By John Ostapkovich

ALTOONA, Pa. (CBS) — We pay a fortune at the gas pump these days, and a new book from a Penn State professor looks at how petroleum went from a dirt-cheap resource begging for wider use to a strategic resource with economic, political, and military implications.

Pennsylvania was there at the beginning of the oil rush, says Penn State-Altoona history and environment professor Brian Black.  But today, he notes, we live in a world so dominated by petroleum that he wonders if most people know it’s just a passing phase.

Black says there is scarcity to come and we need alternatives.  So, how about Marcellus Shale natural gas?  Black says there’s a major difference between the development of the two industries.

“The Pennsylvania oil boom was just sorted out by the bootstraps, was a frontier industry, and was companies being founded basically in the field themselves,” he explains, “whereas the natural gas interests are largely based outside of this region.”

Black’s book, Crude Reality, also looks at how oil is portrayed in media — from muckracking journalism to “The Beverly Hillbillies.”

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