"Boom" is a sometimes interesting look at the politics and people behind the much maligned Keystone Pipeline that is still, after five years, not appr"Boom" is a sometimes interesting look at the politics and people behind the much maligned Keystone Pipeline that is still, after five years, not approved by the U.S. government. The pipeline has become little more than a political football that is likely to be kicked around for at least as long as the current president remains in office.
In the meantime, oil producers in Canada and the American West are forced to use means of transportation for their oil (rail and trucks) that are more risky to the environment and to the safety of ordinary Americans than moving the new production by pipeline is likely ever to be. The oil is going to be produced and moved; it is only a question of how that happens and how much of it makes its way to American refineries rather than to the dirtier Chinese ones.
Horwitz focuses almost exclusively on the anti-pipeline arguments put forth by environmentalists and a handful of landowners who simply do not want anyone to encroach upon their lands for any reason. Admittedly, these landowners and environmentalists make some legitimate points. And it is hard to disagree with their premise - especially when only one side of the story is being presented in detail. The author does interview many who believe in the pipeline's construction, but he usually "taints" their thoughts by his subtle/sometimes not so subtle implications that the arguments are being presented for selfish reasons on the parts of those expressing them.
"Boom" would have been a better book if the author had carried on his tour to where the pipeline will someday end, those refineries in Texas that are already preparing to produce the gasoline and other products that will run America for decades to come. There is much enthusiasm down there for the new jobs and higher wages that the pipeline will deliver to Southeast Texas along with all the shale oil.
As written, the scale tips a little to heavily to one side of the argument to make it very thought provoking. Rated at: 2.5...more
"Where Nobody Knows Your Name" is about life in baseball's minor leagues, most often at the Triple A level where players and umpires are on the verge"Where Nobody Knows Your Name" is about life in baseball's minor leagues, most often at the Triple A level where players and umpires are on the verge of finally making it to the Majors. Sadly, for some, this is as close as they are ever going to get to the Major Leagues. Even more sadly, many of these young men find themselves hanging around the high minors for a decade or so, refusing to give up their dreams despite the fact that everyone but them seems to recognize that they will never quite make those dreams happen.
The author focuses on a handful of players, a couple of managers, and one minor league umpire who are all hoping to either reach the Majors for the first time or to return there so they can prove that they belong there...or, in some cases, STILL belong there after already having had decent careers in the Bigs. Baseball fans will recognize some of the names: Nate McClouth, Scott Posednik, Scott Elarton, and Brett Tomko all made their marks in the Major Leagues via one or more successful season before their skills suddenly declined and made them expendable to their big league employers. John Lindsey, on the other hand, had, when the book was started, played in more minor league games without being called-up to the majors than any other player in baseball history. And then you have umpire Mark Lollo and managers Charlie Montoyo and Ron Johnson, all of whom have stories of their own to tell.
What all of these men have in common is their dream to play, manage, or umpire baseball games at the sport's highest level. Not surprisingly, it is a dream that is very hard for them to give up. All their lives, they have been among the top players in their hometowns, their prep schools, and their colleges. But now, suddenly, they are surrounded by other young men of equal, or even greater, ability than their own. It is easier for some than for others to give up on their lifelong dreams...those who hang in there for years and years, refusing to quit, are seldom rewarded with major league careers of note, however. This is after all the real world, and baseball is a business. Some few do get a sniff of the majors and are up for three or four years, mostly as support and bench players.
But their stories are ones that have the respect of baseball fans all over the country. They represent people like us (even though we have nothing even approaching their athletic ability) in that they recognize how special an opportunity it is to play baseball at the highest level. We know that we would never give up, and we applaud them for doing the same....more
Steve Coll’s massive volume (28 chapters, 684 pages, plus an extensive list of footnotes) on the history of ExxonMobil focuses primarily on the companSteve Coll’s massive volume (28 chapters, 684 pages, plus an extensive list of footnotes) on the history of ExxonMobil focuses primarily on the company’s last two decades. That the decades are bookended by two the worst oil spill disasters in the history of the oil industry is no accident. Coll is likely trying to make the point that oil companies learned little from the horror that was the 1989 Alaskan spill by the Exxon Valdez tanker. Perhaps inadvertently, he also highlights just how complicated and dangerous is the business of exploring and transporting the energy that world economies will depend upon for several decades to come. The odds are that we have not seen the last of such spills.
John D. Rockerfeller’s Standard Oil Company became so dominant, that dedicated “trust busters” and the U.S. Supreme Court, split it into several individual oil companies in 1911. But as happened when AT&T broke apart several decades later, some of the pieces would decide it was smarter to recombine into mini-versions of the original parent company. ExxonMobil, a combination of two companies split from the original Standard Oil all those years ago, is now the largest oil company in the world.
What makes Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power so intriguing is the author’s focus on the political and economic influence ExxonMobil exerts around the world. The company’s revenues are, in fact, large enough to rank it the twenty-first largest “nation state” on the planet. ExxonMobil’s ability to come into remote areas and create revenue streams to whatever government they find there makes it more powerful and influential in parts of the world than the U.S. government (or any other government, for that matter) can claim to be. Lee Raymond, the man in charge for most of the period detailed in Private Empire, knew that he and his company would be around for the long haul – long after many government leaders, especially American presidents, had come and gone. As Raymond watched the rotation of American presidents – and spent ExxonMobil’s money to help those he favored remain in office as long as possible – he knew he could safely put the interests of ExxonMobil first, and those of the United States a distant second. And there was little anyone could do about it even if they wanted to.
Critics of Big Oil, especially those who criticize the industry because of its unwillingness to embrace fully the concept of global warming, will read much in the book that will anger them. Lee Raymond was a nonbeliever, and he did everything in his power to delay any environmental action that would negatively impact ExxonMobil’s ability to do business as usual (as Coll points out, the company stance has changed since Raymond was succeeded by Rex Tillerson). Raymond, on the other hand, did build, and rigidly enforce, a culture of safety that made oil spills and other environmental accidents as unlikely as they could possibly be. The man understood the power of public opinion and he tried to keep it on his side.
It is impossible even to touch on all the issues contained in Private Empire. There are whole chapters on ExxonMobil’s struggles with security problems around the world and how the efforts to keep employees and company assets secure often required the company’s close cooperation with some of the most brutal dictators in world history. Other chapters look at the ultimate impact of all the cash the company poured into third world countries, particularly in Africa and the Middle East – what has become known as the “resource curse.” Strikingly, when poor countries suddenly strike it rich in natural resources they often move backward rather than ahead, something akin to what happens to so many unprepared lottery winners. ExxonMobil has seen this happen, first hand, more than once.
Readers willing to tackle Private Empire will be rewarded for their efforts. As a forty-year veteran of the industry (with some of those years spent in third world countries), I was skeptical that ExxonMobil would get a fair shake in a book like this one. Having now read it, I believe Private Empire to be as evenhanded as one could hope – and worthy of the attention it is getting. ...more