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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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―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.
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.
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
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
My husband bought five copies of this book. He gave them to family and friends. The book was very well written and was full of information about Alaska that is very vital to all... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Granny
Such a fascinating book. The author isn't afraid to criticize the federal government, environmentalists, and oil companies. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Greg
Long story short: when ethics are in question, bureaucracy prevails. One of the many things I was astonished to learn was how inefficient the EPA truly was, and how little Congress... Read morePublished on May 12, 2014 by consumer
Fantastic! An objective and informative account of the doings in the Arctic. While there some needless sections of protracted biography and scenic description, Reiss efficiently... Read morePublished on June 2, 2013 by LVT06
I'm involved directly in Shell's Alaskan oil venture and that is the primary reason I bought this book. this book was only okay. Read morePublished on December 1, 2012 by Robby
Very good book. I will be donating this to our local library as soon as I am finished reading it.Published on August 7, 2012 by Judith Beaver