Reviewed by CBC Reviewer
This extraordinary history of the product that fuels the modern world will spark both interest and discussion for secondary readers. Beginning with the formation of fossil fuels, it follows the effects of the discovery and refinement of oil through the industrial revolution and the modern era.
With candor and accuracy that are unusual for this level, the book presents a balanced view of history—from Rockefeller's monopolies and government lobbying through oil's role in war. Britain's early oil–burning ships force the German coal–fueled vessels to retreat in World War I. Lloyd George pushes British influence into the Middle East for oil in the 1920s, causing chaos in the Persian Gulf. The Saud family and the Wahhabis rise on the wealth of oil.
Going much farther than standard textbooks, this readable narrative describes the political climate in which oil fueled World War II: "Hitler was at once a brilliant public speaker and a savage hater. The man had an uncanny gift for expressing the humiliation ordinary Germans felt but could not put into words..." and "Japan...lacking the raw materials needed by modern industry—especially oil...looked south...They chose war."
The text then moves back to the Middle East, describing Nasser and the Suez Canal and America's disastrous role in Iran. Modern dilemmas like Deepwater Horizon illustrate the environmental risks of oil production.
America has five percent of the world's population but uses 26 percent of its energy. That makes this NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Trade Book a "must–read" for those who want a thoughtful history of the substance that fuels both our machines and our world politics. It is both an entertaining read and an excellent resource for understanding the history, sources, and role oil plays in all of our lives. It includes extensive references, a glossary, and index.
Review posted on 1/22/2013