing subsidies on global fuel and food prices, as governments ensured that media and press pushed the idea that business was carrying on as usual.
2006 — The worst solar storm in recorded human history began. The radiation was expected to easily trump that produced by the 19thcentury’s worst storm, and have a major effect on technology on Earth. While the aforementioned storm in the 1850s blew millions of miles of telegraph line and even electrocuted telegraph operators and set papers on fire, the newest bursts from Sol were expected to reach into the high X class, marking it as an incredibly powerful storm likely to, at best, disrupt many Earth and space-based communications systems. More probable was that many such systems would be outright destroyed. As there had not been a storm of this magnitude since the introduction of modern wireless technology, scientists were unsure about the full extent of the damage that would be done. The storm was predicted to last for many years, and expected to peak in 2013.
2007 — The International Energy Agency released a report estimating that oil demand would reach approximately one hundred and sixteen million barrels per day by the year 2030. Several oil executives responded with alarming honesty when they made joint public statements that global oil production was unlikely to ever exceed one hundred million barrels per day. This caused a slow-building shock in the financial markets as more industries reeled from the speculative pricing based on these now-public admissions, especially given the oil magnates tendency to exaggerate optimistically about the availability of oil and the cost of its retrieval. Even by the most hopeful estimates, the situation was increasingly dire.
2008 — Oil surpassed one hundred dollars a barrel. By autumn, the U.S. economy began to buckle, and many major corporations and banks, most considered friendly to those in power, were bailed out from failures that were caused by their own over-speculation and abuse of financial laws. An overhaul of the financial system was promised, but no major changes were ever truly seen. Many of the companies responsible for the crisis were at best given a free pass to continue their ways, and at worst received massive bailouts for being ‘too big to fail’, an economic concept from the corrupt Aldrich era. All over the world, countries that relied on America’s status as a super power felt the effects of a weakened U.S. economy when their own unemployment rates began climbing and rashes of bankruptcies took the globe by storm.
Shell and BP released reports that since 2003, they had spent approximately one billion dollars each on alternative energy research. For comparison, the combined 2008 net incomes of both companies’ European branches alone totaled over twelve billion dollars, six times the amount they had invested in alternative energies in more than five years.
As a result of those reports, they were cited by governments around the world as leaders in corporate responsibility and lauded as having given back to the global community.
2010 — Two months into drilling operations started in February, the Deepwater Horizon — a semi-submersible oil rig operated by BP in the Gulf of Mexico — experienced a jolt from a seawater geyser that erupted from the marine riser onto the rig. This was followed by a release of mud, water, and methane gas, the last of which combusted, creating a cascade of secondary explosions that resulted in a massive firestorm, oil spill, and the sinking of the rig.
Litigation from the disaster was discussed in terms of a twenty year timeline, as was the case of the Exxon-Valdez spill, primarily due to the unprecedented scale and corresponding lack of accurate measurement regarding the full scope of the disaster. By the time the well was officially sealed in September, the oil spill covered over sixty thousand square miles of the planet and could be seen from orbit.
2011 — In March, a major earthquake along the Japan trench created a tsunami that caused devastating damage to Japan as a whole, but especially to the Fukushima nuclear power plant. This incident was responsible for a minor collapse in the Japanese economic machine, but worse were the predictions made by many economists: Japan would not recover from the disaster. Infrastructure damage combined with a high debt-GDP ratio meant that the Land of the Rising Sun would continue to struggle for financial independence for its remaining years. Seismologists warned that a quake of similar or possibly greater magnitude was likely to occur along the Sagami Trough in the near future. This threatened the safety of the rest of the nation, still recovering from a triple meltdown at the Fukushima facility. Market confidence in Japan sagged, and the effects were felt throughout the world.
In the Middle East, revolutions toppled governments only to be replaced by either weak and unstable coalitions of rebel forces, or puppet governments of other regional or global powers. Libya became another destabilized African state while Western nations manipulated events in Syria to further stoke the Shia / Sunni conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia, aware that both states had been knowingly engaged in proxy warfare for decades.
Iran’s meteoric rise in regional politics forced other local dynasties and global superpowers to remember the multiple Persian empires, and tensions continued to build along the Persian Gulf. While the Arab Spring brought a promise of change, fanatic groups and militant factions did all they could to make sure that the only real change was more power in their hands — the common man was still under-represented, if represented at all, and many in the West feared Islamist takeovers of otherwise legitimate revolutions.
The U.S debt rating was lowered as dramatic cuts and prioritized payments undermined global confidence in the dollar. Iran, China, and other countries began trade that bypassed use of the USD currency and most UN sanctions through currency exchange or barter, further damaging the United States’ odds of recovering from the economic disasters brought upon it by the nation’s debt. Rioting in several European countries led to an outbreak of conservative political movements revolving around ‘home first’ thinking, many times with anti-immigrant undertones.
Most citizen movements of the era functioned similar to the American ‘Occupy’ movement, designed to be a leaderless and persistent presence in and around major population centers. The leaderless nature of the protesters, however, caused major splits on several issues, making it easier to marginalize and silence the movements.
While most national governments worked to maintain global politics and economics, many local populations were concerned with financial well-being as homelessness and unemployment rates reached record highs in most first world countries. Increased global conflict, aggressive political rhetoric, and underhanded subterfuge mixed with an environment of revolution and desperation drove home the sense of dire times worldwide.