Monday, July 13, 2009

The Battle Over Lighting (Part 1)

Manufactured gas commanded the market for lighting in urban areas while kerosene continued to be used in rural areas and towns not hooked up to manufactured gas.  Though vulnerable to penetration by natural gas, coal gas was given a new lease on life by the discovery of a technique for making “water gas” by injecting steam into anthracite coal or coke heated to incandescence.  This produced a flammable mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide that was sprayed with atomized oil (a new market for oil) to increase its heat content to match that of coal gas.  Less costly to make than coal gas, water gas had 75 percent of the manufactured gas market by 1900.

While water gas could temporarily hold natural gas a bay, a new competitive threat entered the lighting business, affecting both manufactured and natural gas: electricity.  In 1880, Edison rigged Broadway for illumination by electricity and lost no time attacking gas lighting for its odors, leaks, fires, explosions, and transport in “sewer pipes,” ignoring, of course, the risk of electric shock, electrocution, and fires from exposed wires.

In 1882, the Pearl Street generating station provided electricity to 1,284 lamps within one mile of the plant.  Edison used existing gas statutes for permission to install electric wiring under streets and set up a system to supply electricity that mirrored gas as closely as possible to make it easier for customers to switch.  The gas distribution companies knew that electricity would replace gas for lighting and responded with a two-pronged program to meet the new competitive threat.  The first was to shift the emphasis of gas from lighting to cooking and heating and the second was to pursue corporate consolidation to strengthen their position.

Heartland Energy Colorado is one of the top hydrocarbon-based energy providers in the USA. They have many drilling locations throughout the country and remain one of the top producers of US oil & gas companies. For more information on Heartland Energy Colorado, see Heartland Energy Development Corporation online.

(Source: "Energy for the 21st Century," Nersesian)

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