The Oil
Pages:672 pages
Book Art:8-page color insert
Size:6 x 9 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
Pub. Date:November 6, 2018
ISBN:9781603587433

Oil, Power, and War

A Dark History

Foreword by Richard Heinberg
Availability: In stock

Hardcover

$35.00

In stock (can be backordered)

In this sweeping, unabashed history of oil, Matthieu Auzanneau takes a fresh, thought-provoking look at the way oil interests have commandeered politics and economies, changed cultures, disrupted power balances across the globe, and spawned wars. He upends commonly held assumptions about key political and financial events of the past 150 years, and he sheds light on what our oil-constrained and eventually post-oil future might look like.

Oil, Power, and War follows the oil industry from its heyday when the first oil wells were drilled to the quest for new sources as old ones dried up. It traces the rise of the Seven Sisters and other oil cartels and exposes oil’s key role in the crises that have shaped our times: two world wars, the Cold War, the Great Depression, Bretton Woods, the 2008 financial crash, oil shocks, wars in the Middle East, the race for Africa’s oil riches, and more. And it defines the oil-born trends shaping our current moment, such as the jockeying for access to Russia’s vast oil resources, the search for extreme substitutes for declining conventional oil, the rise of terrorism, and the changing nature of economic growth. 

We meet a long line of characters from John D. Rockefeller to Dick Cheney and Rex Tillerson, and hear lesser-known stories like how New York City taxes were once funneled directly to banks run by oil barons. We see how oil and power, once they became inextricably linked, drove actions of major figures like Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin, Hitler, Kissinger, and the Bushes. We also learn the fascinating backstory sparked by lesser-known but key personalities such as Calouste Gulbenkian, Abdullah al-Tariki, and Marion King Hubbert, the once-silenced oil industry expert who warned his colleagues that oil production was facing its peak.

Oil, Power, and War is a story of the dreams and hubris that spawned an era of economic chaos, climate change, war, and terrorism—as well as an eloquent framing from which to consider our options as our primary source of power, in many ways irreplacable, grows ever more constrained.

The book has been translated from the highly acclaimed French title, Or Noir.

Share This:

Reviews and Praise

  • “Beautifully written and marvelously translated, Oil, Power, and War provides a detailed history of oil’s impact on economic and technical advances—and, in turn, their impact on oil—over the past century. Extending its narrative through the events of early 2018, it offers a profound new understanding of oil’s role in war and peace, growth and stagnation; and it casts new light on the foundations of national power and the challenge that lies ahead. A terrific education and an engrossing read.”—Dennis Meadows, coauthor of The Limits to Growth


More Reviews and Praise


  • “The definitive history of the rise and eventual fall of oil, brilliantly told. Auzanneau illuminates the history of our time driven by cheap oil and the persistent search for more at all costs. Insightful, authoritative, and essential reading. A dazzling and wise book.”—David Orr, author of Dangerous Years; Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics, Oberlin College

  • “Matthieu Auzanneau’s ambitious new history of oil is a must read for anyone intrigued by the instrumental role of energy in the ebb and flow of modern civilization. This is a richly documented and beautifully written book, which tells a story that has not been fully told—until now. Auzanneau masterfully reveals the vast extent to which the arteries of today’s politics, economics, and culture have been indelibly shaped by the rise—and decline—of the world’s most abundant fossil fuel. In years to come, historians will refer back to Auzanneau’s work as a definitive guide to the real role of oil in some of the most pivotal events in world history.”—Nafeez Ahmed, editor of INSURGE intelligence; visiting research fellow at the Global Sustainability Institute at Anglia Ruskin University

  • “Auzanneau’s Oil, Power, and War is a fascinating and excellent book. It sets out in detail the extraordinary story of oil’s discovery, production, pricing, and control, and throws light on the fears, misapprehensions, power plays, and conflicts that our addiction to this cheap and flexible form of energy has engendered. Auzanneau is particularly good at explaining the importance of oil in the sustenance of modern society, and therefore why the coming constraint to the global oil supply—caused by the current resource-limited plateau (and soon decline) in the global production of conventional oil—is likely to be so difficult. Hopefully lessons learned from our past mistakes, laid out so well in this book, can help guide us through the oil challenges that lie ahead.”—R. W. Bentley, editor of The Oil Age; author of Introduction to Peak Oil

  • “Matthieu Auzanneau’s book is a must for anyone who wants to understand the modern world. Our consumer society is based on cheap energy. Thus if you want to know the sources of the world’s current wealth and how our economy is likely to evolve in the future, you must study the history of world oil since 1859. This book tells that story more fully, fairly, accurately, and entertainingly than any other to date. Indeed, previous accounts of the history of oil are now effectively obsolete.”—Jean Laherrère, petroleum engineer; president of ASPO France

  • “An absolutely great book, and a nearly unbelievable summary of the history of oil. But this is not just the story of oil, it is also the story of humankind during the past two centuries or so, and it shows how almost everything that happened during those centuries links back to oil. Auzanneau presents a treasure trove of information not available anywhere else—at least not in a well-organized and critical form, as most books written on this subject are sponsored or supported, one way or another, by the fossil-fuel industry. Did you know that Mussolini was lured into his disastrous Ethiopian campaign by hopes of finding oil there? Did you know that the British won the Battle of Britain partly because the fuel of their Spitfires had a higher octane number than that of the German Messerschmitts? Did you know that the Marshall Plan to rebuild the European economies was based on the idea of replacing Europe’s dependence on American oil with a dependence on US-controlled Middle East oil? There’s all this and much more in Oil, Power, and War, and the story of oil and humankind is not yet concluded. In the future it will be mostly about getting rid of oil before oil gets rid of us.”—Ugo Bardi, author of Extracted



Reviews and Praise

  • “Beautifully written and marvelously translated, Oil, Power, and War provides a detailed history of oil’s impact on economic and technical advances—and, in turn, their impact on oil—over the past century. Extending its narrative through the events of early 2018, it offers a profound new understanding of oil’s role in war and peace, growth and stagnation; and it casts new light on the foundations of national power and the challenge that lies ahead. A terrific education and an engrossing read.”—Dennis Meadows, coauthor of The Limits to Growth

More Reviews and Praise
  • “The definitive history of the rise and eventual fall of oil, brilliantly told. Auzanneau illuminates the history of our time driven by cheap oil and the persistent search for more at all costs. Insightful, authoritative, and essential reading. A dazzling and wise book.”—David Orr, author of Dangerous Years; Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics, Oberlin College

  • “Matthieu Auzanneau’s ambitious new history of oil is a must read for anyone intrigued by the instrumental role of energy in the ebb and flow of modern civilization. This is a richly documented and beautifully written book, which tells a story that has not been fully told—until now. Auzanneau masterfully reveals the vast extent to which the arteries of today’s politics, economics, and culture have been indelibly shaped by the rise—and decline—of the world’s most abundant fossil fuel. In years to come, historians will refer back to Auzanneau’s work as a definitive guide to the real role of oil in some of the most pivotal events in world history.”—Nafeez Ahmed, editor of INSURGE intelligence; visiting research fellow at the Global Sustainability Institute at Anglia Ruskin University

  • “Auzanneau’s Oil, Power, and War is a fascinating and excellent book. It sets out in detail the extraordinary story of oil’s discovery, production, pricing, and control, and throws light on the fears, misapprehensions, power plays, and conflicts that our addiction to this cheap and flexible form of energy has engendered. Auzanneau is particularly good at explaining the importance of oil in the sustenance of modern society, and therefore why the coming constraint to the global oil supply—caused by the current resource-limited plateau (and soon decline) in the global production of conventional oil—is likely to be so difficult. Hopefully lessons learned from our past mistakes, laid out so well in this book, can help guide us through the oil challenges that lie ahead.”—R. W. Bentley, editor of The Oil Age; author of Introduction to Peak Oil

  • “Matthieu Auzanneau’s book is a must for anyone who wants to understand the modern world. Our consumer society is based on cheap energy. Thus if you want to know the sources of the world’s current wealth and how our economy is likely to evolve in the future, you must study the history of world oil since 1859. This book tells that story more fully, fairly, accurately, and entertainingly than any other to date. Indeed, previous accounts of the history of oil are now effectively obsolete.”—Jean Laherrère, petroleum engineer; president of ASPO France

  • “An absolutely great book, and a nearly unbelievable summary of the history of oil. But this is not just the story of oil, it is also the story of humankind during the past two centuries or so, and it shows how almost everything that happened during those centuries links back to oil. Auzanneau presents a treasure trove of information not available anywhere else—at least not in a well-organized and critical form, as most books written on this subject are sponsored or supported, one way or another, by the fossil-fuel industry. Did you know that Mussolini was lured into his disastrous Ethiopian campaign by hopes of finding oil there? Did you know that the British won the Battle of Britain partly because the fuel of their Spitfires had a higher octane number than that of the German Messerschmitts? Did you know that the Marshall Plan to rebuild the European economies was based on the idea of replacing Europe’s dependence on American oil with a dependence on US-controlled Middle East oil? There’s all this and much more in Oil, Power, and War, and the story of oil and humankind is not yet concluded. In the future it will be mostly about getting rid of oil before oil gets rid of us.”—Ugo Bardi, author of Extracted

Matthieu Auzanneau headshot

About Matthieu Auzanneau

Matthieu Auzanneau is the director of The Shift Project, a European think tank focusing on energy transition and the resources required to make the shift to an economy free from fossil fuel dependence, and also from greenhouse gas emissions. Previously he was a journalist, based in France, and mostly writing for Le Monde. He continues to write his Le Monde blog, Oil Man, which he describes as “a chronicle of the beginning of the end of petroleum.” The original French edition of this book, Or Noir: La grande histoire du pétrole, was awarded the Special Prize of the French Association of Energy Economists in 2016. 

Books By Matthieu Auzanneau

The Oil