Energy and the Economy
Fossil fuels made the Roaring Twenties a champagne time in American history. Powered by hydrocarbon, our nation experienced a decade of massive production and consumption of goods, which helped to stimulate a boom in the U.S. economy. The large-scale automaking plants in Detroit, for example, churned out a seemingly endless stream of vehicles for the millions of U.S. citizens hungry for the freedom of the road. Factories manufactured appliances such as washing machines, vacuum cleaners, stoves, refrigerators, and other electric goods sold to legions of consumers on installment credit options. The economic expansion of the boisterous Jazz Age seemed as if it would continue forever, so many Americans grew giddy with dreams of Wall Street wealth and began investing heavily in stocks. Often, they speculated on margin, gambling with money they didn’t actually possess.
Unfortunately for many, the exciting nationwide party ended with heartache when Black Tuesday hit America on October 29, 1929. As stocks plunged in value the economy nosedived with them, plummeting America and the rest of the world into the Great Depression of the 1930s. Our nation faced the worst financial slump in its history. Factory production, once heavily fueled by coal and oil energy, came to a shuddering stop as many Americans faced heavy debts and lack of employment.
Here in the twenty-first century, Americans can learn some valuable