The Oil Road

 

Original

Full Title: The Oil Road: Journeys from the Caspian sea to the city of London

Year of Publication: 2012

Type: Academic/Popular book.

Authors: James Marriot & Mika-Minio-Paluello

Full reference: Marriott, J  & Paluello, M,M. (2012) The Oil Road: Journeys to the Caspian sea, Verso, UK.

Availability:  Available online at amazon £12.91

“An exposé of the corruption and consequences of Europe’s most controversial oil pipeline” (VersoBooks)

Trailer

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDZP3_y0HWo

Description

“It’s a grimly fascinating story of high finance, corruption, displaced communities and environmental degradation, revealing the inevitable but usually hidden costs of globalization” (Source: London Review Bookshop 2012)

“An elegantly written travel book…a distinctive blend of travelogue, reportage and history” (Source: Financial Times)

“The Oil Road opens the lid on the often-shady energy economy, weaving absorbing travel reportage into powerful investigative journalism” (Source: Time Out)

“Told through a series of vignettes and diary pieces, the book traces the journey of Azeri oil, from its extraction in the Caspian Sea all the way to the City of London, where BP’s financial power is consolidated” (Source: Peter Geoghegan 2012)

“In a unique journey from the oil fields of the Caspian Sea to the refineries and financial centres of Northern Europe, James Marriott and Mika Minio-Paluello track the concealed routes along which flows the lifeblood of our economy.

In The Oil Road, the human scale of village life in the Caucasus Mountains and the plains of Anatolia is suddenly, and sometimes fatally, confronted by the almost ungraspable scale of the oil corporation BP. Pipelines and tanker routes tie the fraying social democracies of Italy, Austria and Germany to the repressive regimes of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. A web of financial and political institutions in London stitches together the lives of metropolis and village.

Building on a decade of study with Platform, Marriott and Minio-Paluello guide us through a previously obscured landscape of energy production and consumption, resistance and profit that has marked Europe for over a century.” (Source: Verso Books 2012)

“Marriott and Minio‑Paluello seamlessly weave an engaging personal story into the current geopolitics of oil aggression and the volatile recent history of the region. Central to the story is BP, which promised a pipeline that would represent a new era of social and environmental responsibility….The story ends in London, the financial capital that feeds much of our oil habit” (Source: Red Pepper 2012)

“the crude oil from the Caspian may ultimately power a car in southern Germany, the profit generated mainly flows to London or New York. While the governments of Azerbaijan and Geogrgia were involved in the created of the pipelines, the ultimate political drivers were in Washingon, London and Brussels” (Source: Marriott, J & Minio-Paluello, M. 2012 The Oil Road: Journeys from the Caspian Sea to the City of London p337)

“Sumqayit lies 20 km north of Baku, and is famous for the smog that hung above it and suffused everything and everyone. This is known as a place of destruction, where 250,000 people live and exposed to huge petrochemical pollution levels. There are 32 chemical plants within the area, spewing out 120,000 tonnes of waste annually, subsequently resulting in an increased death rate from cancer, and increased infant mortality and child deformity rates.” (Source: Marriott, J & Minio-Paluello, M. 2012 The Oil Road: Journeys from the Caspian Sea to the City of London pp38-39)

Inspiration/Technique/Process/Methodology

‘We didn’t want to write a book that would just be for oil experts.’ (Source: New Left Project)

So why did they write it?

Energy security concerns are a serious 21st century challenge. There are covered and debated relentlessly in the media. Oil in particular sparks a range of geopolitical, social and environmental issues and is one of few commodities that have impacts on a wide variety of scales, from national to local to individual. The Oil Road studies one of the most important pipeline developments with these scales clearly in focus, exploring the effects of construction on local village people but also talking with opposition activists in Azerbaijan as well as representatives of BP – the multinational corporation behind the pipeline.

There are a lot of reasons this book was necessary, one of which is the growing disconnectedness of consumers with suppliers and the chain of production in an increasingly “shrinking world”. The Oil Road, in its most raw of forms, could be seen as at attempt to correct this.

‘It is easy to forget when you’re standing at the petrol station just how that file has reached the pump’. (Source: BBC Newshour)

The authors focused upon the incentives provided by political problems in the East for Western energy companies. ‘As the Soviet Union disintegrated there was heavy pressure and geopolitical manoeuvring both from Britain and from the U.S to secure control of the resources, and the infrastructure to remove and transport them to the global market, by Western companies.’ (Source: New Left Project)

‘Geopolitics is of interest in our time, we are more internationally aware thanks to growing media communications..’ (Source: Time Out)

One of the co-authors re-iterates this, ‘The aim was to really get under the skin of the way the movement and pumping of crude oil, from its extraction in the Caspian Sea to Central and Western Europe, works, and to find a way of making that process accessible and interesting to people who aren’t oil geeks.’ (Source: New Left Project)

How did they do that?

“They follow Azeri oil from the Caspian Sea to the filing stations of central Europe. By car, train, bus and foot, they trace the pipeline along the southern flank of the old Soviet Union, across remote eastern Turkey, to the shores of the Mediterranean. They see it loaded onto ships, and track those tankers as they sail to Italy. They climb high into the Alps to accompany the crude on its way to the German, Austrian and Czech refineries” (Bullogh 2012)

The oil crosses some of the most significant fault lines in European geography; where Muslims met Christians, where communists and capitalists, where nomads met settled agriculture”

Initially, research on the BTC Pipeline (which currently accounts for over 1% of global oil consumption) began in the 1990s in collaboration with Platform London, which combines ‘art, activism, education and research in one organisation’ with the aim of social and ecological justice, focusing more recently on the oil industry. (Source: Platform London)

Throughout the book the authors use the pipeline almost as a physical manifestation of the producer-consumer chain, exploring sites of tension and tragedy along the way. However the ‘following’ of the oil was not done according to time, instead in relation to its actual route.

‘We tracked the movement of the crude Westwards from the Caspian, so the book’s narrative is spatial rather than chronological.’ (Source: New Left Project)

This “book is more a series of reflections than a polemic or manifesto. Rather than John Pilger or Naomi Klein, the presiding spirit is that of Iain Sinclair, who uses rambling excursions in and around London to uncover hidden aspects of the city’s past and present.” (Source: Crooks 2012) Link

“As global powers scramble for the last of the world’s diminishing resources, comes this book – well researched and written with empathy, integrity and imagination. It is timely and much needed.” (Source: Soueif, 2012) Link

“The authors do not just travel through the tangled geography where the Caucasus meets Anatolia, but also through the still more tangled history of the oil industry itself…elegant…verges on the psychogeographical” (Source: Tamar, 2012) Link

“The Oil Road is a vital tool in understanding – and breaking – the complex web of that addiction. It is a rich, rewarding read.” (Source: Rowell , 2012) Link

“The book systematically deconstructs BP’s false promises” Source: Rowell, 2012) Link

“Marriott and Minio‑Paluello seamlessly weave an engaging personal story into the current geopolitics of oil aggression and the volatile recent history of the region. Central to the story is BP, which promised a pipeline that would represent a new era of social and environmental responsibility….The story ends in London, the financial capital that feeds much of our oil habit. The Oil Road is a vital tool in understanding – and breaking – the complex web of that addiction. It is a rich, rewarding read.” (Source: Rowell, 2012) Link

“The good news about energy scarcity, Rubin argues, could be that we’ll buy fewer things, but we’ll also have more time to enjoy our lives. For many people, however, especially in emerging economies, that may seem like an unattractive prospect. If energy supplies do become tighter, we can expect intensified efforts to grab hold of what is left.” (Source: Crooks, 2012) Link

Discussion

Positive Responses

“The Oil Road is an unusual work: an elegantly written travel book about a pipeline” (Source: Crooks 2012) Link

“Closely following the route of the pipeline from the oilfields and refineries of Baku, through Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey to the Mediterranean – and then from Trieste, where it arrives by tanker, to Bavaria – the authors unravel the unholy alliances between BP, governments and other interests and their effects on the people, ecology and politics of the regions they pass through. As a travel book it is unusual because it follows an absolutely clear path – the pipeline – rather than a particular cultural or national route.” (Source: Mika, 2012) Link

“An elegantly written travel book…a distinctive blend of travelogue, reportage and history…will make you think the next time you fill the tank” (Source: Crooks, 2012) Link

“A Stunningly powerful book…which brings to life the story of the BTC pipeline…a must-read for anyone who cares about oil and the stranglehold it has on our society” (Source: Rowell 2012) Link

“Always alive both to local politics and geopolitics, it shows how the pipeline dominates the relations between the various languages and ethnicities and influences people and events far away.” (Source: Mika, 2012) Link

“Part-travelogue, part-reportage, the Oil Road is a powerful…account of how a valuable natural resource can turn a tiny elite into plutocrats, destabilise nations and ruin the lives of ordinary people… This is no dry historiography… Irish politicians, and citizens, would do well to heed the OilR oad’s cautionary lesson: without proper social and environmental oversight, oil can be a boon for a powerful few and a disaster for everyone else.”(Source: Geoheagen 2012) Link

“The Oil Road is a rich, rewarding read.  It is a written in a poetic, fluid style that seamlessly weaves an engaging personal story into the current geo-politics of oil aggression and the recent volatile recent history of the region.” (Source: Rowell 2012) Link

“The Oil Road opens the lid on the often-shady energy economy, weaving absorbing travel reportage into powerful investigative journalism”

Negative Responses

“Azerbaijan’s President, IlhamAliyev, gave a speech last week accusing oil company BP of “false promises” and “gross mistakes”…. (Source: Mika, 2012) Link

“In The Oil Road, the human scale of village Life in the Caucasus Mountains and the plains of Anatolia is suddenly, and sometime fatally, confronted by the vast strangeness of the oil corporation BP. Pipelines and tanker routes tie the fraying social democracies of Italy, Austria and Germany to the repressive regimes of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey.” (Source: Woolfson & Tay, 2012) Link

“In his speech, Aliyev revealed the extent of BP’s massive profits in Azerbaijan. After investing $29 billion in offshore drilling platforms, processing plants and pipelines, the company walked away with a whopping $73 billion in profits.  In comparison, Azerbaijan’s State Oil Fund – intended to ensure long-term macro-economic stability and to diversify the economy – is looking pretty meagre at only $16 billion.” (Source: Mika, 2012) Link

“Aliyev’s regime is built on carrots and sticks. The hard stick of repression and censorship, and the carrot of a promise that Baku will become the Dubai of the Caucasus. The construction boom in recent years gave people optimism for the future – after all, Dubai has many skyscrapers.” (Source: Mika, 2012) Link

“Aliyev is right that BP has ripped off Azerbaijan…we should beware being taken in by the political theatre of a clash between regime and corporation, distracting from the economic and political reality the two chose to create together.” (Source: Mika, 2012) Link

As veteran oppositionist Zardusht put it: “The oil will end, BP will leave, the elite will move to their fancy houses in London and Paris. And what will be left behind?” Lots of empty skyscrapers that we can’t keep clean.’ (Source: Mika, 2012) Link

“I think it is highly dishonest, and immoral of BP to rip off a developing country regardless of the state of its government. One of the worst examples of the shameless greed and ruthless profiteering of multinationals.” (Source: Mika, 2012) Link

Outcomes/Impacts

“JAMES MARRIOTT and MIKA MINIO-PALUELLO are part of the award-winning environmental social justice group PLATFORM” (link).

“Platform’s campaign to put the Oil Road on the map has been given a fine start with our new travel book being chosen by London’s main cultural listings magazine, TimeOut, as ‘Book of the Week’” (Source: anon link)

“If you want to know why oil matters read this book” (Source Time Out (book of the week) link)

“We didn’t want to write a book that would just be for oil experts. Although we are a centre of expertise on the oil industry we also want to challenge the whole approach of rule by experts, which ultimately includes those working in campaign groups and NGOs.” (Source: Stern-Weiner & Minio-Paluello link)

“A lot of the voices of people along the pipeline don’t really come out unless you actually go and speak to them” (Source: Stern-Weiner & Minio-Paluello link)

“The Oil Road is quite a journey, congratulations for laying bare what really is happening ot there. it is an important book for all of us to be made aware of the political, financial and environmental reality behind us filling up our cars, keeping warm and taking us on far flung holidays” (Souce: Roddick link)

“Years from now this book will still be being read for what it reveals about the nature of the oil industry in the early 21st century. Required reading if you’re interested in energy, global economics, finance – and most importantly, how these big issues impact the lives of people all around the world”  (Source: Anon link)

“It is timely and much needed” (Source: Soueif, 2012 link)

“A fascinating opportunity to see the filthy entrails of the world economy up close and personal” (Source: Socialist Worker link)

“Our campaign Tour will take place at venues across England, Scotland and Wales this autumn and wider, examine how Britain and the EU’s drive to control oil reserves – and hence people and events – has shattered environments and shaped societies. The stupendous wealth of crude has long inspired dreams of a world remade – how do we change direction?”(Source: Platform link)

“The Oil Road is a vital tool in understanding – and breaking – the complex web of that addiction” (Source: Red Pepper link)

“The human race travels the Oil Road, and this book helps us to realize where we are heading and why it is time to change direction” (Source: Verso link).

References

Anon (2012) Putting the Oil Road on the Map – 5 star review kicks off campaign, Platform (http://platformlondon.org/2012/09/06/putting-the-oil-road-on-the-map-5-star-review-kicks-off-campaign/ last accessed 5/11/12)

Anon (2012) The Oil Road – reviews, interviews and analysis, Platform (http://platformlondon.org/2012/10/30/the-oil-road-reviews-interviews-and-analysis/ last accessed 5/11/12)

Anon (2012) The Oil Road – Journeys from the Caspian City of London (http://platformlondon.org/p-publications/the-oil-road-journeys-from-the-caspian-to-the-city/ last accessed 5/11/12)

Anon (2012) The Oil Road: Journeys from the Caspian Sea to the City of London [Hardcover] Amazon (http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Oil-Road-Journeys-Caspian/dp/1844676463 last accessed 5/11/12)

Anon (2012) The Oil Road: Journeys from the Caspian Sea to the City of London, Verso (http://www.versobooks.com/books/531-the-oil-road last accessed 5/11/12)

BBC Newshour with Minio-Paluello, via Soundcloud (http://soundcloud.com/platformlondon/the-oil-road-on-bbc-newshour last accessed: 05/11/12)

Crooks, 2012. ‘Notes from underground’ 21.09.2012 (http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/d11922b6-0319-11e2-a284-00144feabdc0.html#axzz27NRbhQOO last accessed 5/11/2012)

Geoheagen, P. 2012. ‘Book Review, The Oil Road’ (http://www.petergeoghegan.com/?p=628 last accessed 4/11/2012)

Marriott, J. & Minio-Paluello, M. (2012) ‘The Oil Road: Journeys from the Caspian Sea to the City of London’, Verso, London.

Mika, 2012, ‘Bust-up between Aliyev and BP reveals corporate profiteering as Azeri oil peaks.’ 15/10/2012 (http://platformlondon.org/2012/10/15/bust-up-between-aliyev-and-bp-reveals-corporate-profits-and-vulnerable-economy/ last accessed 3/11/12)

Rowell, 2012, We Should All Scrutinise BP’s Oil Road, 15/10/2012 (http://priceofoil.org/2012/10/15/why-we-should-all-scrutinise-bps-oil-road/ last accessed 2/11/12)

Rowell 2012, The people of the pipeline, October 2012 (http://www.redpepper.org.uk/the-people-of-the-pipeline/ last accessed 2/11/12)

Soueif, S. (2012) (http://platformlondon.org/p-publications/the-oil-road-journeys-from-the-caspian-to-the-city last accessed 3/11/2012)

Tamar, 2012. The Oil Road – reviews, interviews and analysis. 30/10/2012 (http://www.woolfsonandtay.com/theoilroad.html last accessed 5/11/12)

Woolfson & Tay, (2012) http://www.woolfsonandtay.com/theoilroad.html last accessed 5/11/2012)

Stern-Weiner, J., Minio-Paluello (2012) The Oil Economy: From the Caspian City (http://www.newleftproject.org/index.php/site/article_comments/the_oil_road last accessed 5/11/12)

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