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ISBN: 978-0-7456-4926-9
200 pages
November 2012, Polity
Oil (0745649262) cover image


Oil pulses through our daily lives. It is the plastic we touch, the food we eat, and the way we move. Oil politics in the twentieth century was about the management of abundance, state power and market growth. The legacy of this age of plenty includes declining conventional oil reserves, volatile prices, climate change, and enduring poverty in many oil rich countries. The oil sector is now in need of reform. Yet no one seems at the helm, leaving a vital source of energy at the whim of dictators, speculators and corporate operators, and our societies locked into unsustainable growth models.

In this in-depth primer to the world's wealthiest industry, authors Gavin Bridge and Philippe Le Billon take a fresh look at the contemporary geopolitics of oil. Going beyond simple assertions of peak oil and an oil curse, they point to an industry reordered by internationalized state oil companies, Asian consumerism shifting demand, the insecurities and violent assertiveness of declining powers, and the dilemmas of post-oil energy transition.

As a new geopolitics of oil emerges, the need for effective global oil governance becomes imperative. Praising the growing influence of civil society and attentive to the institutionalization of producer-consumer cooperation, this book identifies challenges and opportunities to curtail price volatility, curb demand and the growth of dirty oil, de-carbonise energy systems, and improve governance in oil producing countries.

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Table of Contents

List of Figures, Tables, and Boxes vi

Acknowledgments viii

Introduction 1

1 The Nature of a Political Resource 5

2 Capturing Oil 35

3 Marketing Oil 69

4 Securing Oil 93

5 Developing Through Oil 125

6 Governing Oil 153

7 Better and Beyond: The Future of Oil 180

Notes 206

Selected Readings 226

Index 235

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Author Information

Philippe le Billon is associate professor at the Liu Institute for Global Issues, University of British Columbia. He has worked for environmental and humanitarian organizations in Angola, Cambodia, Sierra Leone, and the former Yugoslavia.

Gavin Bridge is a reader in economic geography at the University of Manchester. He has published widely on the geography of natural resources.

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"Its accessible language, comprehensive treatment of the subject and affordable pricing make this indispensable reading."
International Affairs

"Brimming with rich conceptual insights and expert empirical detail."
Economic Geography

"You will not find a better guide to the new geopolitics of hydrocarbons."
Michael Ross, University of California Los Angeles

"No comparable book so effectively covers the core issues as well as Oil and none so effectively provides a road synthesis of key trends and debates with such economy of style and richness of detail."
Michael Watts, University of California, Berkeley

"This book is a 'must-read' antidote to current arguments about the scarcity of oil. Not only do Bridge and Le Billon comprehensively demolish those claims, they positively submit a twenty-first century 'beyond oil's prospective' for the future."
Peter R. Odell, Erasmus University, Rotterdam

"The book Oil published by leading resource geographers Gavin Bridge and Philippe Le Billon in the 'Resources' series of Polity provides the most up-to-date and well-balanced analysis of the challenges faced by the global petroleum industry today and their implications for social studies of energy affairs. The book offers an empirically grounded and conceptually informed critique without being heavily immersed in critical geographical theory. Oil is an essential reading for anyone interested in the contemporary politics of hydrocarbons and delivers much needed teaching material for both undergraduate and graduate courses on extractive economies."
Karg Kama, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford

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