Kirkus Review – The Tyranny of Oil.

Kirkus Review, September 2008

“Big Oil has turned our democracy into a farce,” claims liberal activist and Institute for Policy Studies fellow Juhasz (The Bush Agenda: Invading the World, One Economy at a Time, 2006) in this timely, blistering critique of the world’s most profitable industry.

Nearly a century after the 1911 breakup of Standard Oil Trust, notes the author, a reconstructed trust comprised of a handful of powerful oil companies formed through recent corporate mergers—more than 2,600 in the U.S. petroleum industry from the 1990s to 2004—now dominates much of the decision-making of the American government. During the eight years of the Bush administration, this “oiligarchy” of wealthy firms has spent billions of dollars on political contributions and lobbying to ensure that it is “coddled, subsidized, protected, and preserved by the U.S. government.”

Juhasz argues that oil companies have made possible, and directly participate in, the unregulated speculation in oil futures that has helped drive oil prices upward (at a time when available supplies in storage tanks exceed global demand). Despite their assertions to the contrary, they are not interested in green alternatives—most invest less than one percent of total capital expenditures on alternative energy—but only in finding more oil in places (tar sands, oil shale, oceans) where extraction will be costly and harmful to the environment. Further, says the author, their quest to control world oil reserves was one of the causes of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and for a massive ongoing realignment of the U.S. military, with bases and deployments following the world’s oil supply and transportation routes.

Inspired by muckraker Ida Tarbell’s landmark 1904 book The History of the Standard Oil Company, this 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 (and explains why gasoline prices can vary greatly among stations within a few blocks). Juhasz believes a growing populist movement will demand Congressional action to break up the current “spawn of Standard Oil: ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Marathon, Valero, Shell-U.S., and BP America.”

Explosive fuel for the raging debate on oil prices.

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