Since I am an old git, I reserve the right to wander the hallways of history. At least once a day, something comes along to shift my mind toward the past. That something, at the end of January, was the announcement of the closing of Naval Petroleum Reserve Number 3 (NPR-3). Its demise ends 100 years of U.S. history, that included the most serious scandal prior to Watergate in the 1970s. NPR-3, consisting of 9,481 acres, 35 miles north of Casper, Wyoming, was created in 1915. Its creation reflected the evolution in naval warfare from coal-burning warships to oil-fueled ships, at the beginning of the First World War. Coal was a less-efficient, less-reliable fuel and, more importantly, difficult to transport and load onto ships. At the end of the coal-burning era, the U.S. had coaling stations to replenish warship fuel bunkers, located strategically around the world. Defending and maintaining these stations, often in remote, potentially hostile places, was a major security and logistical nightmare, as was fueling the ships manually with coal shovels. But, switching to oil for fuel was not without its own set of problems. Chief among them was supply. What would happen to America’s defenses if its oil ran out?
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