Below are three reviews of Michael Klare's new book Blood and Oil: a 'top picks' from USA Today and more substantive reviews from The Christian Science Monitor and The Economist.
Reading the book is not a 'requirement' in any sense for attending his November 18 presentation--we encourage everyone to attend. Some members, however, expressed an interest in reading his book before his talk. Also, Dr. Klare's Fresh Aire interview on NPR from Sept 9 with Terry Gross is on the web for those who might want an audio preparation. This promises to be an exciting program--we hope you mark your calendars to attend on Thursday, November 18th, 2004 at 11:45 at The Center, Waterville, ME.
Copyright 2004 Gannett Company, Inc.
September 9, 2004, Thursday, FINAL EDITION
HEADLINE: Our critics' top picks
Blood and Oil
By Michael Klare; Metropolitan, $25; in stores
The United States imports more than 50% of its oil. By 2010, that will rise to 60%, warns Klare, a Hampshire College professor. And that, he contends, has serious foreign-policy consequences, and not just in Iraq. Klare wants to separate energy policy from overseas security commitments, warning, "Circumstances will force us to change our ways -- the days of petroleum plenty will not last forever."
The Christian Science Monitor (Boston, MA)
September 7, 2004, Tuesday
SECTION: FEATURES; BOOKS; Pg. 15
LENGTH: 913 words
HEADLINE: Oil that is - black gold, Texas tea
BYLINE: By Brian Black
Three books on the politics, economics, and depletion of oil
My son grasps the pump's hose and closes his eyes. He likes to feel the surge of gasoline through the hose. "We're lucky that dinosaurs couldn't reach all of the leaves on trees," I tell him as I squeeze the handle, "or that hose might be empty." His eyes remain shut, and he seems not to have heard.
For most of us, that moment at the pump marks our most direct participation in the geological story of life on Earth. When gas prices exceed $ 2 per gallon, we care more about petroleum's connection to the White House than its connection to geology. A bevy of scholars and policy analysts have seized this important moment of high prices and oil-related war to write about petroleum. Three new titles focus on the evocative political implications of our national chemical dependence.
Matthew Yeoman's Oil: Anatomy of an Industry emphasizes the changing role of oil in American life. In this very readable account, Yeoman tells an incredibly condensed version of petroleum's story. He begins with his effort to live a day without petroleum, which, of course, leads to the discovery that petroleum impacts every portion of our life.
From this point, "Oil" is less the "anatomy of an industry" and more a collection of essays on contemporary oil use, including Bush's relationship to oil interests, oil's relationship to national security, overseas oil exploitation of human rights, and a possible hydrogen-powered future. One of his finest essays looks at efforts to create conservation measures, such as CAFE, which established fuel economy standards for new passenger cars.
Overall, Yeoman provides a superb introduction to these issues, but on each topic he leaves readers wanting more. For that, turn to the accounts of two experts in their fields: Paul Roberts's The End of Oil and Michael Klare's Blood and Oil. Although these books are less engagingly written than Yeoman's, each bites off a specific portion of the oil story, digests it fully, and then offers thoughtful recommendations.
Roberts displays the nuanced understanding of a longtime observer of American industry and economics. Most important, he understands the interplay between industry and American consumers. "The End of Oil" tells the story of oil consumption during an era defined by low prices, which Roberts contends is now ending.
Roberts deftly writes about the passions that fueled American consumption and the efforts of oil and automotive corporations to extend their dominance. On the whole, though, he blames neither consumer nor seller. In the final chapters, Roberts describes our present predicament but also what has to be done to arrive at our energy future beyond oil. Key to this effort is the concept of "energy cost accounting," which considers the health and environmental costs of a resource to assess its true value.
Klare, an expert on foreign policy and national security, provides an up-to-the-moment view of the world through oil. With a brief turn toward history (particularly regarding US-Saudi relations), "Blood and Oil" describes oil's primary role in foreign policy today. He winds through the interests of the major players, including Russia, the US, and China. Energy self-sufficiency was once a major strategic priority for China, Klare points out. But their own supplies of oil became insufficient in 1993, and China's strategic view of the world has never been the same.
Klare claims that the United States is also carrying out foreign policy based on the need for oil. "Ultimately," he writes, "the cost of oil will be measured in blood: the blood of American soldiers who die in combat, the blood of the many other casualties of oil-related violence, including the victims of terrorism." He describes new models of warfare that require a permanent presence to ensure the supply of petroleum.
Klare's understanding of global politics lends credibility to his recommendation that new policies emphasize autonomy of supply enforced through integrity, by which Klare means "a state of affairs in which we make decisions ... in accordance with fundamental American values and with a view to the nation's long-term interests."
To carry out this shift, he says that the US must:
* Separate energy policy from overseas security commitments.
* Reduce dependence on imported oil (which does not simply mean exploiting domestic supplies).
* Hasten the transition to a postpetroleum economy.
Each time we stand at the gas pump, we interact with organisms that lived millions of years before. They cannot be renewed. All these authors agree, of course, that we would be better off if our society were not so committed to petroleum. Klare makes the point simply: "Recognizing the obvious - that petroleum is a finite resource and that our successors are going to have to rely on other sources of energy - we have an obligation to lighten their burden by taking steps now to ease the way."
* Brian Black is the author of 'Petrolia: The Landscape of America's First Oil Boom.' He teaches history and environmental studies at Pennsylvania State University.
Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America's Growing Dependency on Imported Petroleum
Michael T. Klare
250 pp., $ 25
(c) Copyright 2004. The Christian Science Monitor
Oct 7th 2004
From The Economist print edition
The problem with oil is not its shortage, but rather its concentration
AT THE end of the second world war, President Franklin Roosevelt attended a summit that changed the course of world history. No, not that meeting at Yalta, with Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill. Immediately after that, Roosevelt travelled quietly to the USS Quincy, anchored near the Suez Canal. The man with whom he met had rarely set foot outside his home country, and insisted on bringing along his household slaves and royal astrologer.
That man was King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia. In the years before the war, the desert kingdom had gone from sleepy backwater to the most promising oil province in the world. Military planners in America were painfully aware of the swift decline in their own country's domestic reserves. So, in return for guaranteed access to Saudi Arabia's vast quantities of oil, Roosevelt promised the tribal chieftain America's full military support. In the decades since, the vow has proved to be one of the few fixed points of global politics—though for how much longer is an open question.
That close military relationship has helped feed a favourite current conspiracy theory, that of “blood for oil”, ie, that American blood in Iraq is being spilt for the benefit of oil interests. Another popular theory is that the oil is running out altogether. Politicians of both parties in America have latched on to these ideas, and now champion notions of “energy independence”. That blood is being spilt for oil; that oil is anyway running out; and that energy independence is therefore a magic solution: all are superficially attractive propositions. Yet they are also all wrong. Happily, three intelligent new books cut to the quick on these issues.
The biggest fallacy is that the world is about to run out of oil. A spate of recent books, with such titles as “Out of Gas”, argue that oil is scarce, and that an impending crisis will put the crises of the 1970s and early 1980s in the shade. Some see the recent rise in oil prices to $50 a barrel as a dire warning.
Nonsense, argues Peter Odell, a grand old man of oil forecasting who proved wrong the pessimists of the 1970s. In his new book, he points to two flaws in the argument that a peak in global oil production is coming, followed by decline: both technology and economics are ignored.
As experience has shown time and again, oil technology just gets better. The industry now uses tools unavailable in the 1970s—ranging from seismic imaging of reservoirs to advanced supercomputing—to tap oil from places unimaginable back then. As a result, proven reserves of oil are actually larger today than they were three decades ago.
Also, price signals matter: if there were a real scarcity of oil, prices would soar and companies would scramble to find more oil or its alternatives, while consumers would use less of it. Mr Odell argues, quite reasonably, that “non-conventional” oil—such as that made from Canada's mucky “tar sands”—will make up for an eventual decline in conventional sources of oil. His conclusion will anger some and surprise others: gas-guzzlers will have plenty to run on for the rest of this century.
The problem with oil is not its scarcity, rather its concentration. That is one powerful conclusion drawn by Michael Klare in “Blood and Oil”, a thoughtful and well-researched history of oil and geopolitics. Mr Klare is certainly critical of American policy, particularly of the way the United States has cosied up to nasty regimes because of their supplies of oil, helping prop up the House of Saud, for instance. Yet he counters the claim that the invasion of Iraq was “all about oil”.
Mr Klare provides a service when he puts America's close ties with Saudi Arabia in a historical context that mocks the charges—made by Michael Moore, for example, in his film “Fahrenheit 9/11”—that the Bush clan has done most to shape the relationship. He starts with that meeting between Roosevelt and Ibn Saud. He notes that it was the doctrine of Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, explicitly to defend America's access to oil exports from the Persian Gulf “by any means necessary”.
The independence myth
In short, the militarisation of America's energy policy has been a bipartisan affair. And it is Mr Klare's view that serious problems are in store. He notes that two-thirds of the world's proven reserves of conventional oil lie in the hands of five countries in the Persian Gulf, with Saudi Arabia atop one-quarter of the world's reserves. As oil gets depleted rapidly in other parts of the world, the West will come to depend ever more upon these currently undemocratic and perhaps unreliable countries.
For neoconservatives in Washington, that is one more reason for fostering, by force if necessary, liberal values and democracy in the Middle East. For many congressmen, it is a reason to call for energy independence. Yet the phrase has become misleading, for it is used to justify subsidies for pork-barrel projects or mere sops to the industry, such as drilling for oil in the Alaskan wilderness. Given that America consumes a quarter of the world's oil but has barely 3% of its proven reserves, it will never be energy-independent until the day it stops using oil altogether.
How to get there? Amory Lovins has some sharp and sensible ideas. In “Winning the Oil Endgame”, a new book funded partly by America's Defence Department, this sparky guru sketches out the mix of market-based policies that he thinks will lead to a good life after oil.
First, he argues, America must double the efficiency of its use of oil, through such advances as lighter vehicles. Then, he argues for a big increase in the use of advanced “biofuels”, made from home-grown crops, that can replace petrol. Finally, he shows how the country can greatly increase efficiency in its use of natural gas, so freeing up a lot of gas to make hydrogen. That matters, for hydrogen fuel can be used to power cars that have clean “fuel cells” instead of dirty petrol engines. It would end the century-long reign of the internal-combustion engine fuelled by petrol, ushering in the hydrogen age.
And because hydrogen can be made by anybody, anywhere, from windmills or nuclear power or natural gas, there will never be a supplier cartel like OPEC—nor suspicions of “blood for hydrogen”. What then will the conspiracy theorists do?
Why Carbon Fuels Will Dominate the 21st Century's Global Energy Economy.
By Peter R. Odell.
Multi-Science Publishing; 192 pages; £39
Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America's Growing Dependency on Imported Petroleum.
By Michael T. Klare.
Metropolitan Books; 265 pages; $25. To be published in Britain by Hamish Hamilton in November
Winning the Oil Endgame: Innovations for Profits, Jobs, and Security.
By Amory B. Lovins, E. Kyle Datta, Odd-Even Bustnes, Jonathan G. Koomey and Nathan J. Glasgow.
Rocky Mountain Institute; 309 pages; $40. Earthscan; £49.95