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Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil Paperback – August 10, 2010
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Question: You write about BP's problematic safety record in Crude World. Were you surprised by the Deepwater Horizon disaster?
Peter Maass: Unfortunately not. Within the past decade, BP has been responsible for disasters in other locations, such as an explosion at a Texas refinery that took 15 lives, as well as major spills from its pipelines in Alaska. Taking risks and cutting corners appear to be the norm. But BP succeeded in the domain that counts the most in any industry--it was highly profitable. Tony Hayward, the firm's chief executive, and John Browne, his predecessor, were highly regarded by their peers and their shareholders.
Question: What do you think of BP's response so far?
Peter Maass: It has been miserable, and predictably so. Due to its cost-cutting and its hubris, BP did not have an adequate response plan. Whether from mendacity or ineptitude, it underestimated the spill in the early days and refused to make public the video feeds it had of the underwater gusher (the government eventually forced it to share the video). But it's important to understand that BP is not a tremendous exception; blowouts and spills and secrecy are consistent features of oil extraction. Although a handful of companies are better-run than BP, a larger number are far worse.
Question: In Crude World you discuss major spills in Ecuador and Nigeria. How do you think the Deepwater Horizon spill will compare?
Peter Maass: It's unlikely the amount leaking into the Gulf of Mexico will come close to what's happened in Nigeria. For Nigeria, a drip-drip scenario over the course of decades has all but destroyed the Niger Delta wetlands. In Ecuador, spilled oil isn't the only problem because billions of gallons of toxic wastewater have been poured into rivers. We need to understand that oil extraction poses a range of hazards--including the burning of natural gas--and spills are just one.
Question: What initially got you interested in the story of oil?
Peter Maass: Much of my writing life involved wars, and oil was often mentioned. "It's all about oil," I was told. Or, "It's not about oil at all." Oil is central to our world, but what role does it play in violent conflicts and the divide between rich and poor? Some excellent books had been published, of course, but mainly for academic or expert readers. I had found my subject--a book that would explain in compelling ways what we do for oil and what oil does to us.
Question: What surprised you most as you were reporting the story?
Peter Maass: Oil, as the topic of a book, defied the norms of interrogation. It doesn't have a voice, body, army or dogma of its own. How do you coax secrets from a liquid? I had to travel around the world and talk to all sorts of people--oilmen, warlords, politicians, economists, geologists, environmentalists, sheikhs, lobbyists, and roughnecks. The subjects we discussed ranged from history to law, corruption, engineering, culture, psychology, and justice. I was journeying through an intellectual as much as a physical world.Question: What do you see as the most necessary change that needs to be made to begin to curtail the problems associated with oil?
Peter Maass: We need to curtail our appetite for oil. We need to understand--and I hope my book provides some help on this--that our dependence on oil harms the countries that produce it. Violence, poverty, corruption, pollution—these are linked to oil. The Deepwater Horizon disaster reminds us of what has been happening. We need to become more conservation-minded and efficient, and we need to develop renewable energy on a broad scale. For all of us, consumers and suppliers, it will be a long and painful process. But it can be done.
(Photo © Erinn Hartman)--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
Maass goes on to remind readers that world oil production is headed downhill. Most, if not all, OPEC members have exaggerated the size of their reserves to obtain the largest possible quota and revenue. Actual data is kept secret. Houston banker and oil professional Matthew Simmons, however, realized several years ago that credible data were in plain sight - papers presented at Society of Petroleum Engineers conferences. His meta-analysis (first published as "Twilight in the Desert") concluded that "Saudi Arabia clearly seems to be nearing or at its peak output." (Saudi Arabia has a claimed 264 billion barrels of oil reserves, almost 2X that of runner-up Iran; Alaska's ANWAR probably only has ten billion barrels).
Then its on to summaries of conditions in a variety of nations 'blessed' with some degree of oil riches. Equatorial Guinea, population 600,000 and reserves of several hundred million barrels, is first. The hospital Maass visited had no medicine, and there was no medical school to supply it with doctors. Despite billions in foreign investment, the local economy benefited little. For example, it's $1.5 billion natural gas facility was built by foreign workers living on site who sent their paychecks home. Even manual labor - digging ditches, etc., used flown-in foreign workers. Instead of buying cement from a local company that might not deliver on time, a small cement factory was built on site. Raw materials were imported.Read more ›
If we actually stop to think about it, our oil need is beyond an addiction, for if the will is there, a junkie can be weaned from his fix. Oil is more like the water a fish swims in, so familiar and so necessary, it's not even noticed. Or, as Peter Maass says in his outstanding book Crude World, oil is oxygen.
In the U.S., we consume 21 million barrels of oil a day, but we produce only about 9 million. The rest comes from other countries - many of which are not our friends, and are not democracies. It is this foreign supply of our daily fix that gets the bulk of Maass's scrutiny, and it's an eye-opener, to say the least, because oil has a paradoxical way of making the people who live in most countries that export it poorer, not richer; the oil curse, as it's called.
With their slick corporate PR campaigns (BP - "Beyond Petroleum") and unlimited lobbying budgets, the oil companies are able to project a high-tech, consumer-friendly image as benign providers of clean energy. That may be mostly true in the United States, with its advanced legal, political, and regulatory system. But what happens to these ostensibly fine corporate citizens when they can extract oil in poor third world countries?Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Mr. Maass is a very good writer and I would pick up another work by him, especially if it were more recent. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Irving Warner
Contrary to some of the naysayers on here, Maass did the legwork and research. This book takes us to some of the darkest places where the oil industry's rape of the earth and the... Read morePublished on May 20, 2014 by Sandahl
I found this book at my local bookshop at a very discounted price, so I bought it. I may be hard, but I read only 10 pages and the "peak oil" showed up. Read morePublished on July 30, 2013 by Peter Christensen
Maass does a great job explaining the Curse of Oil, the Paradox of Plenty, the Dutch Disease, or whatever name you want to call the effect of extractive industries on countries... Read morePublished on November 28, 2012 by Nona
I gave this book only four stars because I didn't think it quite delivered on what was promised. It did provide some information about future oil supplies but this was greatly... Read morePublished on July 27, 2012 by ALEXANDRIA PINEL
Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil by Peter Maass
"Crude World" is a topical book about the impact oil has had on those countries that produce it. Read more
Curiously this book starts out discussing the issue of how much oil is left, specifically in Saudi Arabia but then switches gears to document a whole series of cases studies in... Read morePublished on September 30, 2010 by Amazon Customer
The speed of the shipping was amazing and the book is in excellent shape! amazing job and i would like to make future purchases from this seller when i need more books.Published on September 11, 2010 by Rachel
well written, quite interesting read, definitively recommending to anyone interested. The only reason why I did not rate it 5 stars is the conclusion of the book - it seems a bit... Read morePublished on July 15, 2010 by spanatko