He posits a number of fascinating scenarios, illustrating the risks of global competition in the energy sector but also his vision of a safer world where nations collaborate through mutual interest. With much of the global power struggle for the last two centuries being focused around the control of energy supply, the effect new developments in this sphere have on the geopolitical landscape is of paramount concern to us all. Daniel Yergin addresses these questions engagingly, thought provokingly and with his unique intellectual insight. He examines the consequences of the war on terrorism, the new technological forces in our midst and gives his verdict as to the likely shifts in economic and political power we will see in coming years. Anyone concerned with the future of the world economy, or indeed simply the future of the world, needs to hear Daniel speak. How will the world change?
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Start your review of The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power Write a review Shelves: history I bought Daniel Yergins The Prize during one of my semi-regular fits of intellectual hunger, which often strike after Ive read five straight books about Nazi henchman and zero books about anything relevant to todays world.
After the purchase, I put it on the shelf. And there it sat, for a long, long time. It is, after all, a tremendously big tome about oil; it does not scream out to be consumed or embraced or loved. For a long time it just sat there, on my shelf, laughing at me. Finally, one day, I picked it up, and started to read it. Then I quit. Because it was about oil. This meme consisted of a picture of a gas pump with a Post-It note stuck next to the digital price-per-gallon screen.
The content of the note, summarized, is that gas prices now are higher than when Obama was inaugurated. Thus had I reached that crucial moment when a sudden, fleeting interest intersected with exactly the right book to satisfy that interest. That answer has something to do with oil being a global commodity. And also there are Oil Elves. Instead, The Prize positions itself as the history of the world from to , told from the point of view of black gold, Texas tea, etc.
He jumps quickly from one place to the next, one person to the next, so that it all becomes something of a blur a chronology in the back does help. Moreover, The Prize has a sort of subject-myopia. Yergin never really explains how oil is discovered or recovered; how it evolved from a lighting source to a propulsion source; or the actual mechanics of how an oil company operates.
To be sure, some of these topics are mentioned, but none are explored in a truly satisfactory way. Yergin is sure to tell you every time OPEC did something that shook up world oil markets. That is, how and why OPEC was able to accomplish what they accomplished and still accomplish. In other words, The Prize is about tell, not show. There were many times I sought a deeper, fuller understanding of this subject; instead, there was often only a recitation of facts.
The story does pick up pace further on. Yergin devotes four chapters to World War II, the epochal event that ushered in this sea-change. These shortages are mentioned — in passing — in every history of World War II. Fleeting references, however, fail to do the situation justice. Japan literally began the war with a timetable based on fuel stocks. It forced Japan into numerous desperate measures that appeared fanatical, but which were dictated by oil logic.
Chief among these measures were the kamikaze attacks. These suicide missions were exceedingly effective in terms of resource conservation, since planes only needed enough fuel for a one-way trip. Furthermore, fuel did not have to be expended to train these pilots, since all they needed to know was enough to get them off the ground and headed in the right direction. The post-World War II years was the time when oil took its mantle as the leading natural resource.
Not only are these international crises more interesting reading than earlier tales of wildcatting in Pennsylvania, but Yergin does a better job finding the human drama to accompany the inanimate central character. Paul Getty, at one time the richest man in America: As a young man, Getty was already launched on a life of wild romance and sexual adventure, with a special predilection for teenage girls.
He married five times. Yet the only true love of his life may have been a French woman, the wife of a Russian consul general in Asia Minor, with whom he had a passionate affair in Constantinople in He bade what he hoped was a temporary farewell to her on the dock at Istanbul, but then lost contact with her forever in the turmoil of war and revolution that followed.
Even sixty years later, whereas he would discuss his five marriages almost technically, as if they were lawsuits, a mere mention of this lady, Madame Marguerite Tallasou, was enough to bring tears to his eyes. That presence has included rampantly exploiting natural resources and propping up certain leaders — often to the detriment of their people — in order to create advantageous geopolitical stability. That stability is necessary to the uninterrupted flow of a very precious commodity.
The Prize, despite what I found to be shortcomings, does a masterful job of explaining just how that happened. In that way, it succeeds in doing what all history books aspire to do: to show the direct link between the past and the present. Even though The Prize ends in with a short update chapter , it clearly proves its thesis that oil — and all the struggles surrounding its discovery, acquisition, and distribution — created our modern world.
For better and for worse.
The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power
The Prize is often cited as essential background reading for students of the history of petroleum. Joseph R. Rudolph Jr. The series is said to have been seen by 20 million people in the United States.