* One barrel contains 42 gallons of oil, thanks to the Great Eel Controversy. Eels? In fifteenth-century England, King Edward IV settled one of the fractious debates of the day by declaring that a barrel could hold exactly 42 gallons of eels. Centuries later, when executives bickered over how much oil made up a barrel, the so-called Council of Producers looked to the eel precedent. In 1916, Congress agreed that a barrel must contain 42 gallons.
* In the six years following the oil crisis of 1973, the U.S. economy showed a 25% gain in overall fuel efficiency.
* Chemist Robert Chesebrough was in trouble. In 1859, the new petroleum industry was threatening to wipe out his meager business of rendering coal into kerosene. So Chesebrough bought a ticket to Titusville, Pa., to look for work in the heart of the nation's oil boom. While looking over a rig, Chesebrough heard the drillers complaining about "rod wax," an oil by-product that clogged the pumps but seemed to help heal the men's cuts and scrapes. Chesebrough took some home to Brooklyn, N.Y. After 11 years of experiments, he registered the trademark for his new product, which he named Vaseline. Today, Chesebrough-Pond's Inc., a $2.7-billion company, controls about 95% of the petroleum-jelly market.
* An oil worker during one Oklahoma boom scribbled his schedule on the back of an envelope:
11:00 a.m. Get up
11:00 to 11:30 a.m. Sober up
11:30 to noon Eat
Noon to midnight Work like hell
Midnight to 3:00 a.m. Get drunk
3:00 to 3:30 a.m. Beat hell out of
them that's got it coming
3:30 a.m. Go to bed
* In 1925, Columbus Marion "Dad" Joiner, a 65-year-old wildcatter, began raising money to drill in the Sabine River Basin in east Texas. Geologists thought the basin was dry, but Dad borrowed to secure oil leases and sold rights in the leases to pay his crew. Every time money ran out -- and it did, often -- he sold more of his land. In 1930, Dad hit the big one, the first of many wells that made east Texas one of the richest oilfields in America. But Dad didn't get rich: by then he had sold most of his land and oil rights to others. Beset by lawsuits and in voluntary receivership, he sold his well and leases for $1 million -- most of which went to his lawyers. The buyer? A professional gambler who had won an oil lease in a poker game and wanted to add to his collection -- a fellow by the name of H. L. Hunt.
* Theodore Levitt, marketing maven and editor of Harvard Business Review, argues that the oil industry lacks marketing savvy: "Not since John D. Rockefeller sent free kerosene lamps to China has the oil industry done anything really outstanding to create a demand for its product. . . . Not even in product improvement has it showered itself with eminence. The greatest single improvement -- namely, the development of tetraethyl lead -- came from outside the industry. . . ."
* The U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve contains 502.4 million barrels of oil, purchased at a cost of about $14 billion. At present rates of consumption, the reserve would replace 114 days' worth of imported oil.
* The Soviet Union is the world's largest oil producer, extracting 11.9 million barrels a day.
* Value-added department: Great Britain exports a petroleum product to the Arab states: lighter fluid made by Permaflex Ltd., of Stock-on-Trent.
* It takes 95.2 barrels of fuel to keep a B-52 bomber in the air for one hour -- the same amount that would fuel the average family sedan for six years.
* When the first productive Texas well, Spindletop, blew in 1901, its 175-foot geyser yielded 100,000 barrels of oil a day. "Oil," writes petroleum consultant Ruth S. Knowles, "was so plentiful that it sold for 3? a barrel; drinking water was so scarce it sold for 5? a cup." And scamming was so abundant that "the boom became known as 'Swindletop."
* What's in a name? About $100 million, if you're Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey. Such was the tab for the company's 1972 name change, from Esso to Exxon Corp., which involved altering signs and insignia for 25,000 gas stations, plaques for 22,000 oil wells and 18,000 buildings and storage tanks, and signs for 55,000 underground pipelines. Not to mention 300 million sales slips and 11 million credit cards.