The Prize, by Daniel Yergin
Daniel Yergin’s timing could hardly have been better. With Kuwait kidnapped, and roughly one million U.S., allied, and Iraqi troops poised to shoot, history conspired to make his sprawling, heavily documented work about the centrality of petroleum to the modern world order supremely topical and compelling. Would that the book itself rose to the occasion. Yergin, president of Cambridge Energy Research Associates, billed as a leading authority on world affairs and the oil business, indefatigable proselytizer for alternative energy scenarios, has offered up a major disappointment.
The Prize claims to be an epic narrative, a history of what Yergin calls “the age of oil”—i.e., our age. Its thesis is that crude oil now lies at the bottom of Everything: not only industrial organization, but entire forms of civilization. By extension, how the Western world deals with its relationship to oil is a key to how the West will deal with Everything. Unfortunately, The Prize does not begin to come to grips with the issues which according to its author we need to confront if “hydrocarbon civilization”—meaning, more or less, life as we in the West know it—is to resolve its many contradictions. Instead, it is a heavy mass of often shapeless information entwined around a fairly familiar historical core.
About the Author
George Russell is the executive editor of Fox New Channel.