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The Secret World of Oil [Kindle Edition]

Ken Silverstein
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The oil industry provides the lifeblood of modern civilization, and bestselling books have been written about the industry and even individual companies in it, like ExxonMobil. But the modern oil industry is an amazingly shady meeting ground of fixers, gangsters, dictators, competing governments, and multinational corporations, and until now, no book has set out to tell the story of this largely hidden world.

The global fleet of some 11,000 tankers—that's tripled during the past decade—moves approximately 2 billion metric tons of oil annually. And every stage of the route, from discovery to consumption, is tainted by corruption and violence, even if little of that is visible to the public.

Based on trips to New York, Washington, Houston, London, Paris, Geneva, Phnom Penh, Dakar, Lagos, Baku, and Moscow, among other far-flung locals, The Secret World of Oil includes up-close portraits of a shadowy Baku-based trader; a high-flying London fixer; and an oil dictator's playboy son who has to choose one of his eleven luxury vehicles when he heads out to party in Los Angeles. Supported by funding from the prestigious Open Society, this is both an entertaining global travelogue and a major work of investigative reporting.


Editorial Reviews

Review

"Ken Silverstein is one of the best investigative journalists of his generation--or any generation. His latest book, "The Secret World of Oil," is a masterpiece of revelation. With a deft combination of detail and color, Silverstein exposes the darkest shade of crude: the fixers and middlemen who arrange the deals that provide us with the oil we need to keep our cars running and our homes warm. As Silverstein shows, these deals enrich the kleptocrats of our world and make life worse, rather than better, for their unfortunate subjects. It is a shameful and captivating tale about a pipeline of corruption that we must fix." --PETER MAASS, author of "Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil" "Much has been written about the oil industry, but Ken Silverstein provides an entirely new window into this vitally important universe. For the first time, we encounter the fixers, flacks, and traders behind the secretive deals that drive the industry and enrich its leading operators. After reading this book, you will never think about oil in the same way again." --MICHAEL KLARE, author of "The Race for What's Left: The Global Scramble for the World's Last Resources" "Ken Silverstein's sharp investigative reporting has again dragged a cast of shady operators into the public eye with his must-read book, "The Secret World of Oil" . Oil is the cause of so much pain in the world. As the fossil fuel industry tightens its grip on our warming planet, The Secret World of Oil names names, and exposes the brokers, lobbyists, and fixers who profit from the misery of millions and the accelerating pollution of the planet." --AMY GOODMAN, host and executive producer, " Democracy Now!" "Silverstein writes with keen reportorial objectivity but also understandable skepticism about...the frighteningly tyrannical hold that oil has on the free (and not-so-free) world. The book's revelations make Wall Street corruption seem tame by comparison."--"Kirkus Reviews" Praise for

About the Author

Ken Silverstein is a fellow of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University. He was a 2010-2012 Open Society Fellow. He served as Washington editor of Harper's magazine from 2006 to 2010. Previously on the staff of the Los Angeles Times, Silverstein has also written for Mother Jones, Wallpaper, Washington Monthly, the Nation, Slate, Salon, and many other publications.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1128 KB
  • Print Length: 289 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1781681376
  • Publisher: Verso; 1 edition (May 13, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00GQA288K
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #441,942 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The title of Ken Silverstein's new nonfiction book is The Secret World of Oil, but the chapters vary in how well they address aspects of the oil industry that are "secret." One area where he mostly succeeds is in his stories of the "fixers," important but little-known figures who serve as go-betweens for petroleum exploration companies interested in making deals with oil-producing countries (and the dictators who run them). These guys, the fixers, are a unique and often shady lot, but they serve a valuable and necessary function in the process.

It was my expectation that this book would reveal hidden industry practices relating to oil drilling, transportation, refining, and the like, but Silverstein focuses much more on the business side. (If I took a hint from the cover art, perhaps this wouldn't have been a surprise.) There are lawyers and lobbyists, traders and politicians. Sometimes the author strays fairly far from his main topic, as when he profiles Glencore, the world's largest commodities brokerage firm. They trade in all kinds of commodities, not just petroleum, but particularly zinc, copper, coal, and grain. Some chapters help us learn things that we already know, such as that dictators who run small Third World countries are usually in it for their own gain and not the betterment of their citizens.

The Secret World also has a "thrown together" kind of feel, as the author seems to just say, "OK, I'm done with that topic -- now onto another." Apart from their connection by the topic of the oil industry (and sometimes even that is missing), there's no clear overarching narrative.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Ayman
Format:Hardcover
If you care about the poor or the environment, be prepared to vomit in your mouth at nearly every other page of this account of the oil and other resource extraction industries.

Ken Silverstein devotes a chapter to each of the following categories of players in this woeful tragedy: the fixers, the dictators, the traders, the gatekeepers, the flacks, the lobbyists and the hustlers.

While varied dictatorial regimes from Africa and Asia figure throughout the novel, Silverstein profiled Teodorin Obiang, the heir apparent to Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the dictator of Equitorial Guinea.

Have you ever heard of Glencore? It makes mountains of money trading rights to exploit natural resources around the world.

Do you know George W Bush's torture consiglieri John Yoo (and here), who also happens to heartily approve of Barack Obama's warmongering? Before him there was Ronald Reagan's legal yes-man Bretton Sciaroni, who wrote memos explaining why it was legal for the United States government to aid the Contra terrorists killing Nicaraguans. Do these guys end up in prison or at the end of a noose like Nazi war criminals? Yoo is teaching at University of California - Berkeley, and Sciaroni, who talks with Silverstein without the slightest recognition of himself as a sleaze, is a potentate in Cambodia.

If you ever have the opportunity to throw your shoe at Tony Blair, do so with righteous anger. Before you read the chapter about him, you may want to have some inanimate object close by that you can destroy. At least write and perform a song about him.

Lest you think that resource extraction only impacts politics in the Third World, read the chapter on Louisiana. And think twice before voting for Bobby Jindal.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Recommend, with reservations August 7, 2014
Format:Hardcover
The secret world of oil will probably be just as secretive after you've read the book. It's an interesting enough book, in its own way, but the title is a little misleading. What the author does is profile five different individuals, one per chapter, who are players in the oil game, among other things. Some of them will probably be familiar, some not so much. One chapter is titled "The Traders: Glencore" and features the huge and secretive firm of Glencore, and some other companies, to a lesser degree. Another chapter is "The Lobbyists: Louisiana", which should be self-explanatory. The good news is that all of this is actually quite interesting, and I'm glad that I read the book, but a lot of this didn't have all that much to do with oil. The book was well-written and kept my interest. It just wasn't quite what I had expected, given the title, and the review that I read beforehand. If you have an interest in the oil industry and know a bit about it, this would be a good complementary book to read, but if you're looking for a straightforward, here's how the industry works, this is not it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars good information to know June 2, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Secret World of Oil is a non-fiction amalgam of chapters on the movers and shakers behind the scenes of the oil business. The reader learns that there is much more to the oil trade than just BP and Aramco. I felt, while reading this, that I would have appreciated it more had I already read Yergin's The Prize, for the basic outline of the petroleum industry. I also felt that the author occasionally used jargon unfamiliar to a novice on this topic like me. I did not find this the most compelling book; I could easily put it down, but as I plugged along, I learned a lot and found that, in a way, each chapter stood on its own. Came away with my bias against fossil fuels intact and even strengthened. The interplay between the oil industry and governments all over the world, and the immense amounts of money being made, combine to make environmentalists' efforts most difficult. Maybe fossil fuel divestment will start making a difference? I'm discouraged but hopeful.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
Boring writer
Published 3 months ago by Craig Grimm
5.0 out of 5 stars The reader will learn a lot
This book provides a peek behind the curtain at the business part of the oil industry, still a major part of the world's economy. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Paul Lappen
5.0 out of 5 stars Another book from Silverstein on how the world really works
This tome by Mr. Silverstein is a pretty quick read. It is written in smooth flowing journalese. He has a handful of endnotes at the end of the book though a great many of his... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Chris
4.0 out of 5 stars Opens eyes on what it takes to fill a tank with gas
If you have ever wondered why the U.S.supports leaders of countries whose ways of governing are totally alien to our sense of right and wrong, then this book will offer... Read more
Published 5 months ago by James L. Webster
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Good book
Published 6 months ago by Laszlo Daroczi
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Cast of Characters
This is an interesting book that appears to be well researched. Silverstein approaches the world of oil by selecting a handful of individuals to showcase the good, bad and ugly,... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Jerry Sanchez
5.0 out of 5 stars Silverstein Cracks the Trade!
Amazing! This is the real deal. Silverstein connects with the oil market makers throughout the globe in personal visits whether it is in Europe, Asia, South America, etc. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Richard
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Interesting, but not memorable
Published 9 months ago by james kobacker
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting except when it's not
Overall, this book was interesting, so that's why I'm giving it four stars. Still, it's sometimes a snooze-fest, definitely biased and the author has a weird habit of describing... Read more
Published 9 months ago by J-J-J-Jinx
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Book
The Secret World of Oil exposes the machinations of various oil traders and shady deal makers. If you’ve wondered how sanctions are busted or how all that money winds up in Swiss... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Walt
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