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The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power [Paperback]

Daniel Yergin
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan. 1 1993

Pulitzer Prize Winner -- and Now an Epic PBS Series

The Prize recounts the panoramic history of oil -- and the struggle for wealth power that has always surrounded oil. This struggle has shaken the world economy, dictated the outcome of wars, and transformed the destiny of men and nations. The Prize is as much a history of the twentieth century as of the oil industry itself. The canvas of this history is enormous -- from the drilling of the first well in Pennsylvania through two great world wars to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and Operation Desert Storm.

The cast extends from wildcatters and rogues to oil tycoons, and from Winston Churchill and Ibn Saud to George Bush and Saddam Hussein. The definitive work on the subject of oil and a major contribution to understanding our century, The Prize is a book of extraordinary breadth, riveting excitement -- and great importance.


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Daniel Yergin's first prize-winning book, Shattered Peace, was a history of the Cold War. Afterwards the young academic star joined the energy project of the Harvard Business School and wrote the best-seller Energy Future. Following on from there, The Prize, winner of the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction, is a comprehensive history of one of the commodities that powers the world--oil. Founded in the 19th century, the oil industry began producing kerosene for lamps and progressed to gasoline. Huge personal fortunes arose from it, and whole nations sprung out of the power politics of the oil wells. Yergin's fascinating account sweeps from early robber barons like John D. Rockefeller, to the oil crisis of the 1970s, through to the Gulf War.

From Publishers Weekly

Energy consultant Yergin limns oil's central role in most of the wars and many international crises of the 20th century. "A timely, information-packed, authoritative history of the petroleum industry, tracing its ramifications, national and geopolitical, to the present day," said PW. Photos. Author tour.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointingly pulpy tome. March 20 1999
Format:Paperback
The trend toward authorial self-glorification has gone too far when the back cover of a book reads: 'Daniel Yergin is an authority on world affairs'. What's next? An Expert on Matters Pertaining to the Universe?
Considering his exalted position in the world, this is a remarkably mediocre book, though there are details worth pondering, such as the irony of Japan powering its Pearl Harbor raid with oil imported from California. Worse than that, and more sobering, is the realization that Japan subjugated Taiwan, China, and other parts of Asia over the course of four decades with oil from California. Millions of lives were destroyed, but the oil spigot was not shut off until July of 1941. Why? Roosevelt did not want to give Japan a pretext for attacking the East Indies. Yergin relates this astounding spinelessness without a hint of irony, as though it were a perfectly good excuse for supplying a fascist power with the means to mass murder.
Yergin misses the boat entirely when it comes to the price drop of the mid-eighties, claiming the Saudis flooded the market to gain market share and that George Bush went from place to place as the 'point man' for the Reagan administration arguing for a price floor for oil. Nonsense. Ronald Reagan's goal was the destruction of the Soviet Empire, and one of his key strategies was to take away the Russians' source of hard currency: the sale of oil. Every one dollar drop in the price of crude deprived the Soviets of billions of dollars of revenue, revenue that their own paraplegic of an economy could never hope to generate on its own. If there was any 'point man' for the administration in the Middle East, it was William Casey, who guaranteed the Saudis' security against Marxist revolutionaries and regional dictators like Saddam.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Petroleum History Information March 8 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This book is one of the best around for historical information on the petroleum industry. It is put together in a very good chronological and logical manner that links many events and things together with each other through their common link of petroleum. It has a great deal of information on many of the leading petroleum producing nations of the world. Overall, it is a book that makes very enjoyable reading on the history and development of the petroleum industry and its importance in politics and economics. I would have given this book a five star rating if it had including much more information and deserved attention on the country of Canada and its petroleum industry since it is one of the biggest suppliers of petroleum to the United States. Also, mention of the diesel engine in its relationship as a solution to higher cetane vs octane fuels as found in early discovered petroleum is another important fact. It is hoped that if the author writes a revised version of his book that these things be considered.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book! But needs to be updated!!! Jan. 18 2004
By Jay
Format:Paperback
This book is no doubt a great book, and the most comprehensive history of the oil industry. I hope the author updates the book every 25 years or so because once again this industry is going through another cycle. Also a lot of previously classified documents are becoming publicly available such as in 2004 the British released papers stating Nixon was willing to occupy OPEC oil fields with military force because of their embargo.
But the book does have faults mainly with Daniel Yergin put way to many of his opinions in this book (maybe that is inevitable). For example he says in the Epiloge that Iraqi soldiers commits certain crimes while in Kuwait, that information is know known to be completly wrong, so i hope the next printing of this book updates that. Also he says that Saddam Hussein had ambitions for Arab-conquest, maybe he is right but i feel his opinion is wrong...it would have been nice if he said that was his opinion, and another possible ansewer excists for him trieng to take over Iran and Kuwait.
Also this book does a great job of telling the story of Saudi, Iran, and Venezuala. But much is desired with Iraq, Libya, the North Sea, and Nigeria.
Maybe i am demanding too much from this book, it is already a 800+ page book.
I found the best way to complete it is: read one chapter a day, so you will finish it in about a month....it takes disipline but it worked for me.
This is a must read, everyone in high school or college should be required to read this book.
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Format:Paperback
The engines of the modern world run on hydrocarbons, and especially on oil & gas. and The Prize is an excellent, accessible history of the oil & gas industry, the impact it has had on world history and politics, and the corresponding impact of world events back on the industry itself.
Oil fields are a wasting asset -- once found, they require capital for development, and once developed they become depleted. Yergin shows that the industry's story is largely a matter of finding balance -- (1) the balance between the ongoing need to find new sources, the depletion of those sources, and the need to find and hold market share, and (2) the balance between the countries that own resources, the companies that develop those resources and the consumers of oil and gas.
Although this is not a very recent book, it explains the principlpes that underlie the dynamics of the oil industry. The reader comes away with an understanding of both yesterday's and today's oil-related geopolitics and economics. Explaining that complex linkage is quite an accomplishment, and explaining it so well and in so readable a manner justifies the high praise this book has won for nearly a generation.
Yergin does a very good job of explaining the pre-World Way I and II strategic issues revolving around the availablity and security of oil supplies, and oil-related postwar political issues. It's a particularly interesting book in light of the recent declassification of British documents from 1973 indicating that the US was considering seizure of mideast oilfields during the 1973 Arab oil embargo. If you want to understand the history and economics of a powerful industry and its impact on global economics and geopolitics, read The Prize.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Oil explained
Fantastic in-depth account on the history of oil around the globe, creating an understanding of the current situation.
Reads like a story.
Published 26 days ago by Mary Saso
5.0 out of 5 stars Very informative.
I work in the Canadian oil industry in Alberta and found this book very interesting. It took me months of reading it in camp after work to complete, but I felt it was a great and... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Zane Gates
5.0 out of 5 stars Thick and dense
This is an incredibly narrative on the oil industry. I found the first part (pre WWII) too detailed, sometimes too focused on individuals and not so much on the companies they were... Read more
Published 7 months ago by dw
5.0 out of 5 stars Epic
I was impressed, I learned alot and it read more like a novel and less like a text book. I have recommended it more than a few times.
Published on Sept. 22 2011 by Kurtis Sali
5.0 out of 5 stars Understanding the world
This book is comprehensive and well written. It will give the reader a complete history of the development of the oil industry and how it has contributed to the shaping of world... Read more
Published on June 30 2004 by Frank
5.0 out of 5 stars The Prize: Wow! As soon as I finished, I started again
I can't use anything but superlatives for this tome. As soon as I finished it I started again. Yergin, now the president of the VERY influential private energy group CERA does an... Read more
Published on Feb. 29 2004 by Srabalais
5.0 out of 5 stars Timely
An extremely comprehensive and educational book covering a topic that everyone, worldwide, should be familiar with, especially given current events in the Middle East. Read more
Published on Jan. 20 2004 by Scamp Lumm
4.0 out of 5 stars Masterful, important, exquisitely informative, and loooong.
You should get a PhD in Hydrocarbononics (not a real word) for reading this book. Everything you could possibly want to know about Oil; its physical origins, the technologies that... Read more
Published on Jan. 5 2004 by Christian Hunter
5.0 out of 5 stars Completely changed my understanding of recent history
I am on my second pass at this book. I read it about five years ago, but due to recent world events and oil shocks, I decided to read it again. Read more
Published on Nov. 20 2003 by david
5.0 out of 5 stars Top notch
This book is a complete and thorough history of the most important natural resource. Its reach is unequalled. Read more
Published on Oct. 7 2003 by Douglas Cotton
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