The Petroluem Reserves Corporation, 1943
The idea of building a pipeline from Saudi Arabia to the Mediterranean were apparently first sown by this US government agency intent bolster petroluem supplies for the approaching war effort in Europe.
The following is an excerpt from Wallace Stegner's Book DISCOVERY! The DSearch for Arabian Oil, Export Books, Beirut 1971, which chronicles the story of Aramco from 1993 til the end of the Second World War. (pages 175 - 178)
"The concrete changes that 10 years of company operations had made in Saudi Arabian life counted for much. The future was blueprinted in the maps and charts, the geological reports, the developed harbors, the hard-surfaced roads, the radio system that Don Mair enlarged and improved in 1939. It was made more secure by the water wells at Dammam, Qatif, Riyadh, Jiddah; and especially by the one they drilled at al-Hani, on the long waterless stretch between Riyadh and al-'Uqair, during the severe drought of 1943. It was enriched by the 11-mile canal, the pumps, the irrigated acres of al-Kharj. And if the Arabs of Riyadh and al-Kharj at first looked with suspicion on carrots from the project, and fed them to their donkeys, that was both understandable and legitimate. Given time, they would learn to make use of carrots as of other modern inventions.
These things were vital, in the missionaries' eyes. And yet they had made a contribution more significant than any of the gadgets adopted by the Arabs or any of the skills and resources the Arabs had newly learned. They had begun a transformation of a state of mind. Allah kareem, God is kind, said the pious Bedouin when disaster struck, when his only camel died or wolves carried off his lambs, or when he dug a grave in the sand for someone of his family. He was not in the habit of trying to remodel his world closer to the heart's desire; the intense struggle for a mere subsistence in the desert left him no time or energy for more than survival. Now, by importation and at wholesale, came not only new tools but a habit of mind new to him. God, it turned out when you studied the matter, was kind; but also, as the Americans said, He helped those who helped themselves.
All during the war, at erratic intervals, the world had been coming to see the Hundred Men*, and they had joyfully taken time off to entertain, and pump, visitors. Their radios told them that the Gulf was a hotbed of activity, but they saw little of it. Dispensing nothing but crude oil, and that by barge, and having not even an adequate airfield, they were often bypassed. But they saw something of H.R.P. Dickson, the Political Agent at Kuwait - an old Arabian hand who flowed 10,000 barrels a day in stories and Arab lore, and who brought along a wife as rich in anecdote as he was himself. They had visitations of other British from Bahrain and Jiddah. They entertained Ambassador Kirk from Cairo. On 'May 22, 1943, a Lockheed Lodestar alighted on their airstrip and the five crew members announced that General Patrick Hurley, President Roosevelt's personal representative in the Middle East, would be among them shortIy. Mistrusting their airstrip, he had put his plane down on Bahrain and was coming over by launch. The Casoc boys, touched in their local pride, were somewhat pleased to find when the General got there that he and his party had taken a beating for three hours in a heavy sea.
General Hurley's visit was a high point, nevertheless. They did not get to know him at once, for immediately after his arrival Floyd Ohliger and Floyd Meeker took him off to Riyadh for an audience with Ibn Sa'ud. His crew, left behind, were given the keys to al-Hasa, which meant principally an initiation in gogglefishing. This had been introduced to the Gulf by Charlie Davis, and the spear had been improved by the labors of at least five different engineers. In return for that pleasant excursion, the crew amiably took everybody for an airplane ride, and on one flight turned over the controls to Ibrahim, the 12-yearold son of Shaikh Abdullah al-Fadl. Ibrahim flew the plane from Tarut to Ras Tanura. He did not freeze to the wheel or get tangled up in his instructions. Though his feet would not touch the floor, he demonstrated how far some Saudi Arabs had already come under Casoc's tutelage, for with the sweat standing out on his face, he turned when Captain Newell told him to turn, pushed things or pulled things when he was supposed to. When they lifted him out of the plane back at Dhahran his feet still didn't touch. He walked around all the rest of the day without his feet touching.
Then when General Hurley's party had returned, and Abdullah Sulaiman gave a great dinner at Dammam, the Americans demonstrated a knack for public relations every bit as brilliant as the impression Hurley had made in Riyadh. Charlie Davis had prepared a certificate, with a pair of mother-of-pearl wings pinned on it, which said that Ibrahim was a qualified assistant copilot for the trip between Tarut and Ras Tanura when flying in a Lockheed Lodestar and accompanied by Captain Dean Newell. The entire plane crew and General Hurley signed it, and at the dinner Hurley presented it to Ibrahim in person. It was a very American performance; it was a question who enjoyed it more, Ibrahim or the starved and isolated Hundred from Dhahran. When after dinner Hurley, who had been raised on an Oklahoma Indian reservation, demonstrated the Choctaw war whoop, and an Arab from Riyadh rose and responded with the war cry of that Najd fortress, it seemed to the dazzled Hundred that international relations could hardly be warmer.
International relations were precisely why Hurley was there. His visit was an omen and a forecast: the world was beginning to look upon their outpost with very interested eyes. With Africa secured, and with the Germans turned back in Russia, strategy could begin to contemplate massive offensives against the Japanese in Southeast Asia, and the logical source for fueling any such offensive was the Gulf. Leaving out all problems of transport, American reserves would not indefinitely stand the wartime drain of two billion barrels a year.
That was why, late in 1943, there arrived among the Hundred Men a mission from the Petroleum Reserves Corporation, which was part of the official structure built up by Harold Ickes, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, for supplying petroleum to the war effort. The mission demonstrated the seriousness of its interest by the eminence o its members, who were Everette Lee De Golver, one of the most distinguished of the world's oil geologists; Dr. William E. Wrather, Director of the United States Geological Survey; and C.S. Snodgrass, Director of the Foreign Refining Division of the Petroleum Administration for War. The Hundred Men showed them around, and the mission went away like other missions. But within weeks this one developed portentous consequences. It turned out that without publicizing his activities Mr. Ickes had been growing very interested indeed in the possibilities of making greater use of Middle E.astern oil. Now the United States government proposed to buy into Casoc and finance a big refinery at Ras Tanura and a more-than-thousand- mile pipeline to the Mediterranean, which since May 1943, when American and British forces captured Tunis and Bizerte, had been an Allied lake.
Government purchase of even a minority share in Casoc would have put the company in the position that Anglo-Iranian had occupied in Iran since 1914, when Winston Churchill concluded exactly the same sort of deal for His Majesty's government. Commercial and political power would have been concentrated within the same corporate structure, with results for the Middle Eastern equilibrium of power that could hardly have been predicted and that would not have been likely to be good.
The Hundred Men, who had valued their purely private auspices and who had always felt that Ibn Sa'ud's favor was conditioned by their lack of political implications, hotly debated all the news and rumor that came to them. It developed that American oil companies were protesting bitterly; a Senate investigating committee was holding hearings; a British oil mission was visiting the States. They waited, and eventually they heard: they were not to become part of a political package. For better or worse, protest had diverted the first proposals, and the American government was not destined to come into the Middle East in the way His Majesty's government had. Instead, They heard that the pipeline notion, which would have saved the 3,300-mile haul around through Suez, and would have delivered oil to the eastern Mediterranean shore at approximately the cost of the per-barrel canal toll, was at least temporarily shelved. But they had approval, and a high government priority, for the construction, as a purely company operation, of a 50,000-barrel-per-day refinery at Ras Tanura.
That was the authority for a hysterical expansion; for building a Ras Tanura refinery meant not only all the boom of that construction, but entailed all the corollaries; sharply-increased oil production, pipelines and stabilization plants and tank farms to handle and store it, people to perform the enlarged duties, housing to take care of the new people, people to build the housing, people to train the people who would build the housing. Consequence bred consequence, and many of the things that had preoccupied them during their isolation would now go unnoticed. In the rush of becoming a colossus, they would hardly have time to laugh at the peculiar cultural effect of sending a certain left-handed carpenter to Ras Tanura to train a Saudi crew: dutifully imitative, every last one of his trainees learned to saw with his left hand.
The buildup for the expansion of the Ras Tanura facilities marked the transition from Casoc's frontier period into the postwar period of enormous production and enormous growth and enormous consequences. Appropriately, it followed close upon an official change of name. After January 31, 1944, they were no longer Casoc. They were the Arabian American Oil Company, syncopated in the lingo to Aramco."