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#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Big Oil and Gas Versus Democracy—Winner Take All
In 2010, the words “earthquake swarm” entered the lexicon in Oklahoma. That same year, a trove of Michael Jackson memorabilia—including his iconic crystal-encrusted white glove—was sold at auction for over $1 million to a guy who was, officially, just the lowly forestry minister of the tiny nation of Equatorial Guinea. And in 2014, Ukrainian revolutionaries raided the palace of their ousted president and found a zoo of peacocks, gilded toilets, and a floating restaurant modeled after a Spanish galleon. Unlikely as it might seem, there is a thread connecting these events, and Rachel Maddow follows it to its crooked source: the unimaginably lucrative and equally corrupting oil and gas industry.
With her trademark black humor, Maddow takes us on a switchback journey around the globe, revealing the greed and incompetence of Big Oil and Gas along the way, and drawing a surprising conclusion about why the Russian government hacked the 2016 U.S. election. She deftly shows how Russia’s rich reserves of crude have, paradoxically, stunted its growth, forcing Putin to maintain his power by spreading Russia’s rot into its rivals, its neighbors, the West’s most important alliances, and the United States. Chevron, BP, and a host of other industry players get their star turn, most notably ExxonMobil and the deceptively well-behaved Rex Tillerson. The oil and gas industry has weakened democracies in developed and developing countries, fouled oceans and rivers, and propped up authoritarian thieves and killers. But being outraged at it is, according to Maddow, “like being indignant when a lion takes down and eats a gazelle. You can’t really blame the lion. It’s in her nature.”
Blowout is a call to contain the lion: to stop subsidizing the wealthiest businesses on earth, to fight for transparency, and to check the influence of the world’s most destructive industry and its enablers. The stakes have never been higher. As Maddow writes, “Democracy either wins this one or disappears.”
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Brace yourself: Rachel Maddow is here to reveal the dark underbelly of the oil and gas industry. With deep historical research and her trademark sardonic wit, the MSNBC host covers it all, from the days of John D. Rockefeller’s one-man stranglehold on the entire American economy to how Vladimir Putin gambled Russia’s future on becoming the West’s primary energy provider. Along the way, she dives deep into climate change, natural disasters (like Oklahoma’s recent string of fracking-related earthquakes), and rampant governmental corruption. Maddow makes a persuasive argument that unchecked corporate greed, amateurish politicians, and shadowy criminals have put our entire planet on a dangerous path that might be impossible to veer away from. Blowoutis an eye-opening, sobering read that deserves our close attention.
Petroleum-industry profits inexorably subvert good governance, argues this scattershot indictment of the oil and natural gas industries. Maddow (Drift), host of MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, surveys Big Oil's recent misdeeds, including Western oil companies' support for Equatorial Guinea's Obiang dictatorship, the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and blocking rules to regulate fracking practices that cause earthquake swarms and pollution in Oklahoma (while the same companies demand tax breaks). Anchoring the book is Russian president Vladimir Putin's cutthroat petropolitics. Maddow contends he turned Russia's oil and gas sectors into cesspools of corruption and inefficiency, seized well-managed private oil companies and arrested their CEOs, and made energy a foreign policy weapon while getting investments and technology from ExxonMobil. Maddow tells these stories in colorful, sardonic prose she pillories Putin's campaign "to piss in the punch bowl of free elections all over the civilized world" but the resulting hodgepodge doesn't always support her portrayal of oil and gas as a "singularly destructive industry" that "effectively owns" governments; her absorbing account of Putin's skullduggery is really about a vampiric government victimizing the oil industry (and includes an unconvincing link to Trump-Russia collusion theories). Maddow's absorbing but inconsistent expos demonizes more than it analyzes.