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The Eskimo and The Oil Man: The Battle at the Top of the World for America's Future Hardcover – May 15, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Bob Reiss captures the expanse, the challenge, and the potential of the changing Arctic, and the clear need for a bold national strategy to realize the promise of this extraordinary frontier.
Gary Roughead, Admiral, U.S. Navy (Retired) former Chief of Naval Operations

An on-the-ice view of the struggle over offshore oil exploration in Alaska.

With U.S. demand for oil skyrocketing, major petroleum companies believe the last huge undiscovered oil fields will be found north of the Arctic Circle beneath the sea. Out front in the search is Shell Oil Company, which plans to sink an exploratory well in the seabed off Alaska's North Slope this summer. In this brisk, revealing account, veteran author and journalist Reiss (Black Monday, 2007, etc.), a former correspondent for Outside magazine, tells the story of two men whose dealings are critical to the region's future. Pete Slaiby is the Shell employee charged with clearing the way for exploratory drilling. Edward Itta, an Inupiat Eskimo whaler and the Barrow-based mayor of the North Slope of Alaska, must protect his people's natural resources ("The ocean is our garden," he says) while ensuring that acceptable oil drilling generates much-needed tax revenue. Based on interviews with these men and others, the author describes the misunderstandings, suspicions and interactions between Slaiby and Itta in 2010 as they discussed plans that would transform a pristine region whose waters have sustained tribal cultures and subsistence hunting for many generations. Itta, concerned at first about the possibility of oil spills and that seismic work might scare off whales, helped build safeguards into Shell's drilling plans for 2011, which were eventually thwarted by U.S. agencies. While Russia and other nations have clear-cut policies on Arctic oil, the U.S. has long remained indecisive. With Itta working to convince environmental and other groups to hold off on further lawsuits to block Shell's exploration of its offshore leases, both he and Slaiby gradually became "uneasy allies" who recognized that their common enemy was a byzantine federal government mired in regulations and policies.

A rewarding glimpse behind the Alaska oil headlines.

--Kirkus Reviews



Despite the slightly deceptive title, Reiss offers a nuanced evaluation of the necessity of offshore drilling and ecological preservation. Tracing almost a year in the lives of Edward Itta, the Eskimo mayor of the North Slope of Alaska, and Pete Slaiby, a powerful Shell executive, the engrossing narrative depicts the struggle to reach a drilling decision that will benefit Shell while protecting the native Iñupiat community's way of life. In light of the 2010 BP oil spill, the North Slope community is especially wary of the detriments of offshore drilling. Meanwhile, Shell spends billions on leases and equipment only to find itself unable to drill year after year. Striking a balance that benefits both the community and the corporation requires outreach, education, understanding, and trust, as well as careful navigation of native culture to arrive at a sensitive medium. In his balanced portrayal of this quandary, Reiss suggests that the U.S. should learn from Norway and streamline the legislation for offshore regulation, as well as instituting tax reforms to better benefit the economy should a site prove prosperous. Further attention should be paid to the Arctic, Reiss (Black Monday) argues, because if the titular figures can find middle ground, then the government and citizens should be amenable as well.

--Publisher's Weekly


Reiss has taken a highly charged and divisive subject and gotten inside the lives and values of the principles with empathy and insight. "The Eskimo and The Oil Man" is a most illuminating contribution to issues that will become more important as new discoveries follow drilling offshore.

--William K. Reilly, co-chair of the Deepwater Horizon Commission, Chairman Emeritus of the World Wildlife Fund, former head of the EPA

About the Author

Bob Reiss is a New York based author and journalist, a former Chicago Tribune reporter and former correspondent for Outside Magazine. His work has also appeared in The Washington Post Magazine, Smithsonian, Parade, Rolling Stone and other national publications. Reiss has published 14 novels under both his own name and the pseudonym Ethan Black.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Business Plus (May 15, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1455525243
  • ISBN-13: 978-1455525249
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,006,733 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bob Reiss is a New York-based author and journalist, a former "Chicago Tribune" reporter, and former correspondent for Outside magazine. His work has also appeared in the "Washington Post Magazine," "Smithsonian," "Parade," "Rolling Stone," and other national publications.

For media inquiries about "The Eskimo and the Oil Man" please contact Nick Small at Grand Central Publishing (nick.small@hbgusa.com).

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By June A. Cook on July 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I have the Audible version of this book. The narration is outstanding. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a well-balanced view of the problems we face in the North. Bob Reiss presents a well-researched book detailing what Alaska and the United States will be facing in the near future. Living in interior Alaska for over 35 years, we have a fairly narrow view of the Northern lands. This book opened our eyes to the importance of our state in the near and far future ... politically, militarily and more. For Alaskans, this is scary. Bob Reiss presents the reader with both sides of a dilemma that has no perfect solution, though both sides, the elder native Alaskans and the oil companies, are working to do their best. The natives need the oil revenues desperately. Prudhoe Bay oil is drying up. The oil companies need a new, rich domestic source of oil. The solution lies beneath the shelf ice which is now melting north of the North Slope. The problem? The most promising oil fields are in the waters used by the natives for over 4000 years for their traditional whale hunts. Most people outside of Alaska (or Outside, as we call it up here) do not realize the importance of the whale hunts to the native existence. This book explains that, and more. It also gives a fantastic, detailed history of ice and all the different types of ice. Even the government goes to our natives to learn about ice. No one knows more. "The Eskimo and the Oil Man" explains what is resulting from climate change. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in our nation's future. It lies in the North.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Frederick S. Goethel VINE VOICE on September 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
To glance at this book's title, and to read the dust jacket, it would appear to be ostensibly about the conflict between the chief Shell Oil executive in Alaska and the Inupiat Eskimo leader of the North Slope Borough in northern Alaska. To be sure, there is a fair degree of conflict between these individuals which is documented in the book. However there is also a great deal of information that is extremely important to individuals interested in a national energy policy.

A number of factors detailed in the book were startling, to say the least. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a huge fan of drilling for oil in the Arctic. However, I am even less of a fan of sending our hard earned currency to foreign (and possibly hostile) countries. It is obvious that we will be utilizing fossil fuels for some time to come, and while I believe we need to find alternatives to fossil fuels, we also need to extract as much fossil fuel safely from within this country as possible.

I was fascinated to read that Inupiat Eskimos are in favor of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Drilling in ANWR is the subject of much debate in the lower 48 with a good deal of public in favor of not allowing drilling there. However, as the book points out, the natives see no point in failing to allow drilling in the refuge. There are hundreds of thousands of square miles of territory that is identical to that in the refuge, and the opinion of the natives is that we can drill there safely, and if necessary, move the refuge to another part of the North Slope that is of similar terrain.

Also startling was the lack of action in the U.S. Senate in ratifying the Laws of the Sea Treaty.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By M. L. Woodson on October 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book describes the conflict of interests facing Alaska's indigenous people as the oil industry and western civilization in general engulfs them. It also accurately describes the frustration of the oil industry in its efforts to explore for and develop the untapped oil and gas resources of the Arctic. It is well written an treats these complex issues in an even handed manner.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Andrea Alden-Glick on April 28, 2015
Format: Hardcover
The Eskimo and the Oil Man by Bob Reiss follows the stories of Edward Itta and Pete Slaiby as Shell tries to drill for offshore oil. Itta representing the native, Inupiat community, and Slaiby representing Shell Oil form an unlikely partnership. Itta is concerned about the ramifications of offshore drilling. He fears that it will be unsafe for the environment and wildlife, especially the bowhead whales, and consequently be detrimental to his family, community, and culture. At the same time, Itta realizes that the modern lifestyle and indoor heating and plumbing that his family enjoys were paid for by oil. Slaiby wants to drill offshore, but also wants to be safe and have good relations with the people who will have to live with the consequences of drilling. While Itta and Slaiby work together to find an arrangement that will meet both of their needs the Department of the Interior suspends offshore drilling, and ultimately delays Shell long enough that they are unable to move forward with their drilling plans.
This book also gives an overview of the resources available in the Arctic and the side effects of climate change. Because of climate change, the ice is thinning, the animal populations are declining, towns have to move, and a way of life that has been around for 4,000 years is being threatened. Also because of the climate change, resources are now available that have never before been accessible. It is now possible to locate and extract oil, gas, and minerals, and the possibility of a Northwest Passage is looming. The Eskimo and the Oil Man chronicles the challenges and rewards of working and living in Alaska, and brings to light the importance of cooperation and compromise. It is a great book that shows the social implications of climate change and oil drilling on the North Slope of Alaska.
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