Fellow 2009-10

Marcelo Bucheli

Business Administration

The Origins of U.S. Oil Operations Abroad: Standard Oil Company (New Jersey) in Venezuela, Colombia, and Peru, 1919-1968

What are the historical foundations of U.S. foreign oil policy? How did American oil corporations originally learn how to deal with foreign governments? Professor Bucheli’s research project attempts to answer these questions by studying operations of the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey (now ExxonMobil) in Latin America.

With the 1911 anti-trust breakup of John Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company, the resulting Standard Oil Company of New Jersey (SONJ) was left without crude oil sources within the United States. SONJ and other U.S. oil companies sought and found new sources in Latin America, especially in Venezuela, Colombia, and Peru. As oil from these countries climbed from 30 to 80 percent of all crude oil imports to the United States (1926-40), the U.S. State Department recognized a national interest and began to follow interactions between U.S. oil companies and the oil-producing countries.

It was in Latin America that U.S. oil companies developed long-term strategies for negotiating with various kinds of political regimes and dealing with evolving social and political realities; it was also in this region that the U.S. government intervened for the first time on behalf of U.S. oil companies. Professor Bucheli’s analysis suggests that Latin America provided a testing ground for the oil policies of both the companies and the U.S. government, which were then applied to subsequent operations in the Middle East and elsewhere.

During his Center appointment, Professor Bucheli will continue studying archival resources, including a body of internal documents (recently declassified) from Standard Oil Company of New Jersey. His goal is to describe the origins and foundational patterns of (a) what eventually became U.S. foreign oil policy and (b) the political strategies followed by U.S. oil companies operating abroad.