Ontario's Petroleum Legacy: The Birth, Evolution and Challenges of a Global Industry has been a labour of love not only for the author, Earle Gray, but also for all of us who wanted to see the 150th anniversary of Canada's petroleum industry celebrated through new scholarship.
It would not be an overstatement to say that Earle has spent a lifetime studying the rich history of the oil patch - not only the events and people but also the science, technology and economics. This is a difficult area of research and there are few good industrial historians. Sadly, it would appear that many historians do not view this field as important, although industrial development and economics impact and shape political decision making.
With respect to the life of communities, however, industrial histories are invaluable since they chart the progress of innovation as well as boom-and-bust cycles. Such histories are also important as educational resources because they help present and future generations to understand where we came from and, hopefully, better chart where we are going. I have personal experience of this as the Science and Technology Editor of The Canadian Encyclopedia from 1980 to 1984. Unless something is written about, it does not become a part of the narrative of national building and, therefore, is less real and less important.
Not only does Earle tell a compelling story from the coming in of the first commercial well in Petrolia in 1858, he also places it in an international context. In an age in which "firsts" are so important, he gives many Canadians their rightful place on the international stage.
It is most appropriate that he chose to complete the story with a bridge to the present and future. There is no doubt that the petroleum industry today benefits Canadians and gives us economic power internationally. We also have an opportunity to tackle and address issues of environmental degradation.
How wonderful it would be if this book, and other 150th anniversary activities, where to inspire Canadian leadership at the both government and industry level in resource management and environmental protection and control. The book is a powerful incentive for designation of Oil Springs, Petrolia, Lambton County, Sarnia, and all of the those iconic names of importance to the foundation of this important industry as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Like any great enterprise, this work would not have happened without the vision and passing of many. This began with Earle and Robert Bott approaching me as the founding Executive Director of the Heritage Community Foundation to become involved in a range of commemorative activities. A year of telephone and email chats resulted in the creation of a series of proposals for funders. The financial support of Charlie Fairbanks, Canada's Petroleum Hall of Fame and in-kind support of June Warren Publishing has made this book possible.
Ontario’s Petroleum Legacy: The Birth, Evolution and Challenges of a Global Industry
Author Earle Gray
Colour and black and white
Published by the Heritage Community Foundation
Ontario's Petroleum Legacy is a a dynamic account of Canada's petroleum industry from the coming in of the first wells at Oil Springs in 1858 to an assessment of contemporary issues. Researched and authored by Earle Gray, Canada's senior petroleum historican, it is a popular and authoritative account with insights into the people, communities, scientific and technological innovation.
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