The Age of Oil
The Mythology, History, and Future of the World's Most Controversial Resource
by Leonardo Maugeri
May 2006, 360pp, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-275-99008-4
$65, £50, 57€, A90
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eBook Available: 978-0-313-07159-1
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Explores the obsessions and misperceptions surrounding the resource that has shaped our lives, demonstrating that oil will be with us for a long time to come.

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.


CHOICE 2007 Outstanding Academic Title, January 1, 2007


"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."—Choice, January 1, 2007

"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, September 1, 2006

"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, January 2, 2007

"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, October 1, 2007

"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, September 1, 2006

"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, September 1, 2006

"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."—Booklist, August 1, 2006

"Leonardo Maugeri provides a lively and insightful history of oil, the world's most controversial commodity, and an informed perspective on key questions for the future, including the hot topic of whether the world really is running out. He also brings his wisdom and experience to bear in making sense of the not-so-secret secret of oil-- its critical role in the world economy and global politics."—Daniel Yergin author of The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power

"Leonardo Maugeri is a contrarian, dissenting from much of the conventional wisdom about the future of oil. He has written a fascinating history of the politics and economics of petroleum, from John D. Rockefeller to the present, that places today's discussions about energy in a broader context. Agree or disagree with his conclusions, Maugeri is always interesting and insightful and this book is essential reading."—Fareed Zakaria, Editor, Newsweek International

"Leonardo Maugeri's book is certain to spark a fierce debate, as he fully intends. With skill and wit and deep knowledge, he challenges some widely held perceptions about oil. The result is one of the best books written on oil, a book that will become an essential part of any future discussion on oil."—Richard Holbrooke, Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations

"Everything you wanted to learn about the history of oil, from the days of the Rockefellers to the Iraq war. A clear, well written, and convincing argument runs through the book: Pessimism and doomsday predictions have come and gone, at least three times in the 20th century. Pessimistic predictions have come again; again, they are equally likely to go. I was convinced."—Olivier Blanchard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"The book makes an important contribution to the debate about the future of energy security. The author reinforces the idea that oil markets are volatile, with a long history of boom and bust cycles in the industry. This is a serious book by a serious author--it demonstrates his hard work, in-depth knowledge and vast experience as a senior for one of the world's premier oil companies."—J. Robinson West, Chairman, Corporate Advisory Group, PFC Energy
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