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.
This examination of a slippery subject suffers from schizophrenia: is it straight journalism or an activist's screed? The strength of this book lies in its first half, when freelance journalist Yeomans shows the importance of oil in world history during the last 125 years. After depicting the humble discovery of oil in Pennsylvania in the 19th century, Yeomans shows how it became the dominant force in diplomacy. Oil played a factor in both world wars, and since then, it's become even more prominent. Giant American oil companies saw great profit in the Arab world, and this helped feed, perhaps even create, the growth in American consumer culture after WWII. Then the Arab world realized that its oil was power and began to turn against Western megacompanies and the West itself. It's a story that's been told elsewhere, but Yeomans tells it deftly, concisely. But then his book takes an abrupt turn. "Oil is America's Achilles' heel," Yeomans writes, and his book turns into an activist's plea to lower American dependence on oil. He argues that the U.S. government should fund research on alternative energy sources, and that hydrogen energy in particular is a solid source. He puts forth "hybrid" cars (those that run on both gas and electricity) as a future for the automotive industry. But those looking for a less dogmatic argument will be disappointed.