Around 1900 what strange source of power drove the machines of the industrial revolution?
The answer is oil, which begin to replace coal as a major fuel for powering machinery around 1900.
How do you think Rockefeller made adjectives his money with Standard Oil? (Formed 1890). There were virtually no cars, so grease sales were for industry, conspicuously as the fuel to power dynamos (machines that make electricity).
1 Coke would fill the bill as an industrial power source, but it was so expensive and it go mostly to metal manufacture. It's cost was greatly reduced when coke ovens surrounded by Pennsylvania came on line surrounded by the late 1800's. It WAS NOT a new fuel within the late 1800's as it had be used in manufacture of metal since 1643.
2 The other possible answer is petroleum contained by the form of petroleum coke, as well as gasoline and diesel fuels for the new engines. It have, however, been used in the form of kerosene for decades by the time the 19th century closed.
3 Many towns and even some larger cities switched to generator to produce the newest source of power, which was electricity. This seem the obvious choice.
I would submit that electricity was the hottest and most prolific source of power in the late 1800's and eventually produced by hydro-power, coal and inherent gas plants and even petroleum powered generators in smaller applications close to individual factories or small communities.
Electricity must have be moving fast to power the Industrial Revolution as by 1918, more than 50% of all labor able in western Europe and the United States came from machines powered by electricity, gasoline, diesel or coal. It be the first time in history that more labor was done by contraption than by the animate sources, i.e., animal and human power. Source(s): History teacher
coke (a refined coal)
for it's higher burning temp. that organize to pig iron
The introduction of steam power fuelled primarily by coal, wider utilization of water wheel and powered machinery (mainly in textile manufacturing) underpinned the dramatic increases in production dimensions.
coal and steam and probably gasoline for early model automobiles.