Big Oil in the United States
Industry Influence on Institutions, Policy, and Politics
by Jerry A. McBeath
June 2016, 299pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-3742-5
$75, £58, 66€, A103
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-3743-2
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Big oil’s financial clout allows these corporations to influence environmental regulation and the formation of U.S. energy policy.

This book explains how and why large oil-producing corporations have affected government institutions, energy policy, and politics in the United States—and suggests how their influence can be reduced.

Big oil is the leading factor in U.S. energy politics today; the largest oil-producing companies also constitute a formidable force and interest group in American politics. This book examines why oil is so important and how the prominence of huge corporations—often working in the absence of countervailing forces—has affected government institutions, policy (with a focus on energy policy), and politics in the United States.

Analyzing big oil’s influence on political outcomes, particularly through campaign contributions and lobbying, this book shows how strong corporate power affects political participation. The book documents how the influence of big oil flows in all directions, intricately connecting U.S. policies at all levels—foreign policy, federal, state, and even local—regarding oil exploration, development, production, and transportation. Readers will come away with a clear understanding of how these multi-tiered relationships between oil corporations and governments work to the advantage of corporations—and to the disadvantage of states and the citizens they represent.


  • Focuses on big oil's impact on U.S. government policy—regulatory, environmental, and fiscal—and analyzes big oil's political influence through campaign contributions and lobbying
  • Proposes methods that could be employed to reduce big oil's influence over energy policy
  • Presents current information relevant to university-level courses in energy politics, public policy, and state or local politics and policy as well as to practitioners such as government regulators, business persons, and NGO representatives
Jerry A. McBeath is professor of political science emeritus at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. His classroom teaching career included work at Rutgers College, the City University of New York, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He also had two Fulbright professor stints in Taiwan and China. McBeath has received research grants from international and national research foundations; federal, state, and local agencies; and private foundations. His publications include 16 books (authored or coauthored), more than 50 refereed journal articles and book chapters, and hundreds of book reviews and research reports. During his career, he has received teaching excellence awards, commendations for research accomplishments, and distinguished service awards.


"Jerry McBeath's book could not be more timely. In the world's current efforts to deal with climate change, it is of crucial importance to understand the politics and public policies of oil, gas, and other forms of energy. The book is an exemplary study that makes optimal use of comparisons among American states and that also provides a model for investigations into the politics and policies of the energy sector in other countries."—Arend Lijphart, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, University of California, San Diego

"A superb book by a gifted and veteran political scientist who really understands American state politics. Big Oil is deeply probing, comprehensive, and especially well-researched. McBeath unpacks the complex political and policy cultures in which key energy policy decisions are negotiated in our major oil and gas producing states. Highly recommended!"—Thomas E. Cronin, McHugh Professor of American Institutions and Leadership, Colorado College

"Jerry McBeath draws on three decades of studying the petroleum industry to write an encyclopedic analysis of policymaking. He offers numerous original insights such as those about industry capture of regulatory commissions and manipulation of Congressional procedures. Lengthy quotations and detailed examples give authenticity to events. Based on 200 interviews with trade association staff, environmental activists, and government experts, this is a scholarly tour de force."—David Howard Davis, Professor of Political Science and Public Administration, University of Toledo, and author of Energy Politics
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