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The Tyranny of Oil: The World's Most Powerful Industry--and What We Must Do to Stop It Hardcover – October 7, 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this thorough, readable takedown of Big Oil, the most profitable industry in the world, Juhasz (The Bush Agenda) exposes the ways in which a half dozen oil companies have achieved control over American families and U.S. politics, triggering environmental and humanitarian catastrophes they have no intention of resolving. Within 10 years of Standard Oil's founding in 1870, John D. Rockefeller monopolized the refining, marketing and output of U.S. oil; ever since 1890's Sherman Antitrust Act split the company into small constituent parts, oil players have scrambled to evade regulation, regather into ever-larger corporations and regain the ability to set prices and control output. Debunking industry claims over recent oil price escalation, Juhasz exposes how Big Oil has used techniques like speculative futures markets and the "Enron Loophole"--along with massive operations opacity--to reap record profits year after year while growing their political influence; indeed, Juhasz locates the current "oiligarchy" making "the most pressing decisions of our time" from inside George W. Bush's White House, crafting policy and advocating war. Calling for a "Separation of Oil and State," this excellent, wide-ranging study of disastrous monopoly capitalism should shake up notions that major energy players are interested in any alternative to more oil, money and power.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Juhasz is a leading activist and expert on international trade and the author of The Bush Agenda (2006). Her indictment of Big Oil traces its anticompetitive roots back to the founding of Standard Oil by John D. Rockefeller in the late 1800s. Standard Oil was broken up by the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, and the majority of the today’s well-known oil companies are its descendants, which have merged into giants once again. Juhasz shows how these corporate interests wield power in Washington, influence the energy-futures markets, deny global climate change, and obstruct the development of alternative fuels. George W. Bush received more financial support from the oil and gas industry than any candidate in history and named more than 30 energy-industry executives to key positions in his administration. As a result, the oil companies have received access to national lands to drill for oil, billions in corporate welfare, and the easing of environmental regulations. Juhasz advocates a course to reduce Big Oil’s stranglehold on our government and create an energy policy that would reduce consumption of fossil fuels and promote greener alternatives. --David Siegfried

Taking on Goliath
Read an introduction to The Tyranny of Oil, the hard-hitting exposé of the oil industry by Antonia Juhasz. [PDF]

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; First Edition first Printing edition (October 7, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061434507
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061434501
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #867,766 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback

Actually, I COULD have rated this book 5 stars because Juhasz has written an excellent review of the history and current status of the oil industry.

Insightful, and lucid, she presents a compelling case against 'Big Oil'. And she reminds us (repeatedly) that anti-monopoly regulations are less about the ability to control prices and MOSTLY about keeping political power out of the hands of a few monopolists who will pay to continue to make as much money as possible, damn the external impacts. Perhaps the Supreme Court justices should have been made aware of this minor fact when the voted to permit unlimited corporate spending on political TV ads a few months back. Frighteningly stupid IMO.

So why didn't I rate it 5 stars?

Because her solutions revolved around the implied assumption that if we limit Big Oil's ability to provide this (currently) vital commodity, we will reduce our CONSUMPTION of oil. Not true. WE THE PEOPLE are a major contributor to the problem. We have the power to DEMAND alternatives that don't use oil, but we don't. Bashing Big Oil is nice (and rarely incorrect), but we need to look in the mirror and ask if we've really TRIED to demand something other than the STATUS QUO. Thought not.
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Format: Hardcover
Four and a half ENGROSSING Stars!!! Everyone should read this book if you want to get the real story of oil in the USA and around the world! Investigative author Antonia Juhasz has produced an extensive, sobering study of the oil industry with all of its historical implications, background stories, and relevance to today's problems. In 2007, according to Ms Juhasz, the oil industry was "far and away the most profitable industry in the world", even considering Wal-Mart's burgeoning sales. This book is full of cases that range from the very first US oil gusher, to the birth of "Big Oil", expansionism, the countering Progressive and Populist Movements, oil wars, political scandals, illegalities, manipulations, and the negative impact on the environment, the author points to the long-lasting effects on the world and our lives. She is not in favor of just summarily shutting down the oil industry, but she has some unique ideas of what to do with it. She covers a wide range of additional oil matters from the preeminence of Standard Oil, antitrust laws like the Sherman Antitrust Act, the Federal Trade Commission, the Teapot Dome Scandal, foreign oil companies, lobbyists, ICE energy futures traders, alleged market manipulation, the different types of oil drilling, and how we arrived at the current situation. Of special interest is the 1911 breakup of Standard Oil which was such a huge monopoly that it had to be split into 34 separate companies and also of special interest are the sections on the oil implications of the Iraqi War and Iran which are highly informative. The author 'pulls no political punches' as she describes the Reagan administration's initiation of the dismantling of anti-trust legislation, how the Clinton administration let the "Enron loophole" slip through and how the Clinton and George W.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
This timely tome is the best current overview of the oil industry out there, and the most ambitious examination of Big Oil since Daniel Yergin's "The Prize." I found it to be a lot more incisive than Yergin (who as an industry consultant, was reluctant to expose his clients' worst crimes, except as aberrations), since it is a more critical examination of the industry (in the tradition of the author's muckraker hero, Ida Tarbell, who she introduces early on), while being clearly written and amply referenced.

What results is a sweeping examination of virtually all the big controversies related to the oil industry -- from the recent history of weak antitrust policies to Peak Oil to Iraq and the relationship between Big Oil and the military -- to global warming. Given the volatility of oil and gas prices, the explanation of how the industry is structured and how futures markets work are particularly useful.

We are also introduced to people who suffer the immediate impacts of oil industry development -- from a poor African-American community downwind from Chevron's giant Richmond, CA refinery to Nigeria (where Chevron helicoptered in security forces that opened fire on nonviolent protesters) to Ecuador (where the company is being sued for dumping ten times more oil in a pristine area of the Amazon than was spilled by the Exxon Valdez).

The suggestions at the end of the book are bold but grounded in solid policy frameworks -- proposals that the post-oiligarchy administration will heed if they don't want to mere cosmetic and incremental reforms.

In sum, if you want one book that explains the key facts about the oil industry as well as the policies necessary to curb the threats it poses to democracy and our survival, read this book.
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Format: Paperback
This book is an accessible read though the author does bombard the reader with a large amount of statistics and examples.

As to the high gas and oil prices in recent years, one reason given in this book is the mega-mergers among oil companies that the Federal Trade Commission has allowed to go through. Independent refineries and gas stations have largely evaporated. The oil companies operate as an oligopoly and face no serious competition; this helps greatly in their ability to raise prices. Then there is the issue of supply. Juhasz quotes a 2002 Senate Subcommittee on Investigations report and a Rand Corporation report that oil companies have made conscious efforts to reduce the supply of oil and gas in order to increase profits. The oil companies have not built new refineries since the 70's and have closed 50,000 gas stations in the last several decades. This method of dealing with the chronically low gas and oil prices of the 80's and 90's contributed to dramatic spikes in those prices in the 2000's. Adequate supply has been available in storage but oil companies want to drive up prices. Juhasz quotes the BP Statistical Review of Energy as stating that from 2003 to 2007, the annual world supply of oil exceeded demand by 15 to 50 million tons. She quotes a 2005 statement by energy expert Kyle Cooper of Citigroup to the effect that supply and demand had nothing to do with high oil prices at the time because supply of oil greatly exceeded demand. According to Juhasz, while the supply of oil in the US increased after 2001, the amount of oil refined into gasoline by the oil companies had declined significantly as of 2008.

According to Juhasz, another major contribution to oil and gas price spikes is futures market speculators.
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