Oil: Politics, Poverty and Planet. Toby Shelley. London and New York, 2005. pp, 220. $ 19.95
Reviewed by Abraham Madut Bak Deng
The impact of the dependence on oil and hydrocarbon exports on producer countries is of a great profound. It has resulted, not only in economic deform of the producer countries, but made oil export countries more prone to civil strife. Many studies indicate that the distribution of oil earnings in export countries enriches the classes or cliques or sheikh’s families while impoverishing the rest, and the scramble for control of oil wealth proves to be a major spur to conflict within the developing countries and a source of tension between countries.
The book, Oil: Politics, Poverty and Planet emphasizes that energy demand is on strong upword trend. And as indicated in the book, the oil-export whole economy and not just export earnings, are strongly influence by oil output.” So even with a high earning from oil export, oil-dependent states have failed to filter down the social scale and lift their poor populations out of impoverishment. Therefore, the subject of this book, as noted in the introduction, is to provide the readers with a digest of information needed to understand the global structure of the oil and natural gas economy. And also to highlight vital political issues inherent in a global energy sector in which consumption remains dominated by the wealthy, post-colonial powers and production by developing countries.
Mr. Toby’s book is a fascinating account of the political, economical, social and environmental impact of oil on producer countries. It provides the reader with a digest of information needed to understand the global structure of oil and natural gas economy. It also highlight vital political and social issues inherent in a global energy sector in which consumption remains dominated by developing countries, while production, mostly, is in the hands of ruling elites of producing countries. That makes the security of oil and natural gas supply inseparable from the geo-strategies of the powerful consumer countries of the OECD, particularly the US.
Working as a journalist for the financial times in the Middle East, North Africa, and sub-Sahara Africa over the course of twenty years, regional energy news editor for Dow Jones and an expert who covered many OPEC conferences, Mr. Toby has acquired a strong academic tool that enabled him to cover many areas related to politics of oil, particularly “the question of sovereignty and regional stability presented by oil and gas wealth”. In the process, he releases many remarkable insight at oil-producing countries diversity in terms of geography, history and culture. It is somewhat of a little disappointment that the author cluttered the cultural background of oil export countries to make his argument on the institutional failure in these countries, but considering his intention to unmask the complexity of the political structure in most of oil-export countries, it is understandable.
In order to make his work lively and readable Mr. Toby managed to avoid complex scientific terms that would make a layman reader drops the book. For those searching for an entertaining book, this is a must-read. It is done with exceptional skill and competence, and is a good addition to any educated person’s library.
For the readers in Sudan, this book is available in The Nile Bookshop, New Extension Street 41 PO Box 8036, Khartoum, Tel 294-11-463 749
Abraham Madut Bak Deng Mawien