The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power (Anglais) Broché – 23 décembre 2008
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"A masterly narrative...The Prize portrays the interweaving of national and corporate interests, the conflicts and stratagems, the miscalculations, the follies, and the ironies." -- James Schlesinger, former U.S. Secretary of Defense and U.S. Secretary of Energy
"Splendid and epic history of oil.... The story is brilliantly told...with its remarkable cast of characters." -- The Wall Street Journal
"Impassioned and riveting...only in the great epics of Homer will readers regularly run into a comparable string of larger-than-life swashbucklers and statesmen, heroes and villains." -- San Francisco Examiner
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Choisissez plutôt d'investir dans cette somme de D. Yergin qui, si elle a plus de 10 ans, reste remarquable et absolument éclairante sur les problématiques pétrolières contemporaines. "The Prize" est en effet le parfait exemple de ce que les meilleurs auteurs anglo-saxons savent faire: un livre érudit, extrêmement fouillé, aux analyses lumineuses, mais qui se lit comme un roman, car il fourmille d'anecdotes et de portraits. A recommander!
For my point of view, a book at the top of my library !
Il a été écrit il y a 10 ans, mais les leçons qu'on peut en tirer sont toujours valables.
Un seul exemple : la matière première qui a été la plus stratégique de toute la seconde guerre mondiale, qui est une des causes fondamentales de Pearl Harbour et de Stalingrad, c'est le pétrole.
Ce livre permet de mieux comprendre les 150 dernières années de l'histoire.
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You'd really be selling this book short to think of it just as a history of oil, the oil business, and oil politics in the middle east. Even that would have been an ambitious book but Yergin makes it so much more. It honestly is a thorough history of the entire 20th century (sans the 90s) viewed through the perspective of the oil industry.
As each chapter, era, decade, and war unfolds in Yergin's story, you'll gain a much better understanding of the roots of many of the US public's stances on big business, anti-trust legislation, and other pivotal issues of the last 100 years. You'll see how pivotal energy resources were in shaping the planning and rationale for 2 world wars and how the ready availability or lack of oil played as much of a role in winning and losing those wars as did battlefield strategies and the valor of the millions of soldiers involved. You'll see the role oil and energy played in the final collapse of the great imperial powers.
Probably most relevant to 2007, the lessons Yergin teaches about middle east history, the changing power roles the evolved in the last 50-60 years as the power shifted from the oil companies to the oil producing countries. Tracing the roots of nationalization of oil production in Mexico and Venezuela is a great stepping stone to understanding out current relationship with Venezuela but it also properly frames the story of the origins of OPEC and OPEC policies. And it's so important to get a understanding of the power plays, who's who, back room deals, and longstanding rivalries that built and reinforced the animosity that so many in the middle east felt and feel toward the US and other western and oil consuming countries.
It also traces the missteps and failed attempts at alternative energy sources as far back as the turn of the 19th century, including how alternative sources for aviation fuel provided the German Luftwaffe almost enough fuel to keep going in WWII. And it's easy to see how most other western nations have failed miserably to make the alternative fuel investments that might have paid those same kind of dividends.
The history of how many relations between nations were built on the personal charisma and power of individual leaders is also a powerful lesson for the future when you look at what happens to those relationships when the leader falls or is removed from power. Yergin's tracing of the entire story of the rise and exile of the Shah of Iran is must reading as western leaders might all be thinking while middle eastern leaders and families might be in danger of falling to that same fate and what effect that would have on our immediate oil supplies.
Any western reader and especially readers in the US should look at Yergin's perspective on the fall of the British empire as partially a failure to efficiently transition from a coal economy (coal being a resource England was rich in) to an oil economy (oil being scarce in the British empire until the North Sea discoveries at which time it was really to late to matter). When the US oil balance tipped from exporter to importer and as that balance swings even more out of whack, US readers have to be forced to ask themselves, how long can the US sustain as a world power while exporting so many dollars in exchange for oil and even worse, how ill prepared we could be for a scarcity of oil 25, 50, or 70 years from now. The oil producing nations all recognized 50 or more years ago that their oil revenue would only last so long, that there are only so many decades worth of oil to pump out of the ground at a given pace, and that it was in their interest to maximize the revenue from each barrel pumped. The US and other consumers need to make the corollary discovery: that there is only such much oil to be had and we need to maximize the use and benefit out of each barrel pumped.
Fanatically, even though it covers all this ground, all these disparate topics, Yergin's writing is still incredibly readable and the story well put together. It's hard to imagine a history book that is a "page turner" but this one really is.
In short, if you haven't read this, you should. Maybe if every member of the US House and Senate and all the President's advisors would read this, a few light bulbs would turn on (compact fluorescent energy saving bulbs of course) regarding our energy and foreign policies.
"The Prize" traces the history of oil from its humble, entrepreneurial beginnings in the hillsides of western Pennsylvania, to the shrewd domination of the industry by John D. Rockefeller, to the breakup of Standard Oil, and through the discovery of oil in the farthest flung corners of the globe. Part of Yergin's history is something of a tragedy: the gradual seizure of oil from the voyagers who discovered it by national governments who were able to use their seizures to threaten the West during the 1973 oil shock and beyond. In this one very big instance, third world governments really did take on multinational corporations -- and defeated them.
Yergin chronicles how oil went from a freewheeling business of refiners and speculators to an instrument of great geopolitical importance, one where nation-states played at least as great a role in shaping the industry as the oil companies did. In this transition, anything could -- and did -- happen. Rock bottom prices threatened the survival of oil producers one year, and sky-high prices forced drastic changes in consumer behavior the next (indeed, "The Prize" does give one a crystal-clear view of the price mechanism). Nightmare scenarios involving the political manipulation of oil did indeed come to pass in 1973, in 1979, and during the Gulf War. There is no shortage of high drama throughout this story.
One thing I would add to this book is a few pages, no more, no less, on the science and technology behind oil. What is it -- or what do we think it came from? How is it extracted? How have new technologies increased efficiency?
If you want a business history that will simultaneously teach you quite a bit about world history (and about the Middle East), "The Prize" is a sure bet.
From the opening pages it is clear that Yergin is an authority on the subject. We have not travelled more than 10 years along the 150 year history of oil and yet we have already learnt it's origins, it's ancient and alternate uses, the products it was competing with, and we have met some of the early inventors, entrepreneur's and explorers.
There are three themes that Yergin develops throughout the book. Firstly, the story of oil is the story of capitalism and modern business. The province of Fortune 500 companies, multinationals and the underpinning of wealth in the industrialized west. Certainly, from as early as the late 19th Century, with the emergence of Standard Oil as the first multinational company (a subject Yergin devotes a fair amount of time to),- it's hard to refute this claim. Yergin does recognize that the late 20th Century was less oil lubricated and more computer chip driven, and it's obvious to all of us that this trend will only intensify in this century. Indeed from the time the first edition of 'The Prize' was published (just before the Gulf War) and even since this edition came out in 1993 -things have changed quite a bit economically. In 1990, seven of the top 20 Fortune 500 Companies were in the oil industry. Today you have to extend the search further, and even then only come up with Exxon-Mobil, Enron, Chevron and Texaco.
The second theme he highlights is the role oil had in strategic global geoplolitical decicions and disasters. He lays at the feet of 'oil politics' the Japanese decision to bomb Pearl Harbour and Germany's invasion of Russia. Typically in a classic example of the irony that history is famous for, the eventual defeat of these two empires was also due to oil (actually the lack of it). There are of course other more recent strategic oil wars - what was the Gulf War and the unprecedented United Nations stand against Iraq if not a defense of the 'blood supply' for industrialized nations? This revised edition of the book makes it quite clear that Iraq if successful in it's swallowing of Kuwait, would have been the most powerful nation in The Persian Gulf.
The third theme is more sociological and forces us to deal with questions not of history but of our future. Yergin states that we have become a 'Hydrocarbon Society' and thus we are 'Hydrocarbon Man'. What characterizes us as this new species? Basically that our cities, politics, economics, values - in fact almost all things material and of importance to us are lubricated with a concern about oil. This used to be seen as a universal good - but no more, There are some of us, Mr Yergin says, including himself, that are concerned about this dependency - It's impact on our behavior, our health and our environment and our ability to sustain our way of life.
I agree with other reviewers in that more could have been said on some issues such as alternative energy sources, the economic and environmental arguments for and against our continued reliance on oil and the spin off activities and other associated industries such as plastics and chemicals. But, in fairness to Mr Yergin, there is so much that you can and should say, especially when you find that it is taking you over 800 pages to say it. For me, as a history book on the oil industry, it's certainly long enough but more importantly - good enough.
I bought it as I started researching energy. Two full bookshelves later, I can tell you, no other book in this field holds a candle to it for fascination and information. I've read complaints about what it doesn't cover so here are some alternatives, but if you want tales of the way greed, ignorance, and cleverness respond to natural wealth and, in turn, shape world history and current global politics, this is your book.
• Oil geology and exploration: Hubbert's Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage (New Edition).
• What to do about OPEC: Carbonomics: How to Fix the Climate and Charge It to OPEC.
• Alternatives to Oil: Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, Third Edition.
• Big Oil's power: The Tyranny of Oil: The World's Most Powerful Industry--and What We Must Do to Stop It.
There's no summarizing such a book, but this might give you an idea of the tales it tells: The 1930 discovery of the Black Giant in East Texas nearly destroyed the oil industry, sending prices down to thirteen cents a barrel. After a voluntary shutdown failed, the Governor of Texas sent the Texas Rangers in on horseback. They shut down production and sent prices back up. This led to the Texas Railroad Commission becoming the first government-organized oil cartel — a model for OPEC years later.
As an economist I really appreciate the fact that Yergin gets his economics right. This is crucial for a book about price manipulation, and it's pretty unusual. For example he understands why the Saudis tried to hold price down in 1979 and why Bush Senior flew to Saudi Arabia in 1986 to try to get them to raise the price back up! Yergen helps you understand exactly why things happen in this topsey-turvey world.
In any case, The Prize has been selling like hotcakes for 18 years. Whether you're fascinated by powerful historical forces or disgusted but intrigued by fossil fuel, you won't be disappointed.