The Petroleum Club

(a documentary in development)

The phenomenon of the American Petroleum Club -with the figure of Joe Roughneck as it’s emblem- is a meeting place of the past, the present – and possibly – the future.

The American Petroleum Club is as close to the the source of oil culture as possible. It is a local hub where exploration and entrepreneurship come together. Most Petroleum Clubs were established during the Booming 50’s. It is from here that the culture of oil began to made its mark on the world. The clubs are therefore exemplary of the rise of Western economy in the twentieth century at a time when we collectively looked up to America as a big brother.8

Currently, we are again enthralled by America, asking what will come our way this time. While Europe prepares for less dependency on fossil fuels9, America steps up it’s production. A certain nostalgia, an idea of bygone days in which life surely was better, is being employed here as a driving force10 for an America that wants to be ‘Great Again’. The project The Petroleum Club gives an inside view of the oil industry not only from a very local point of view, but it also shows a perspective from our most important economical and policital ally. This project therefore tentatively suggests that, in fact, we Europeans belong to the same Petroleumclub, despite our differences in history and approach.

Alternative energy production is an emerging key player in the connected economies of tomorrow. However, the transition from fossil fuels to green energy could take place with a crititical respect for where we are coming from. From the point of view of Europe of liberation from oppression in WWII, the years of the rebuilding of the countries and the subsequent rise of the Welfare State. The realization of how we developed, a creative and social society fueled and energized by oil, can motivate us to work collectively towards an efficient built environment of the future. The Petroleum Clubs, containers of heritage while being promoters of new technologies, may give valuable clues to the spatial design of our future environment.

The built environment of the locality of a particular Petroleum Club serves as a tangible reminder of aspirations past and future.

Many Petroleum Clubs were established in the Booming 50’s, the times that America was expanding. Nowadays, some clubs are in decline and the Boards allow members from other professions. Prospect club members may be attracted by heritage and future business opportunities beyond oil. Also, however, brand new clubs are formed in recently developed American oil fields. These clubs may lack heritage of their own but they proudly use the language of their forebearers, the men who formed the original tribe. We will ask old en new members how the American town or city of the future should look like, how progress will or should come about in their view. By looking at the history and the function of the Petroleum Club we investigate opinions about the relation between the oil business and the notion of the ‘greater good’.

(c) 2017, Erik de Jager