After traveling 4,000 miles and touching only a small portion of our country, I am amazed at the variety of landscapes, lifestyles, and people in the United States. As we traveled the Interstates in Texas, the flatness of the land (not all of Texas is flat), the vastness of the sky, and the cloud formations contrasted with my view of the United States from the Northeast, with it’s mountains and valleys. Windmills and oil pump jacks are a common sight in West Texas, flat land spreading for miles, and the bowl of the sky stretching for miles overhead, reaching from distant horizon to distant horizon. I imagine the clouds look different only because the perspective is different.

Midland is located on the Permian Basin in West Texas – oil country. The discovery of oil in the 1920’s  changed Midland forever. What had been a small agricultural community has become a  spreading metropolis.

Our daughter and son-in-law took us to the Petroleum Museum, our country’s largest. Through it’s variety of exhibits, including some interactive ones, we learned a lot about the development of the oil industry and its effects on our way of life, from energy,  to household products, to medicines. Equipment that I had only read about and seen in pictures were on display. Drilling for and capturing oil is a difficult and dangerous industry.

In light of the recent explosion and subsequent human and environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the visit to the museum helped me to better understand what reporters and experts tried to tell us when they referred to certain equipment and the failure of safeguards that led up to the explosion.

Our time at the museum was time well-spent. No matter what one’s opinion of the oil industry, it  is difficult today to find someone in our country or the world who has not been impacted by the production and use of petroleum products. With an emphasis today on the development of green and renewable energy sources, we may one day find a better alternative.  In the meantime the oil producers should continue to emphasize using the best methods and safety precautions in producing petroleum for our use.