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The Tyranny of Oil: The World's Most Powerful Industry--And What We Must Do to Stop Itby Antonia Juhasz
Synopses & Reviews
Why are oil and gas prices so high?
Who's really controlling those prices?
How much oil is left?
How far will Big Oil go to get it?
And at what cost to the environment, human rights, the economy, worker safety, public health, and democracy?
The answers aren't what you think. They're much worse. But there's also plenty that we can do about it.
As oil prices — and public outrage — skyrocket, Antonia Juhasz, a leading industry critic and expert on corporations and globalization, gives us the hardest-hitting expose of the oil industry in decades. In The Tyranny of Oil she investigates the true state of the U.S. oil industry — uncovering its virtually unparalleled global power, influence over our elected officials, and lack of regulatory oversight, as well as the truth behind $150-a-barrel oil, $4.50-a-gallon gasoline, and the highest profit in corporate history. Exposing an industry that thrives on secrecy, Juhasz shows how Big Oil manages to hide its business dealings from policy makers, legislators, and, most of all, consumers. She reveals exactly how Big Oil gets what it wants — through money, influence, and lies.
The Tyranny of Oil offers both a new take on problems and a new set of solutions as Juhasz puts forward an immediate call to action — a formula for reining in the industry, its governmental lobbying power, environmental destruction, and violence while reducing global dependence on oil. Her thought-provoking answers to the most pressing energy questions speak directly to readers concerned about oil and gas prices, global warming, wars for oil, and America's place in the world. With the major players in the world's most powerful industry charged with collusion, price-gouging, anticompetitive behavior, and unabashed greed, Juhasz calls boldly for the breakup of Big Oil.
Drawing on considerable historical research, Juhasz explores the parallels between today's companies and Standard Oil, the most powerful corporation of the early twentieth century, whose stranglehold on the economy and government was broken only by the vision and persistence of activists and like-minded politicians. We are in a similar position today, she argues, with powerful opportunities available for ordinary Americans to come together, reclaim their voices, and shore up our nation's crumbling democratic foundation.
A tool for meaningful change that blends history, original investigative research and reporting, candid interviews with key insiders, and a unique focus on activism, The Tyranny of Oil is required reading for every concerned global citizen.
"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." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Big Oil — the half-dozen biggest publicly traded energy producers on Earth — has spent more than a century ravaging the planet. War, pollution and human rights abuses have followed where ExxonMobil, Chevron and BP have gone. The companies are all-powerful when they choose to be, and with the aim of remaining so, are working to block technology that would benefit all of mankind: clean energy. Lest... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) their abominable behavior go on, a "people's movement" must arise to end their reign. So argues Antonia Juhasz in her new book, "The Tyranny of Oil," a well-written but critically flawed account of gigantic oil companies. Its problems include a theme of oil company omnipotence that is at least two decades out of date. This full-throated denunciation is so often inaccurate that, even if the companies are as powerfully diabolic as Juhasz claims, she ends up gravely undermining her point. Ultimately, the book is unfair: Juhasz quotes no one from the industry in its defense, claiming unconvincingly that no one would speak with her; meanwhile, those harboring grievances are provided a hearing throughout the book. The result is a cartoonish work resembling a partisan blog. It's a pity, because given the political climate, a fact-driven investigative account of how the world got into its current energy predicament, and how we can extricate ourselves, would be extremely welcome. And if one puts stock in polls, it would probably bother few Americans if that account happened to skewer one or more of the big oil companies. That is the goal that Juhasz sets for herself. In her acknowledgments, she says she was inspired by Ida Tarbell, author of the classic "History of the Standard Oil Co.," a 1904 investigative takedown of John D. Rockefeller and his company. An unabashed activist, Tarbell was also a superlatively meticulous researcher who quoted Standard insiders at length. By contrast, Juhasz bases almost the entirety of this 400-page text on the work of others. For example, she lifts colorful descriptions of the trading floor, the pipeline hub of Cushing, Okla., and anti-Big Oil demonstrations from newspaper articles, a method that appears lazy in a book on contemporary events. Juhasz introduces reason after reason for being angry about Big Oil, before dismissing almost all in turn. She raises the specter of Big Oil's dominance, targeting it as a primary villain in our lives, the theme of countless books over the decades. The trouble, as she correctly notes after setting up this theme, is that Big Oil now "faces the greatest threat to its existence" because the countries possessing most of the world's oil — Venezuela, Russia, Persian Gulf nations — are shutting themselves off to foreign oil companies. She documents Big Oil's influence on crude oil prices, only to note that the primary impact now comes from commodity traders (she does not point out that hedge and investment funds, not Big Oil's own traders, have been largely behind the speculative run-up to $147-a-barrel oil and its more recent plunge below $70 a barrel). Juhasz finally switches targets again, and blames Big Oil's refining and marketing divisions for gasoline prices. She is also unhappy with Big Oil's big spending for political influence. Her conclusion? "Big Oil is deeply committed to remaining Big Oil and is putting all its considerable resources behind this effort." You don't say. Juhasz needs a fact-checker. To point out just three errors: Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV is from West Virginia, not Virginia; World War I was not an "oil war" any more than was World War II or the Vietnam War, except in the obvious sense that you need oil to win a war; and the Nobel brothers and Shell did not increase Soviet oil production in the 1920s, since the oil properties of both companies had been appropriated by then. Then there are the whoppers. In one melodramatic passage, Juhasz describes the 1991 film "Terminator 2" — the scene where a cyborg is blown to bits but reconstitutes itself like droplets of mercury — to illustrate her overall contention that Big Oil is a restoration of Standard Oil, and so like its predecessor must be broken up. This is a mighty stretch. ExxonMobil, Chevron and ConocoPhillips are children of Standard. But Shell merely bought the motor oil department of Pennzoil after Pennzoil spun off its production and exploration divisions to Devon Energy. And refiner Valero simply bought an Exxon refinery and retail distribution chain. This is not Rockefeller's Standard Oil, nor have the "spawn" of Standard, as Juhasz irritatingly and repeatedly refers to the companies, reconstituted anything resembling the monopoly power enjoyed by him or by Big Oil as it was until two decades ago. The book has its merits. Finished before the current financial meltdown, Juhasz's book presciently criticizes the weak oversight of the oil futures market. In the end, however, the book is looking desperately for a villain. One hopes that in her next book, Juhasz collects the facts to find one. Reviewed by Steve LeVine, who covers foreign affairs for Business Week. He is the author of 'The Oil and the Glory: The Pursuit of Empire and Fortune on the Caspian Sea.', Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"[T]his white-hot polemic explores many of the industry's complex and secret practices, including zone pricing, which sets wholesale and company-owned gas-station prices according to geographic zones." Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Antonia Juhasz is a leading oil industry, international trade, and finance policy expert and the author of The Bush Agenda. A fellow with Oil Change International and the Institute for Policy Studies, she has served as an aide to two members of Congress and holds a master's degree in public policy from Georgetown University. Juhasz is an award-winning writer and frequent media commentator and her work has been featured in dozens of publications, including the New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Los Angeles Times, and Petroleum Review Magazine, as well as Alternet.org. She has appeared on Kudlow & Company, National Public Radio's Diane Rehm Show and Marketplace, Washington Journal, Hannity & Colmes, and Democracy Now!, among many other shows. She lives in San Francisco, California.
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