Like most other natural resources extracted from the surface of the Earth, it was probably considered non-renewable for a long time. Petroleum was used as much as 4,000 years ago. You could be sure that if a source of it was found to be used up after the oil was extracted and not get restored over time, non-renewability is implied.
On the other hand, the discovery that oil is formed organic matter of organisms who died millions of years ago is rather modern. Although this theory existed before, it’s confirmation is attributed to Alfred E. Treibs, a German organic chemist who noticed similarities between molecules found in oil and in living organisms in the 1930’s.
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