Nothing affects the lives of human beings more than the price of a barrel of oil. Oil and its derivatives power our transport, drive our factories and heat and light our homes. Any rise in the price of crude ultimately influences the prices of all retail products, including food and drink.
In this important and timely book, Peter Thompson reveals the highly secretive forces at work behind the scenes in the oil industry, an industry that has fuelled human progress for 150 years but now faces an uncertain future. Powerful oil-and-gas conglomerates, both private and state-owned, are deciding how mankind will live in 10, 20 and 30 years time. “Energy nationalism”, “energy imperialism” and “energy security” are the new buzzwords of the age.
“Axis of Oil” refers to the alliances that major oil companies have negotiated with regimes as diverse as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, China, Russia, Turkey, Nigeria and Venezuela to ensure “energy security”, while dealing with the constant threat of terrorist attacks and sabotage to oilfields, refineries and oil storage depots in the Middle East, Central Asia and West Africa.
That oil resources are finite is indisputable, but no one knows for sure just how finite; pessimists make dire predictions about imminent disaster, while others argue there is still plenty of oil to meet mankind’s needs for generations to come. Who is right? Thompson acknowledges the dangerous downside of the Energy Revolution, but says that although oil will eventually run out, it need not herald an economic apocalypse. The present generation of scientists, oilmen, ecologists and inventors are taking steps to ensure that the end of oil is not the end of civilization. But is enough being done?
There has never been a more dramatic, demanding or adventurous time in oil’s chequered history. Thompson charts the fortunes of the “big cats” in the energy power game in which the strongest devour their weaker rivals. In particular, he follows the fortunes of the increasingly controversial BP and the ill-starred Russian giant Yukos in its cloak-and-dagger battle against the Kremlin. Despite lording it over huge international empires, the new “supermajors” of Big Oil are themselves dwarfed by gigantic state-owned oil companies, such as Saudi Aramco or Russia’s Gazprom. These behemoths collectively control 90 per cent of the world’s proven oil reserves. Thompson exposes the corruption and inefficiency that waste a huge part of our oil bounty.
Big Oil’s biggest problem, he says, is lack of credibility. The supermajors plead that profits at the pump amount to just a few pence, while quietly pocketing billions from their production and refining activities. And are they as green as they claim – or is that just slick PR to cover up oil spills, refinery explosions and other environmental disasters?
Peter Thompson, born in Melbourne, joined the London Daily Mirror in 1966. He was a Fleet Street journalist for twenty years, rising to night editor and deputy editor of the Daily Mirror, editor of the Sunday Mirror and a director of Mirror Group Newspapers. In 1988 Thompson was the first Mirror Group editor to break ranks and expose the criminality of his boss Robert Maxwell. Thompson’s first book, Maxwell: A Portrait of Power, written with former Mirrorman and fellow Australian Anthony Delano, detailed the publishing tycoon’s rise to power through acts of fraud, deception and ...
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