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The Secret World of Oil [Kindle Edition]

Ken Silverstein
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

A riveting, immersive investigative exposé of the corrupt and violent side of the globe's key industry.

Oil is the lifeblood of modern civilization, and the industry that supplies it has been the subject of intense interest and scrutiny, as well as countless books. And yet, almost no attention has been paid to little-known characters vital to the industry—secretive fixers and oil traders, lobbyists and PR agents, gangsters and dictators—allied with competing governments and multinational corporations. Virtually every stage in oil's production process, from discovery to consumption, is greased by secret connections, corruption, and violence, even if little of that is visible to the public. The energy industry, to cite just one measure, violates the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act more often than any other economic sector, even weapons. This book sets out to tell the story of this largely hidden world. Based on trips to New York, Houston, New Orleans, Paris, Geneva, and Phnom Penh, among other far-flung locales, The Secret World of Oil includes up-close portraits of Louisiana oilmen and their political handlers; an urbane, captivating London fixer; and an oil dictator's playboy son who had to choose among more than three dozen luxury vehicles before heading out to party in Los Angeles. Supported by funding from the prestigious Open Society Foundations, this is both an entertaining global travelogue and a major work of investigative reporting.


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Review

"Ken Silverstein is one of the best investigative journalists of his generation--or any generation. His latest book, "The Secret World of Oil," is a masterpiece of revelation. With a deft combination of detail and color, Silverstein exposes the darkest shade of crude: the fixers and middlemen who arrange the deals that provide us with the oil we need to keep our cars running and our homes warm. As Silverstein shows, these deals enrich the kleptocrats of our world and make life worse, rather than better, for their unfortunate subjects. It is a shameful and captivating tale about a pipeline of corruption that we must fix." --PETER MAASS, author of "Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil" "Much has been written about the oil industry, but Ken Silverstein provides an entirely new window into this vitally important universe. For the first time, we encounter the fixers, flacks, and traders behind the secretive deals that drive the industry and enrich its leading operators. After reading this book, you will never think about oil in the same way again." --MICHAEL KLARE, author of "The Race for What's Left: The Global Scramble for the World's Last Resources" "Ken Silverstein's sharp investigative reporting has again dragged a cast of shady operators into the public eye with his must-read book, "The Secret World of Oil" . Oil is the cause of so much pain in the world. As the fossil fuel industry tightens its grip on our warming planet, The Secret World of Oil names names, and exposes the brokers, lobbyists, and fixers who profit from the misery of millions and the accelerating pollution of the planet." --AMY GOODMAN, host and executive producer, " Democracy Now!" "Silverstein writes with keen reportorial objectivity but also understandable skepticism about...the frighteningly tyrannical hold that oil has on the free (and not-so-free) world. The book's revelations make Wall Street corruption seem tame by comparison."--"Kirkus Reviews" Praise for

About the Author

Ken Silverstein is a fellow of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University. He was a 2010-2012 Open Society Fellow. He served as Washington editor of Harper's magazine from 2006 to 2010. Previously on the staff of the Los Angeles Times, Silverstein has also written for Mother Jones, Wallpaper, Washington Monthly, the Nation, Slate, Salon, and many other publications.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1128 KB
  • Print Length: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Verso; Reprint edition (10 May 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00L5S1BVS
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
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  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #53,853 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Modern Calouste Gulbenkians 10 Aug. 2014
Format:Hardcover
Anyone who has any interest in the way in which liberal democracies interact with (and the effect upon) resource-rich non-democratic (or pretend-democratic) countries should read the first five chapters of this book (the last two are of more interest to US domestic readers.) The first book I read on this subject was about Mr Five Percent, 25 years ago. It described events at the beginning of the end of the 19th Century and beginning of the 20th that I thought of as fascinating history. The fact that at the beginning of the 21st Century we now have numerous Mr Five Percents in the guise of fixers, oil traders and corporations such as Glencore is eye-opening and this book, which is highly readable, throws light on what is, for the most part, a highly secretive world of self-enrichment which considers itself beyond the bounds of liberal Western ethics.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 3 Dec. 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
great book
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Waste of time 15 Aug. 2014
By kilo
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A tired and sensationalist book which frankly doesn't have much to say. Mainly talks about bit players in the industry who may be interesting characters but are quite peripheral.

This isn't the secret world of oil, just a hackneyed title with little to back it up.
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Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  29 reviews
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A scattershot approach to covering the title subject 14 May 2014
By William Merrill - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The title of Ken Silverstein's new nonfiction book is The Secret World of Oil, but the chapters vary in how well they address aspects of the oil industry that are "secret." One area where he mostly succeeds is in his stories of the "fixers," important but little-known figures who serve as go-betweens for petroleum exploration companies interested in making deals with oil-producing countries (and the dictators who run them). These guys, the fixers, are a unique and often shady lot, but they serve a valuable and necessary function in the process.

It was my expectation that this book would reveal hidden industry practices relating to oil drilling, transportation, refining, and the like, but Silverstein focuses much more on the business side. (If I took a hint from the cover art, perhaps this wouldn't have been a surprise.) There are lawyers and lobbyists, traders and politicians. Sometimes the author strays fairly far from his main topic, as when he profiles Glencore, the world's largest commodities brokerage firm. They trade in all kinds of commodities, not just petroleum, but particularly zinc, copper, coal, and grain. Some chapters help us learn things that we already know, such as that dictators who run small Third World countries are usually in it for their own gain and not the betterment of their citizens.

The Secret World also has a "thrown together" kind of feel, as the author seems to just say, "OK, I'm done with that topic -- now onto another." Apart from their connection by the topic of the oil industry (and sometimes even that is missing), there's no clear overarching narrative.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If you care about the poor or the environment, prepare to vomit in your mouth 9 Feb. 2015
By Ayman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
If you care about the poor or the environment, be prepared to vomit in your mouth at nearly every other page of this account of the oil and other resource extraction industries.

Ken Silverstein devotes a chapter to each of the following categories of players in this woeful tragedy: the fixers, the dictators, the traders, the gatekeepers, the flacks, the lobbyists and the hustlers.

While varied dictatorial regimes from Africa and Asia figure throughout the novel, Silverstein profiled Teodorin Obiang, the heir apparent to Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the dictator of Equitorial Guinea.

Have you ever heard of Glencore? It makes mountains of money trading rights to exploit natural resources around the world.

Do you know George W Bush's torture consiglieri John Yoo (and here), who also happens to heartily approve of Barack Obama's warmongering? Before him there was Ronald Reagan's legal yes-man Bretton Sciaroni, who wrote memos explaining why it was legal for the United States government to aid the Contra terrorists killing Nicaraguans. Do these guys end up in prison or at the end of a noose like Nazi war criminals? Yoo is teaching at University of California - Berkeley, and Sciaroni, who talks with Silverstein without the slightest recognition of himself as a sleaze, is a potentate in Cambodia.

If you ever have the opportunity to throw your shoe at Tony Blair, do so with righteous anger. Before you read the chapter about him, you may want to have some inanimate object close by that you can destroy. At least write and perform a song about him.

Lest you think that resource extraction only impacts politics in the Third World, read the chapter on Louisiana. And think twice before voting for Bobby Jindal.

Silverstein ends with a humorous narration of the career of Neil Bush, the son of President George H.W. Bush and brother of President George W Bush. I guess you'll think it's funny if you find humor in the ability of USA blue-bloods to land in money no matter their incompetence.

The book does not offer solutions or best practices. The people interviewed in this book agree that there's simply too much money at stake to care about poor people or the environment.

A large question humanity must answer is whether capitalism can adapt to prevent destruction of our biosphere. This is the premise behind books like Ecological Intelligence by Daniel Goleman and E. O. Wilson's The Future of Life. These liberal environmentalists believe that market mechanisms can be adjusted to delay ecological collapse until technology or human consciousness solves the threats to our biosphere. Naomi Klein's This Changes Everything is more radical in its demand that our entire economic system needs revolutionary change.

Silverstein's book certainly takes the sparkle out of liberal environmentalists' proposals.

Silverstein makes excellent use of USA diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks. Consider supporting whistleblowers and the news outlets which publish material using the leaks.

I'm tweeting some of tidbits from the book under the hashtag #SecretWorldOfOil. Join the conversation.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Recommend, with reservations 7 Aug. 2014
By TopCat19 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The secret world of oil will probably be just as secretive after you've read the book. It's an interesting enough book, in its own way, but the title is a little misleading. What the author does is profile five different individuals, one per chapter, who are players in the oil game, among other things. Some of them will probably be familiar, some not so much. One chapter is titled "The Traders: Glencore" and features the huge and secretive firm of Glencore, and some other companies, to a lesser degree. Another chapter is "The Lobbyists: Louisiana", which should be self-explanatory. The good news is that all of this is actually quite interesting, and I'm glad that I read the book, but a lot of this didn't have all that much to do with oil. The book was well-written and kept my interest. It just wasn't quite what I had expected, given the title, and the review that I read beforehand. If you have an interest in the oil industry and know a bit about it, this would be a good complementary book to read, but if you're looking for a straightforward, here's how the industry works, this is not it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars good information to know 2 Jun. 2014
By g3 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Secret World of Oil is a non-fiction amalgam of chapters on the movers and shakers behind the scenes of the oil business. The reader learns that there is much more to the oil trade than just BP and Aramco. I felt, while reading this, that I would have appreciated it more had I already read Yergin's The Prize, for the basic outline of the petroleum industry. I also felt that the author occasionally used jargon unfamiliar to a novice on this topic like me. I did not find this the most compelling book; I could easily put it down, but as I plugged along, I learned a lot and found that, in a way, each chapter stood on its own. Came away with my bias against fossil fuels intact and even strengthened. The interplay between the oil industry and governments all over the world, and the immense amounts of money being made, combine to make environmentalists' efforts most difficult. Maybe fossil fuel divestment will start making a difference? I'm discouraged but hopeful.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Story of the Oil Industry 3 April 2014
By JPfromOH - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I feel fortunate to have been able to read and review the page proofs for Ken Silverstein's The Secret World of Oil. The author certain digs deeply into the corruption, political intrigues, human rights violations, willful environmental damage, and issues associated with the petroleum industry. The more I read the book, though, the more that I really wanted to see citations and tangible documentation of Silverstein's claims. In fact, the lack of tangible references and the lack of a bibliography seemed very strange coming from a fellow of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University. Although my suspicions are that Silverstein may be spot-on regarding the shady figures about whom he writes, the book at times seems too much like a left-wing version of the sensationalism that tends to be associated with right-wing radio commentators and "news" outlets. With some scholarly documentation, this could easily be a 4-star book. Without the documentation, there are just too many questions about the legitimacy of the claims.
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