Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A historical perspective on oil and world power

Throughout his illustrious career, academic Peter Randon Odell enriched the available oil and gas market commentary and analysis of his time, writing close to 20 books and numerous research papers. In 1970, Odell wrote arguably one of his most authoritative works on the subject – Oil and World Power. He went on to update and revise it no less than eight times with the last imprint reaching bookshelves in 1986.

After over two decades, the old master’s insight is available once again via a Routledge reprint, under its Routledge Revivals Initiative which aims to re-print academic works that have long been unavailable. While the publisher’s hunt for scholarly reprints is rewinding the clock back to the last 120 years, the Oilholic is not the least bit surprised that Odell’s most popular work is among the first to roll off Routledge’s printing presses for 2013 under the Revivals Initiative.

It was Odell who was among the first to catalogue the oil industry’s commercial clout and pragmatically noted in this book that the oil and gas business was one which no country could do without given the inextricable link between industrialisation and fossil fuels.

Above anything else, this reprinted book offers Odell’s insight on the oil and gas business as it had evolved up and until the 1980s, pre-dating the corporate birth of ExxonMobil, the collapse of the Soviet Union, America’s shale bonanza and resource nationalism to the extent we see today. This in itself makes the reprint of Oil and World Power invaluable.

The reader gets a glimpse of energy hegemony as it was up and until the 1980s and Odell’s insight on issues of the day. From OPEC soundbites to the anxieties of consuming nations, from the decline of International Oil Companies (IOCs) to the rise of National Oil Companies (NOCs) – it’s all there, coupled with changing patterns of oil supply and the dramatic fall in oil prices in 1986.

Yet, Odell’s conclusions in this book, of just over 300 pages split by 11 chapters, sound eerily similar; a sort of a forerunner to what industry commentators are mulling over in this day and age. In fact, the deep links, which he refers to in this book, between oil and gas extraction, conflict, resource nationalism, global politics and economic prowess are as entrenched as ever.

After discussing the bigger picture, the author goes on to offer a fair bit of forward-thinking conjecture on the relationship between the oil and gas business and economic development. There are also subtle hints at the resource curse hypothesis – a discussion which was hardly mainstream in the 1980s but is hotly debated these days.

This reprint bears testimony to the brilliance of Odell in tacking such issues head on. It would be of immense value to students of energy economics, industrial studies, international development, geopolitics and political hegemony. But above all, those looking to probe the history of the oil and gas business must certainly reach out for this engaging volume. 

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.

© Gaurav Sharma 2013. Photo: Front Cover – Oil and World Power © Routledge

No comments:


For comments or for professional queries, please email: gaurav.sharma@oilholicssynonymous.com

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here
To follow The Oilholic on Google+ click here
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here