Petroleum is the world’s most important energy resource.  Industrialized nations such as the United States depend on petroleum oil for transportation, consumer products, and to power their factories.  Developing nations such as China and India require an increasing share of the world’s oil production as their nations industrialize.  Some nations have a great deal of petroleum reserves, while other nations have none.

More than forty percent of the world’s petroleum reserves are spaced unevenly among the nations of the Middle East and North Africa.  In 1960, many of the oil-producing nations agreed to form a cartel.  A cartel is an international organization formed to regulate prices and production.  The cartel is called OPEC, an acronym for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.  O.P.E.C. increased oil prices by 70% in 1973.  As a result, American gasoline prices more than doubled, and people waited for gasoline in lines sometimes over a mile long.

Oil has changed the Middle East and North Africa.  Many leaders in the region used the wealth from oil to modernize their nations, while others kept it or used it to buy weapons and build armies. Saddam Hussein, who ruled Iraq from 1979 to 2003, was an example of a dictator who used his nation’s oil wealth to build a military force that brutalized the citizens of Iraq and Iraq’s neighbors.

Pumpjack drilling for oil


A pumpjack is used to mechanically lift liquid out of the well if there is not enough bottom hole pressure for the liquid to flow all the way to the surface. Pumpjacks are common in oil-rich areas.

Petroleum is a non-renewable resource, so oil-producing nations must prepare for when petroleum wealth no longer exists.  Experts believe the price of oil will continue to rise as supplies are exhausted in easily accessible areas.  The world will likely prepare for the exhaustion of petroleum reserves by switching to other energy sources.  Bahrain is a small nation in the Persian Gulf that used its oil wealth to develop a diversified economy.  A nation with a diversified economy depends on many industries for its wealth.  Today, Bahrain has little oil left, but the nation developed into a commercial and financial center.


Download this lesson as Microsoft Word file or as an Adobe Acrobat file.

Listen as Mr. Dowling reads this lesson.

Mr. Donn has an excellent website that includes a section on the Middle East and North Africa.



Bahrain is a small nation in the Persian Gulf that used its oil wealth to develop a diversified economy.