- Oil: Money, Politics, and Power in the 21st Century (Google Books)
- Amazon (read reviews)
- Author: Tom Bower
- Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
- Hardcover: 516 pages
- ISBN-10: 0446547980
- ISBN-13: 978-0446547987
I like to keep up on the latest major books written on crude oil in order to get a sense of how the industry actually is evolving over time as we surf the bumpy plateau that was promised by so called peak oil theorists like Colin Campbell (official ASPO website). One noteworthy thing about guys like Campbell and Kenneth Deffeyes is that they are being proved disturbingly right in their longer term predictions, as is, sadly, M. King Hubbert.
The first really significant book released, right on the dawn of the current production plateau first reached in about 2005 was Matt Simmon’s Twilight in the Desert, which was essentially the first real shot across the bows of prevailing cornucopian (the belief that finite raw materials are in fact infinite) views held by both insiders and outsiders of the oil industry. While Simmons appeared to suffer a decline in the last year of his life, don’t be fooled, Twilight was a very well researched book on Saudi oil production, probably one of the best ever written, if not the best.
However, it’s also good to read some of the major works dealing with oil that don’t come from exactly the slightly outsider, critical, peak oil perspective, but which also contain a wealth of information about various aspects of the oil industry that might generally go less considered, such as speculation, refinery utilization and tuning for different oil types, and the role of public relations, as well as general styles of corporate governance among the Western majors.
Oil: Money, Politics, and Power in the 21st Century (OMPP) goes a long way towards explaining some of the more technical intracies of how and why oil speculation can work, how big Western oil companies work from the inside, how PR is handled, and a wealth of specifics on topics such as refinery tunings towards various oil grades and sources. These specifics can help us understand how intertwined the entire process of modern oil, extraction, finance, governments, and corporate power, truly are.
For example, we learn that it is not simply how much raw oil in barrels there is on the market any given day, but how much per refinery per type of oil there is (heavy/light, sweet/sour, and a variety of combinations of these different grades). This is why, for example, you might hear Saudi Arabia claim it is producing extra, but then also complain that there are no buyers.
Since Saudi Arabia’s new production is now almost all what is called sour crude, that’s sometimes why more per day is not purchased even when it’s been extracted and is ready for shipment, it can’t be used, since there are no contracted refineries for that specific type of crude oil. I didn’t realize the requirements of matching refinery tuning to crude type was so specific. This book made me stop thinking of oil as one thing, just what they call petroleum liquids, like butane, propane, etc are also not properly assigned to that one thing, oil (plus liquids).