The growing west Texas petroleum industry found itself destined to play a significant role during World War II. By the late 1930s an intrastate pipeline system moved crude oil east to refineries and shipping points. In 1940, Texas produced almost 37% of the domestic oil in the United States and was the largest producer of natural gas in the nation. When the U.S. entered World War II in December 1941, west Texas reserves and the construction of new pipelines in the eastern portion of the state placed Texas in the pivotal position of supplying a large share of U.S. energy during the war.Texas in World War II - 2009
After the U.S. entered the war, German submarines moved into coastal waters along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico and shipping suffered. Therefore, one of the first major duties of the Petroleum Industry Council for National Defense (created in Nov. 1941 and later renamed the Petroleum Industry War Council) was the safe transport of Texas oil to the U.S. east coast. Major disruptions in shipping in 1942 resulted in construction of a cross-country pipeline from Texas to the east known as the Big Inch (built to transport crude oil) and Little Big Inch (built to deliver refined oil byproducts).
World War II could not have been fought and won on a global scale without readily available petroleum supplies. In addition, the byproducts of Texas petroleum - gasoline and diesel fuel for trucks and tanks, lubricants for machinery and fuel oil for heating - proved equally essential to the war effort. Therefore, it can be said that the Texas petroleum industry, then the nation's largest producer of oil, was key to the Allied victory and the World War II experience presaged dramatic industry growth in west Texas after the war.
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