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Oil: Money, Politics, and Power in the 21st Century Hardcover – June 3, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 516 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; 1 edition (June 3, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446547980
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446547987
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #494,908 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this penetrating study of the modern petroleum industry, journalist and historian Bower (Outrageous Fortune) portrays the last 30 years as a time of both obscene profits and white-knuckle perils for the major oil companies. Having lost market share and pricing power to OPEC, government oil monopolies, and all-powerful commodities markets, Bowers contends, oil companies are locked in a desperate scramble for reserves, most of them located in unstable countries ruled by hostile potentates. He follows executives and engineers as they drill ever deeper under the sea for elusive deposits, brave Machiavellian negotiations with Vladimir Putin and the Russian oligarchs, and kowtow to Hugo Chavez for access to Venezuela™s fields. They weather oil spills, refinery explosions, antitrust regulators, and global warming activists. Bower wallows overmuch in boardroom soap opera, but his analysis of the industry and its shocking price swings is a persuasive one that eschews conspiracy theories and peak oil alarmism to focus on rising demand for reserves that are plentiful but hard to get at. The result is an illuminating look at a business whose real workings are more interesting than the mythology surrounding them.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"Sweeping in scope and densely detailed...a rare and highly illuminating global perspective on the industry over the last two decades."—The New York Times

"In this penetrating study of the modern petroleum industry, journalist and historian Bower) portrays the last 30 years as a time of both obscene profits and white-knuckle perils for the major oil companies.....his analysis of the industry and its shocking price swings is a persuasive one that eschews conspiracy theories and peak oil alarmism to focus on rising demand for reserves that are plentiful but hard to get at. The result is an illuminating look at a business whose real workings are more interesting than the mythology surrounding them."—Publishers Weekly

"Oil couldn't be a hotter or messier topic, making Bower's sprawling exploration of its modern history - told through the perspectives of engineers, traders, an oligarch and industry players such as BP's John Browne and Exxon's Lee Raymond- all the more timely."—USA Today

"[Bower's book is] ominous, even prescient, in what it says about BP's past practices."—LA Times

"With one of the worst environmental disasters in American history now troubling the waters and coastline of the Gulf of Mexico, this monumental history of the oil industry during the past two decades has much more relevance...This exhaustively researched and well-written volume covers the whole waterfront of major oil companies, the people who run them, the roles of politicians and governments in chasing oil, the traders who have yo-yoed its price, the wars that have been fueled by competition for it and the role it continues to play in regional and global instability."—Fort Worth Star Telegram

"Investigative journalist Tom Bower has used the same narrative approach as Sampson [The Seven Sisters] and Yergin [The Prize] to bring the industry's story forward from the 1980s to the present day, and his book bears comparison with theirs . . . the reader is ushered into a front-row seat, and what follows is often gripping. However fast-paced, Bower cleverly keeps the action in focus . . . [he] builds up a brilliant picture . . . [and] achieves impressively seamless continuity."—The Times Literary Supplement (London)

"A roller-coaster account . . . [Bower] has a real sense of the drama of deal-making and deal-breaking, of keeping vast corporations afloat in conditions that are rarely stable."—Telegraph (UK)

"Bower gets the big strategic judgments right."—The Sunday Times (London)

"A gripping and convincing account of the turbulent story of the global oil industry . . . the events he covers are scarcely less dramatic than those described in The Prize, including the ascent of the oil price to record highs. Bower's book has the advantage of being scorchingly topical . . . provides the fascinating story behind the headlines . . . a first-rate account of where the oil industry is now, and some useful pointers as to where it is going."—Financial Times (UK)

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Customer Reviews

I've written a blog post at Huffington Post and I have recorded a podcast - all can be found via my blog.
Michael Martin
He provides a good overview of a number of the key players, and anyone impacted by the oil industry (in other words, all of us) would do well to read this book.
HDIAndrew
It's relevant, useful data, but it has no context, either in the place where it's presented or in the book as a whole.
Brad MacKenzie

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By M. Sessions on July 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was advertised as a sequel to the Prize by Daniel Yurgin and that is what I expected. However it is really quite a different read and lacks the big historical perspective of the Prize. The information contained in the book on the actions and thinking of the modern (post 1990) oil companies is very revealing however and provides unusual insights about them over the past 20 or so years. Those views are very helpful in understanding a number of moves made by the various companies lately. I found their adventures into post Soviet Russia very instructive. The author seems to have had very good connections into BP (as well as most of the others) which are helpful in understanding the recent turmoil surrounding that company's problems. I also found the descriptions of international oil trading useful in understanding much of the volatile price moves in oil over the past decades. The style of the book causes one to repeat going through various time lines, but the details conveyed were worth it. This is a must read for anyone interested in gaining a better insight into how the modern oil industry works and reflects the investigative journalism approach of the author. Excellent details on the various leaders of the companies too.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Brad MacKenzie on May 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover
While the full history would be essential reading, this book doesn't give the full history. The book's billing as an update on Yergin's epic, "The Prize", does discredit to Yergin. Bower is good at getting interviews, and is able to do adequate research, but he's a poor writer. He apologizes for himself, saying he's just "telling the story", but even if he aspires to nothing more than a soap opera presentation, it's a story that is just not that well-told. Frankly, the story is worth telling well, and Bower isn't really up to it.

He leaves little suspenseful sentences dangling all over, and never goes back to explain them or tie them into the narrative. He dumps data and information at odd moments. It's relevant, useful data, but it has no context, either in the place where it's presented or in the book as a whole.

Yes, now we know some anecdotes and episodes from "the next 20 years" (post-Yergin, and "The Seven Sisters" before that), but we really don't gain a cohesive view of the entire playing field, or the oil majors' role in the 21st-century world industry. I feel like he got terrific access to industry professionals in exchange for soft-pedaling the stories that those professionals were willing to tell, more or less the way they wanted the stories told.

I'm not willing to let him off the hook, as others have, by saying, "it's a complicated industry". No duh. That's why we're buying the book: to unravel the complications and get a better view, both from the macro-, 10,000-foot level, and the micro-, inside the board room, level. And we don't. We get glimpses, but not insight.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Michael Martin on August 8, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Tom Bower's new book is the best book on crude oil that I've ever read. Crude oil is a very complicated business. It is about 180 degrees out of phase with the simplicity of e-commerce.

Bower spoke with more than 250 industry professionals, politicians, and analysts over an 18 month period of time in order to complete this book. IMHO, I think academics and Liberals will learn the most from this book. It is written as the definitive history of crude oil - and it's backed up by facts. Not make believe facts or Michael Moore Facts either, but real facts, that in the end provide readers with a well-rounded understanding of America's addiction to crude oil and how we got here.

I've written a blog post at Huffington Post and I have recorded a podcast - all can be found via my blog.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've read a bunch of books on oil and the global energy complex, and this book is by far one of the best. In my opinion I think it ranks up there with Dan Yergin's "the Prize." Another great book was "Titan," by Ron Chernow. "Seven Sisters," was also good. Sorry Mr. Yergin, but "the Quest," was no where near as good as your big title. It was good, but not outstanding. That's a review for another day, although I very much respect his effort to interview and collect all of the data. It had to be a massive undertaking to do so, but the last half of the book felt really rushed and compressed.

"Oil," did a fantastic job illuminating the past 15 or so years of the global oil market. It covered the majors and all of the key characters and events over that time period. Really helped bring me up to speed on the geopolitical situation as well, and from that I have much greater insight. I could give it a ten page review, but thats overkill. Go ahead and buy it - its well worth the read.
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By Amazon Customer on August 29, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
there is no head and tail in this book.. readers are made to start and somewhere and forever transported to different times all over the book..no detail explanation is given for any particular event as such... too much economical usage of terms which makes it ponderous for oridnary readers to read.... the depth and clout of the big oil companies is difficult to comprehend because of lack of depth or too much difficult scenarios put in a haphazard manner...
wanted to know how the oil business is run but due to the complexity of the book had to stop midway..
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