on October 15, 2010
Mr Parra guides the reader through the development of petroleum resources from the beginning of the 20th century to the present. From extensive research and his own lengthy experience in the industry, the author manages to construct a compelling narrative, focusing on the economics of the resource and the political consequences thereof in the context of global and regional power struggles. The author explains the early conflicts arising from western imperialism with the dominance of the international oil companies over oil production in 'backward' states. When these states took control of production new conflicts arose, notably between them and the consuming nations but also amongst themselves.
The detailed description of the political and economic strategies of each of the actors toward the myriad challenges faced does much to explain the related actions of each (especially the United States) throughout the cold war period and after 1990 with the large scale involvement the USA in the Middle East power play which continues to the present.
Despite the author's long involvement as an 'insider' in the oil industry (OPEC Secretary General), I believe a thoroughly objective account is given. The author is very much forthcoming with criticisms of OPEC infighting and what he saw as their blunders of strategic policy. This book certainly shattered my preexisting notions of OPEC as a single headed price-gouging beast with near total market control. The author also demonstrates the sometimes confused position of the United States toward energy supply and national security and shows the complicitude of that nation in keeping oil prices at "reasonable" (read: high) levels despite being the largest single consumer and net importer.
One criticism I make concerns the lack of a glossary. There is a table of acronyms but the author sometimes uses others not listed and uses words of importance which, in my opinion, really could do with being explained in context. Some more graphical figures relating to oil consumption, reserves, production and price and the national/corporate basis thereof would likely help the reader to better understand the forces at play here.