The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power

Book review by Deane Barker tags: infrastructure, history

This is the definitive history of oil, from the first discovery in the 1850s through the first Gulf War of of the 1990s.

It’s a lot – 900-some-odd pages. Not for the faint of heart. I actually brought back in college in the mid-90s, and never finished it. I promised myself I’d get back to it, and that promise took 25 years to fulfill.

If there’s anything the book gets across, it’s that oil is “The Prize” of every country on Earth. It is the lifeblood of commerce, transportation, and defense. A big section in the middle discusses how World War 2 was lost because of lack of oil – both the Japanese and the Germans got their forces stranded and unable to move because they didn’t have fuel. If either side had unlimited oil, the war would absolutely have gone on for years longer, and might have swung another way.

After the war, the book goes deep on how the Middle East was transformed by oil, and every country became obsessed with finding access to it, and keeping it. Formerly unknown countries became powerful overnight. The third world essentially powered the first world, and kept its leaders up at night.

It’s a long book. Both physically and mentally – it’s very dense, and the mind boggles at the amount of work it took to write something like this.

I can recommend it only if you’re prepared for what you’re in for.

Book Info

Daniel Yergin

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