Oil is the lifeblood of modern civilization, and the industry that supplies it has been the subject of intense interest and scrutiny, as well as countless books. And yet, almost no attention has been paid to little-known characters vital to the industry—secretive fixers and oil traders, lobbyists and PR agents, gangsters and dictators—allied with competing governments and multinational corporations. Virtually every stage in oil's production process, from discovery to consumption, is greased by secret connections, corruption, and violence, even if little of that is visible to the public. The energy industry, to cite just one measure, violates the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act more often than any other economic sector, even weapons. This book sets out to tell the story of this largely hidden world.
Based on trips to New York, Houston, New Orleans, Paris, Geneva, and Phnom Penh, among other far-flung locales, The Secret World of Oil includes up-close portraits of Louisiana oilmen and their political handlers; an urbane, captivating London fixer; and an oil dictator's playboy son who had to choose among more than three dozen luxury vehicles before heading out to party in Los Angeles. Supported by funding from the prestigious Open Society Foundations, this is both an entertaining global travelogue and a major work of investigative reporting.
“Ken Silverstein is one of the best investigative journalists of his generation – or any generation. The Secret World of Oil is a masterpiece of revelation. With a deft combination of detail and color, Silverstein exposes the darkest shade of crude: the fixers and middlemen who arrange the deals that provide us with the oil we need to keep our cars running and our homes warm. As Silverstein shows, these deals enrich the kleptocrats of our world and make life worse, rather than better, for their unfortunate subjects. It is a shameful and captivating tale about a pipeline of corruption that we must fix.”
“Much has been written about the oil industry, but Ken Silverstein provides an entirely new window into this vitally important universe. For the first time, we encounter the fixers, flacks, and traders behind the secretive deals that drive the industry and enrich its leading operators. After reading this book, you will never think about oil in the same way again.”
“Ken Silverstein’s sharp investigative reporting has again dragged a cast of shady operators into the public eye with his must-read book. Oil is the cause of so much pain in the world. As the fossil fuel industry tightens its grip on our warming planet, The Secret World of Oil names names, and exposes the brokers, lobbyists, and fixers who profit from the misery of millions and the accelerating pollution of the planet.”
“Silverstein writes with keen reportorial objectivity but also understandable skepticism about ... the frighteningly tyrannical hold that oil has on the free (and not-so-free) world. The book’s revelations make Wall Street corruption seem tame by comparison.”
“An engaging journey through the sector’s murkiest crevices, shot through with ill-concealed disgust at the corruption at its heart.”
“This fast-paced, colorful exposé looks closely at the fixers and traders who are indispensable in oil, which is still the world’s most crucial industry. Ken Silverstein also investigates the American law firms, lobbyists, and PR agencies that protect and whitewash the petroleum dictatorships. He somehow persuaded these normally secretive people to talk frankly ... [This book] explains all those things that can’t be learned in the annual reports of Exxon¬Mobil and Chevron.”
“Crude oil covers crude business practices. In this investigation journalist Ken Silverstein swims through this murky moral world.”