Brian Black's opinion piece, “The Most Important Road Trip In American History” was recently published in the New York Times.
Black's article focuses on July 7, 1919, when a convoy of gasoline-powered vehicles traveled across the U.S. Their purpose was to demonstrate how desperately a new system of roads was needed so that the post-World War I American economy could be built around petroleum-powered transportation. One of the young cadets on the trip, Dwight (Ike) Eisenhower, saw this need first-hand. When he became president in the 1950s, he pressed lawmakers to create the interstate highway system.
The article tells this story in the context of Americans’ growing dependence on petroleum during the 20th century. This important energy transition to fossil fuels was stimulated by events such as the 1919 convoy across the U.S. It also asks who will lead the next such transition.
Brian Black is a distinguished professor of history and environmental studies at Penn State Altoona and the author of "Crude Reality: Petroleum in World History."