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Oil: A Concise Guide to the Most Important Product on Earth

Oil: A Concise Guide to the Most Important Product on Earth [Kindle Edition]

Matthew Yeomans
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Product Description

Matthew Yeomans begins his investigation into the role of oil in America by trying to spend a day without oil—only to stumble before exiting the bathroom (petroleum products play a role in shampoo, shaving cream, deodorant, and contact lenses). When Oil was published in cloth last year, it was quickly recognized as the wittiest and most accessible guide to the product that drives the U.S. economy and undergirds global conflict. The book sparked reviews and editorials across the country from the Wall Street Journal, the Christian Science Monitor, and The Nation to Newsday , the San Francisco Chronicle, Wired and others. Author Michael Klare (Blood and Oil) called it “a clear, comprehensive overview of the U.S. oil industry . . . in one compact and highly readable volume,” and Boldtype praised Yeomans’s “crisp journalistic voice. . . . Understanding the business of oil is essential in any modern dialog of power, politics, or the almighty buck, and Yeomans delivers a well-researched and gripping read.”

Illustrated with maps and graphics—and now with an all-new afterword—Oil contains a brief history of gasoline, an analysis of the American consumer’s love affair with the automobile, and a political anatomy of the global oil industry, including its troubled relationship with oil-rich but democracy-poor countries.


Matthew Yeomans begins his investigation into the role of oil in our lives by trying to spend a day without oil - only to stumble before exiting the bathroom (petroleum products play a role in shampoo, shaving cream, deodorant, and contact lenses). When Oil was published in hardback last year, it was quickly recognised as the wittiest and most accessible guide to the product that drives the US economy and under girds global conflict. The book sparked editorials and reviews across the country - The Sunday Times review described Oil as "a cracking good Yeomans traces the oil industry's contributions to the history of the 20th century." Illustrated with maps and graphics - and now with a new afterword - Oil contains a brief history of petrol, and analysis of the American consumer's love-affair with the car, and a political anatomy of the global oil industry, including its troubled relationship with oil-rich by democracy-poor countries.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 732 KB
  • Print Length: 288 pages
  • Publisher: New Press, The (13 Mar 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #570,003 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Now I understand oil. 22 Dec 2010
A thorough yet concise history of the world and its relationship with oil. I would recommend this to anybody interested in the history and/or politics of the oil industry.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a great guide to the big questions 25 Feb 2008
Matthew Yeomans has divided his guide to oil into topics. He starts with a brief and informative history, and then goes on to explore car culture, human rights, the stock trading of oil, and a number of other key issues.

Topics are well chosen, and well researched. The background on the Bush family and on the Iraq war are very good. Less convincing is his optimistic championing of the hydrogen economy. The jury really is still out on whether or not hydrogen can ever really compare to the riches of cheap oil.

But, if you're looking for the key facts on the most important questions - why oil companies have a bad human rights record, why we go to war for oil, why prices fluctuate in the global market - this is a great summary.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A book on oil that's a page turner? 19 May 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Strange. I couldn't put it down. An excellent break neck speed summary ofthe history of the oil industry, from the point of view of both demand and supply. The last 1/3 book looses focus a little on the exploration of renewables which is now (2011) a little out of date, but still a great read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.0 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Editorial distracts from facts 20 Jun 2011
By Aaron Desatnik - Published on
I agree with Tanya. I found that this book offers a lot of useful information, but of which is effectively hidden from the American public. But the book would have been much more effective had it not be so editorialized and had it allowed the reader to "decide for themselves" what they think about the oil industry.

I can somewhat forgive the author for the conclusion that the hydrogen fuel cells offer a lot of potential, given that the book was written in 2004. However, given the sizable barriers that the author cites and the fact that plug-in electric cars were not mentioned at all, I wanted to see some real data to support this case. Such data was nonexistent.

All told, I don't think this is the best primer on the industry regardless of your political stance. I found "The Rough Guide to the Energy Crisis" much more fact-driven, though broader in scope. There are a number of other books on the topic and I encourage you to look elsewhere before reading this book.
1.0 out of 5 stars Way better options out there 29 Oct 2009
By Tanya C - Published on
I'm specifically writing my first Amazon book review because I just finished this book and it annoyed me so much. I think the topic is incredibly relevant and interesting, but Yeoman basically seems to regurgitate many other books and articles. He says himself that the history chapter is largely pulled from "The Prize" (Daniel Yergin). I know that Yergin's book is not quite light reading, but it does much more justice to the complex social and political history of oil. John Ghadvizian's (sp?) recent book "Untapped" is also much better, especially to understand more about Africa.

Then, moving from rehashing, Yeoman goes into editorializing for the second half of the book, in a way that seems just as thoughtless, only more cliched. The book is clearly anti-W, and I definitely don't disagree with the effect that administration has had on our global reputation and energy policy (domestic and international), but he beats us over the head with his opinion instead of presenting the data for itself. Last, he preaches hydrogen as a saving promise. I believe that we'll need a diverse set of options to wean our current dependence on oil for transportation, and fuel cells may have a place in that, but he seems to just fall into the hype. [...]

Last, for some reason it just annoys me that he re-titled the book a couple years after the first print (it was originally called "Oil: Anatomy of an Industry"). Yes, this may now be called the "concise guide", but it does a disservice to anyone who really wants to understand this critical element of our society better.
2.0 out of 5 stars Very Biased View of the Petroleum Industry 18 Oct 2009
By E. Mickelson - Published on
If you hated the George W. Bush administration and believe that CO2 emissions are rapidly accelerating us towards an apocalyptic fate, then you'll probably like this book. Yeomans takes opportunity to malign the former president and various members of his administration. There is not a single footnote in the entire book, and the chapter on "Exploration or Exploitation?" is terribly one-sided. The sourcing notes at the end of the book list the Village Voice, the Center for Social and Economic Rights, Rainforest Action Network, and Global Witness as the primary sources of information for describing Texaco's involvement in Ecuador. No lack of objectivity there. While the scientific community does generally accept CO2-based global warming scenarios, the extent of CO2's effect is still subject to debate (water vapor accounts for most of the "greenhouse effect"). The fact is, the environmental organizations Yeomans is so friendly with have just as much of an agenda as the automotive and petroleum industries do. Without an environmental crisis, they become irrelevant. I give it 2 stars (instead of 1) only because it was relatively well-written and probably could find use as "informative literature" for dissemination by the environmental rights movement.
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Primer on "The Most Important Product on Earth" 28 May 2009
By Robert Carlberg - Published on
The preface to "Oil" describes the author's thought experiment of what it would be like to go a day without petroleum products. Naturally there would no fuel or lubricants, for cars or any other type of machinery -- but there would also be no plastics (oops, there goes the computer and telephone). There would be no reading glasses or contact lenses. Most of the medicines in his cabinet would be gone. No shampoo, shaving cream or deodorant, and no curtain around his shower. No toothpaste ... or toothbrush. No non-stick cookware, oven-proof glassware or plastic dishes. No waterproof clothing or shoes (unless they have leather soles).

There would be no heat in the winter. No harvesting of crops without machinery, fertilizers or pesticides. Credit and debit cards, being plastic of course, are gone. CDs and DVDs disappear, as well anything to play them on, because there are no electronic circuit boards.

Very quickly you realize why Yeomans calls oil "the most important product on earth" -- it has not only fueled the Industrial Revolution, it *IS* the Industrial Revolution. Without oil, the world very quickly plunges into a wood, iron and stone economy not seen since the Middle Ages.

In Chapter 1 Yeomans gives "a short history of oil," from its discovery as a fuel to the mechanization of its extraction and refinement. How World War I was made more lethal (over 16 million dead!) through tanks and troop carriers. How the Allied powers divided up the oil-producing regions after the war in order to protect their own newfound dependence on the stuff.

One of Yeomans' great talents is revealing the hidden oil-related motives in history. Pearl Harbor was Japan's bid to control Indochinese oil fields. Hitler's expansion was to ensure energy resources. Who has oil, and who controls its production, has truly shaped the 20th Century.

Chapter 2 describes the automobile culture that arose out of cheap gas, with interstate highways, a mobile workforce, and sprawling suburbs. Detroit and the oil giants encouraged excess, and American consumers love their inefficient chrome land yachts.

Chapter 3 describes the machinations that have caused (and are still causing) regime change and political turmoil as oil companies set foreign policy and install businessmen to run the lucrative franchises known as "other nations."

The 4th chapter introduces the concept of "peak oil" and discusses the economics of the end of high-grade light crude in easily-drilled areas.

Chapter 5, entitled "Energy Wars," describes the inevitable results of the major developed and developing nations competing for the rapidly dwindling reserves.

The last three chapters are less timeless, written in 2003-4 and describing the now-familiar Bush Administration policies and mistakes. But they're still extremely clear-headed, factual, concise and irrefutable, and together with the rest of the book paint a very solemn portrait of the legacy we're leaving our children.

A legacy of unsustainable growth built on an artificially-discounted, temporarily-available, non-renewable resource. When it's gone how much of our civilization will survive -- and at what cost?
5.0 out of 5 stars So You Want to Know About Oil... 3 April 2006
By Alex - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Over the course of my life I've had limited exposure to knowledge about oil - I see gas prices daily, I occasionally pay attention to news stories that feature oil prominently, and I read the protest banners that exclaim "no blood for oil" (which I always found to be a rather silly slogan). End all be all, I didn't know Jack about oil until I read this book.

The book starts with a history of oil discovery (Chapter 1). Usually such histories are incredibly boring in my opinion, but Yeomans does a great job keeping the reader interested (partially by moving pretty quickly, rather than dwelling on arcane and ultimately irrelevant historical analysis). Chapters 2-7 deal with different policy topics that are predominantly oil oriented: cars in America, human rights and environmental issues in oil exploration, oil prices and scarcity, oil wars, President Bush's association with the oil industry, and CAFE (a piece of emissions standards legislation). The book then ends (Chapter 8) with a brief discussion of hydrogen as an emerging alternative and an afterward on the rising importance of China. From what I know of oil discussions in general, these chapters introduce most of the important elements of the general discussion of oil; reading this book made me feel prepared to discuss oil issues to a moderate degree of depth.

For readers who are already familiar with these discussions about oil, I don't know that reading this book will tell you much more than you already know. Yeomans clearly has a liberal bias on the issue, but he is not quite a doomsayer. For those who do not know much about the politics and cultural aspects of oil, I highly reccomend this book as a short read that will get you up to speed so whenever the topic comes up in conversation or news you can have an informed opinion.
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