MYTH, OIL, AND POLITICS: An Introduction to the Political Economy of Petroleum by Charles F. Doran

MYTH, OIL, AND POLITICS: An Introduction to the Political Economy of Petroleum

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A scholarly inquiry into some widely held perceptions of the oil business, which the author believes are blocking development of sound national energy policies. For openers, Doran (Political Science, Rice) grapples with the issue of OPEC's ""inequitable"" quadrupling of petroleum prices. He has no quarrel with the hike beyond the fact ""it occurred over too short a time period to be readily absorbed by the world economy."" Indeed, the author suggests the cartel may have done industrial powers like the US a favor by making them use energy resources more efficiently. On the question of oil industry income, Doran concludes: ""Public opinion regarding profits. . . is a generation behind the rush of contemporary developments."" While characterizing petroleum companies' earnings as sub-par will win few consumer kudos, the position is convincingly supported by financial reports. Equally controversial is the author's contention that ""the oil industry is one of the least likely targets for divestiture because concentration therein is low by contemporary standards."" Moreover, he notes, although OPEC does not favor a break-up of the multinational giants, it would adapt quickly if forced to. On the other hand, Doran does not believe that the cartel is a permanently cohesive entity. If the US makes large R&D investments in alternative energy sources, joins forces with Japan and West Germany, encourages oil exploration in non-OPEC areas, and launches a serious conservation effort, he states, OPEC's united front could be undermined. The final chapters of the book explore these options, which the author considers ""imperatives,"" in detail. Doran's academic prose may prove heavy going for casual readers, but his revisionist viewpoint represents an important addition to the rapidly growing body of energy literature.

Pub Date: Nov. 21st, 1977
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan