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Internal Combustion: How Corporations and Governments Addicted the World to Oil and Derailed the Alternatives

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  82 ratings  ·  24 reviews

Internal Combustion is the compelling tale of corruption and manipulation that subjected the U.S. and the world to an oil addiction that could have been avoided, that was never necessary, and that could be ended not in ten years, not in five years, but today.

Edwin Black, award-winning author of IBM and the Holocaust, has mined scores of corporate and governmental archives
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Hardcover, 408 pages
Published September 5th 2006 by St. Martin's Press
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(showing 1-30 of 183)
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John
This is a pretty ordinary history book. The author does cover some interesting topics, specifically:
1. The patent disputes during the very early days of the auto industry,
2. Ford and Edison's aborted plan to develop an "electric Model-T,"
3. The Milwaukee Railroad, its 600 mile electric railway over the Rockies, and its financial misfortunes,
4. GM's successful scheme to buy up and shut down all the electric trolleys in the U.S. in the 1930's and 40's, thereby forcing people to ride gasoline or d
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Ilya
The energy density of gasoline is approximately 46 MJ/kg, and that of diesel fuel is approximately 39 MJ/kg. The energy density of lead acid batteries is approximately 0.1 MJ/kg, and that of lithium ion batteries is approximately 0.6 MJ/kg. A book on the history of internal combustion engines versus electric engines should begin with these numbers; if it does not, it reminds me of the great engineer's saying, "He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense." The world runs on interna ...more
Mike
Aug 29, 2010 Mike rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
I picked this book up hoping for information about the origin and development of the internal combustion (IC) engine as well as it's place against the competing technologies of the late 1800s. Well, the book did have some of that, but not quite how I imagined it. Perhaps it is a style of this author (I have not read any of his other works), or perhaps this topic is one that he feels exceptionally passionate about. But passionate he certainly is.

For some, this book is probably a high-water mark o
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Stephen Proctor
This was an interesting book about how the internal combustion engine (ICE) rose to prominence and power over the electric alternatives as early as the 1920s.

I finished this book more than a year ago, but here are three interesting facts that have stuck with me...

1. Before cars stated hitting the scene, horses were the main mode of transportation. Two key problems people had with horses is that they were loud and smelly. When the first ICE cars started tooling around, people had the same complai
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Alexis Ohanian
For a very noteworthy subject that I'm quite interested in, this was quite disappointing. It has its moments, but many of the chapters will leave you scratching your head ("why am I still learning about Robin Hood?"). Although it was nice learning the origin of that fellow, that would have been a quick trip to wikipedia: -3 points. Things pick up once GM gets onto the scene (yes, there's a lot between Robin Hood and GM) and starts wiping out public transportation. This is the part of the tour th ...more
Mark Victor Young
This was a fantastic book about the history of electrical engines versus their internal combustion competition. It is by the author of IBM and the Holocaust, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize. So right away it is well-written and exhaustively researched. It is eye-opening in all the right ways for people who think that electric cars are something new. If you've seen the documentary "Who Killed the Electric Car?" this is the book to read afterwards. The story of corruption and greed stretching ...more
Daniel
I read this book a while ago and some of its concepts have stuck in my memory:

Thomas Edisons vision of self sufficient households generating their own power via windmills charging a variety of DC batteries is fascinating. His work, done in the early 1900s, could be of great value 100 years later.

The examination of General Motor's strategy of buying up electric trolleys (and elected officials) and replacing them with buses is valuable.

Overall the author / publisher fills too many pages with exc
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Scott
Jun 10, 2008 Scott rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Conspiracy theorists, alternative energy buffs, history buffs
I listened to this as an audiobook. All 13 CDs!
The subject matter is excellent and of great interest to me, and as a history book should be required reading.
The writing style is a bit tedious and sometimes strays into way too much useless detail (copies and copies of letters presented at trial). Might have been better to write it with more of a story narrative. The book "Longitude" is an example of what I mean.
The last 3 CDs are the best because they relate more to the modern day collusion goin
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Peter Kempenich
I enjoyed Edwin Black's book, Internal Combustion, and found it very informative. It also provided fresh insight into the past record of General Motors and other key corporations in their drive to promote petroleum-based internal combustion in ways that profited their own monetary interests over the interests of society at large, particularly their role in assisting the demise of mass transit in these United States. It's well worth reading.
Alanna
This is a wonderful book. It will make you mad though. It talks about electric cars in 1914, electric trains, electric trolleys in all sorts of cities and how companies like GM did their best to defeat these great ideas and replace them with petroleum powered conveyances. It also includes some hopeful news about technologies that are being developed right now to decrease our dependence on fossil fuels.
Bob
pretty good read. the author sometimes diverts his attention from the history of energy/energy storage in the 19th & 20th centuries (the book's strong suit) into op-ed work. very interesting tales about how the electrical vehicle industry shot itself in the foot early on & how a small group of company men worked to take any electrical transportation out of commission.
Stephanie
just depressing. I think I ran out of optimism once the election was over and the tension of waiting for the results to be stolen was gone. I just can't seem to get myself up for reading nonfiction that is anything depressing. Which takes care of about 90% of what I seem to pick up, hmmm could that be part of my problem?
Ken
A great read on the history of fuel and how we got addicted to oil and its 19th Century technological wonder, the internal combustion engine. Also explores the relationship of the ruling-owning class to everybody else.
Ben Boyd
Sep 25, 2008 Ben Boyd is currently reading it
Just started reading it. I know Edwin Black has a follow up book, "The Plan," which offers solutions for alternative sustainable fuels but thought I'd get more background by reading this one first.
Maggie
I agree with many of the other reviews - lots of research went into this book, but the writing style and obvious anti-oil point of view make it difficult at times to keep reading.
Jack
Absolutely fascinating documentation about the turn of century alternatives that were neglected and undermined to create the infrastructure we deal with today.
Donna
If one wishes to gain an historical perspective on the influence of big oil in this modern world of commerce, this is the book to read.
Moses Operandi
Obviously, this book was rather rabidly anti-oil. However, it did have some good facts and statistics that I utilized.
Charlie Styr
Would've been four stars if the conclusion wasn't that hydrogen is the answer.
Xico
Detailed without enough story. Interesting at points.
Vantec008
pack with intriguing facts..
Marc
A page-turning narrative about the greed and corruption in our politically charged corporate America and how this addicted the world to oil.
Skylinet
how oil became king
Patricia G. Stilwell
Patricia G. Stilwell marked it as to-read
Oct 17, 2014
Nate Boggs
Nate Boggs marked it as to-read
Aug 31, 2014
Aaron
Aaron marked it as to-read
Jul 29, 2014
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27423
Is an American syndicated columnist and journalist. He specializes in human rights, the historical interplay between economics and politics in the Middle East, petroleum policy, the abuses practiced by corporations, and the financial underpinnings of Nazi Germany.
More about Edwin Black...
IBM and the Holocaust War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race Nazi Nexus: America's Corporate Connections to Hitler's Holocaust Banking on Baghdad: Inside Iraq's 7000-year History of War, Profit & Conflict The Transfer Agreement: The Dramatic Story of the Secret Pact Between the Third Reich and Jewish Palestine

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