The Age of Oil: The Mythology, History, and Future of the World's Most Controversial Resource

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Oil is the most vital resource of our time. Because it is so important, misperceptions about the black gold abound. Leonardo Maugeri clears the cobwebs by describing the colorful history of oil, and explaining the fundamentals of oil production. He delivers a unique, fascinating, and controversial perspective on the industry—as only an insider could. The history of the oil market has been marked, since its inception, by a succession of booms and busts, each one leading to a similar psychological climax and flawed political decisions. In a single generation, we've experienced the energy crisis of 1973; the dramatic oil countershock of 1986; the oil collapse of 1998-99 that gave rise to the idea of oil as just another commodity; and the sharp price increases following hurricane Katrina's devastation in the Gulf of Mexico. Today, we are experiencing a global oil boom that, paradoxically, seems to herald a gloomy era of scarcity exacerbated by growing consumption and the threat from Islamic terrorism in the oil-rich Middle East.

Maugeri argues that the pessimists are wrong. In the second part of his book, he debunks the main myths surrounding oil in our times, addressing whether we are indeed running out of oil, and the real impact of Islamic radicalism on oil-rich regions. By translating many of the technical concepts of oil productions into terms the average reader can easily grasp, Maugeri answers our questions. Ultimately, he concludes that the wolf is not at the door. We are facing neither a problem of oil scarcity, nor an upcoming oil blackmail by forces hostile to the West. Only bad political decisions driven by a distorted view of current problems (and who is to blame for them) can doom us to a gloomy oil future.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Maugeri minimizes the threat of blackmail by oil-producing nations, and he dismisses fears that the world is running out of oil. Environmentalists and those who demand reliance on alternative renewable-energy sources will dispute many of his assertions. Still, this is a valuable effort to explain the issues."



"Maugeri leverages his insider's knowledge to cast doubt on those who argue that oil reserves are dwindling or that geopolitical concerns have rendered the future of oil production too unreliable to be viable….[r]ecommended for academic libraries….[o]f interest to public libraries."


Library Journal

"Are we running low on oil? After a slew of books by pessimists, here is a convincing counterargument by an oil company analyst. Maugeri explains that the industry has been scarred by recurrent periods of over-production. The major players' resulting cautiousness probably makes current estimates of reserves very conservative., if prices continue at today's levels we can expect aggressive investments in exploration and technology to yield enormous extra supply."


Harvard Business Review

"Believing calls for economic independence from oil to be an insupportable overdramatization and sterile overreaction to oil's cyclical behavior, Maugery seeks to counter the trap of catastrophism that he sees as infiltrating the public discussion as deeply as the George W. Bush administration. He sets out to debunk these fears by describing this cyclical behavior through the history of the oil industry and similarly recurrent fears about oil shortages, fears that would produce a damaging American interventionist policy in the Middle East, as he suggests."


SciTech Book News

"Maugeri's authoritative, well-written assessment of the global oil situation relates so well to the current energy predicament that it belongs in most academic and public library collections. With knowledge and experience in developmental strategy for a major international oil company, Maugeri provides a lively, insightful perspective to the history and condition of the world petroleum industry. A specific argument is carried through the book: the world is not running out of oil--there is more than enough oil in the ground. Sequences of oil scarcity and overproduction are shown to be more related to economics and politics than to geology and technology. The 21 specific chapters are encompassed in two principal parts: A History of an Unreliable Market (and the Bad Policies It Prompted) and Misconceptions and Problems Ahead. Appendixes deal with oil consumption and with the production and reserves of specific countries and major oil companies. As a library holding for students of political science, economics, science, and technology, this book should be shared with its antithesis, Kenneth S. Deffeyes's Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert's Peak. Well footnoted; extensive bibliography; thorough index. Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty."



"In marked contrast to the panic-crisis books of late, this work strikes an optimistic chord on the state of world-oil supplies….Unlike the resource pessimists, Maugeri asserts that due to the uncertainty about the level of world reserves, any attempt to quantify supply is futile. Not only does he argue soundly, but he solidifies his position by insights gleaned from long experiencce in the industry. While some of his conclusions may be rejected, his research is not to be disputed."


The Engergy Journal

"This informative book is really two in one: a concise treatment of the checkered but fascinating history of the oil industry, from Edwin Drake's first successful well and John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Trust to post-Saddam Iraq, and an extended nontechnical essay on the myths and misconceptions that have come to surround this important commodity. As senior vice president of Eni, the Italian oil firm, the author is an industry insider, but he draws on a wide range of scholarship and writes persuasively and well."


Foreign Affairs

Foreign Affairs

This informative book is really two in one: a concise treatment of the checkered but fascinating history of the oil industry, from Edwin Drake's first successful well and John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Trust to post-Saddam Iraq, and an extended nontechnical essay on the myths and misconceptions that have come to surround this important commodity. As senior vice president of Eni, the Italian oil firm, the author is an industry insider, but he draws on a wide range of scholarship and writes persuasively and well. The history he tells establishes that the oil industry has been subject to booms and busts since its inception (and to efforts to suppress competition to reduce that volatility). The essay argues that the current boom, too, will pass, as past "shortages" have, and be followed by a potential surplus. "Peak oil," the supposed impending exhaustion of oil, is given deservedly rough treatment, at least insofar as it is meant to imply an exhaustion of liquid fuels. "Oil independence" is given similarly critical treatment, as is the use by anyone of the "oil weapon" for any but the briefest period. Past projections of oil production also come in for critical scrutiny, as do U.S. energy policies. High oil prices induce a search for new oil, substitutes for oil, and methods to conserve oil, efforts that are all relaxed when oil prices are low. The author avers that in the long run oil prices will be in the range of $30-$32 a barrel so long as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries continues to limit its output but that wide fluctuations around this range will continue.<

Library Journal
In today's discussions of the economic and geopolitical issues involving oil, separating fact from myth can be difficult. The authors of these books seek to debunk mythologies they perceive to be at play. Maugeri (group senior vice president, corporate strategies and planning, Eni, Italy) sets out to debunk petro-pessimists who argue that the age of oil is coming to an end. First, he recounts the history of oil discovery and production, relying on existing research, to show how people have feared the end of oil before and have always been wrong. There is not much here that one couldn't find in Daniel Yergin's The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power. Then he looks at contemporary issues to show how the fears raised today about oil shortages are unfounded. This section is more engaging, as Maugeri leverages his insider's knowledge to cast doubt on those who argue that oil reserves are dwindling or that geopolitical concerns have rendered the future of oil production too unreliable to be viable. Maugeri's approach is not academic, thus contrasting significantly with that of Vitalis (political science, Univ. of Pennsylvania; When Capitalists Collide: Business Conflict and the End of Empire in Egypt). Vitalis takes a revisionist look at U.S. corporate involvement in the founding of Saudi ARAMCO (the Saudis took control of the firm in 1980) and ARAMCO's racial hierarchies, which are similar to those existing in the oil and minefields of the United States. While ostensibly writing a work of political science, Vitalis has crafted a narrative that fits in well with the recent trend of giving U.S. history international context. Both books are recommended for academic libraries, but only Maugeri's will likely be of interest to public libraries.-John Russell, Georgia State Univ. Lib., Atlanta Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780275990084
  • Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/30/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 360
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

LEONARDO MAUGERI is Group Senior Vice President, Strategies and Development, for the Italian energy company Eni, the sixth-largest publicly listed oil company in the world. His articles have appeared in Newsweek, Foreign Affairs, Science, and the Wall Street Journal, among other publications.

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Table of Contents

Pt. 1 A history of an unreliable market (and the bad policies it prompted)
1 John D. Rockefeller's cursed legacy 3
2 The age of gasoline and oil imperialism 19
3 The carve-up of Arabia's oil 33
4 The oil glut of the 1930s 41
5 Cold War fears and the U.S.-Arabian link 51
6 The Iran tragedy and the "seven sisters" cartel 63
7 The golden age of oil and its limits 77
8 Oil and the explosion of Arab nationalism 93
9 The first oil shock 103
10 The second oil shock 121
11 The countershock 133
12 A storm in the desert : the first Gulf crisis 145
13 The Soviet implosion and the troubled Caspian El Dorado 155
14 The collapse of oil prices and industry megamergers 169
15 The first oil crisis of the twenty-first century 183
Pt. 2 Misperceptions and problems ahead
16 Are we running out of oil? 201
17 The inner secrets of oil 207
18 The puzzle of oil reserves and production, and the quest for their control 219
19 The problems with oil quality, price, and consumption trends 233
20 Flawed forecasts, foggy alternatives to oil 247
21 Arabs, Islam, and the myth of oil security 259
App. 1 Proven reserves, production, and reserves life index of the first twenty oil countries in the world and world totals (2004) 273
App. 2 Consumption trends of the first twenty countries in the world (1980-2004) 274
App. 3 Main features of some qualities of crude oil 275
App. 4 The largest national oil companies 277
App. 5 The largest international oil companies 278
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