Unfortunately for Engler and other hanging judges, the definitive indictment of petropolitics--The Control of Oil--was handed down earlier this year to widespread and well-deserved acclaim. The achievement of the late John Blair does not so much diminish as eclipse the accomplishment of Engler. He certainly has compiled a thoroughly damning bill of particulars against the alliance of private interests and public agencies that helped precipitate the ever-present energy crises. His account of just how over a long period of time these confederates managed to subvert democratic institutions and betray the very free market system they professed to support is exhaustively documented. Inescapably, however, the familiarity of most of the material that is included vitiates its impact. Outrage ranks among Engler's stronger suits. For example, he does not shrink from labeling reports of natural gas shortages as dishonest. And he waxes vitriolic on the power plays that put oil men like Walter Hickel (who became something of a conservationist convert) in Cabinet posts. But his principal contribution to the fast-growing corpus of literature on energy conspiracies is a radical approach to the allocation of dwindling hydrocarbon reserves. As an alternative to the status quo, Engler recommends ""placing on (the) political agenda public ownership and democratic planning of all domestic energy resources."" Even populist proposals of this nature cannot alter the fact that the author's work probably will wind up as an auxiliary weapon.