Prior to the invention of the modern petrochemical industry, whale oil was prized for illumination since it burned very cleanly in oil lamps. It was also used for lots of specialized lubrication applications such as clockworks and transmission gearboxes. In the US, whale oil was used until the signing of the 1972 Endangered Species Act.
More people should know about the Iran Iraq war, oil money leads to wars in so many ways.
An Iranian soldier looks out over the desert, darkened under clouds of burning oil set alight by Iraqi forces in 1990.
Werner Herzog made a great movie about these fires, Lessons of Darkness.