The Lure of BlacknGoldnby Gregory McNameenThe Prizenby Daniel YerginnNew York:nSimon & Schuster;n877 pp., $24.95nJanuary 14, 1991. As I write, morenthan half a million American andnAllied soldiers are massed on the northeasternnfrontier of Saudi Arabia, arrayednagainst the million soldiers of SaddamnHussein. At issue is the sovereignty ofnKuwait, a feudal monarchy that happensnto enjoy the highest per-capitanincome on the planet. But, more thannthat, the prize is Kuwaiti oil, so purenthat it needs only the slightest refinementnbefore being pumped downstreamninto the motors of the FirstnWorid.nIn the spring of 1990, State Departmentnanalysts instructed the senior officersnof the United States Central Command,nthe administrative head of whatnwas to become Operation DesertnShield, that oil had lost its strategicnsignificance. Four months later, SaddamnHussein’s forces invaded Kuwait,ndeposing its hereditary ruling family andnclaiming the nation as Iraq’s 19th province.nSuddenly Persian Gulf oil reclaimednits place as the world’s mostnstrategically significant resource.nIt earned that place, writes DanielnYergin in his remarkable new book ThenPrize, thanks to a gambit by WinstonnChurchill in the early years of the 20thncentury. Then vice-secretary of thenAdmiralty, Churchill ordered that thenentire British navy be refitted to burnnnot Welsh coal, dirty but readily available,nbut Arabian oil, a distant andnunreliable energy source that had onlynbeen recently discovered. Churchill’snmove elevated a handful of Bedouinnchieftains to the rule of nations cobbledntogether by the whims of Europeanncartographers (on any map of thenregion the endless straight lines leap offnthe page), introducing a new era ofncolonialism that would soon involven36/CHRONICLESnREVIEWSnthe major powers of the world, includingnthe oil-rich, once self-sufficientnUnited States.nYergin’s book is a thoroughgoingnstudy, weighing in at some nine hundrednclosely set pages, of what might innthe future be called the Oil Age, nownscarcely a century and a half old. Hisnstory begins with an American academicnand energy specialist, as DanielnYergin himself is, named BenjaminnSilliman, who in 1855 developed anneconomical method for extracting oilnfrom the deep sedimentary bedrock ofnPennsylvania and New York. (Hencharged a group of American financiersna then-shocking fee of $1,500 fornthe rights to his method.) A scantndecade later, in Cleveland, John D.nRockefeller founded Standard Oil,nwhich in twenty years’ time controlledn80 percent of the wodd market.nStandard Oil geologists warnednRockefeller that the firm’s extensivenfields in the northeast would soon bendepleted, and Rockefeller dispatchednagents first to Texas and later throughoutnthe western United States to buynup promising properties. They workednso efficiently that Standard soon controllednmost of the nation’s oil economynfrom ground to gas tank, promptingnantitrust regulators in Washingtonnto agitate for its breakup. Like thenhydra, Standard Oil spawned StandardnOil of New Jersey, which would becomenExxon; Standard Oil of NewnYork, now Mobil; Standard Oil ofnCalifornia, today’s Chevron; StandardnOil of Ohio, which became Sohio andnthen the American branch of BritishnPetroleum; Standard Oil of Indiana,nnow Amoco; Continental Oil, ornConoco; and Atlantic Oil, nownARCO. One Rockefeller executivengrumbled that the company had beennchopped up into such small pieces thatnthere were no office boys in the Clevelandnheadquarters. They had all beennsent out to preside over the firm’snsupposedly independent subsidiaries.nAt the same time, the Nobel familynof Switzerland — among whose controllingnmembers was Alfred Nobel,nthe inventor of dynamite and laternbenefactor of the various prizes namednafter him — established operations innnnthe newly discovered oil fields of thenCaucasus, providing the wherewithalnfor Russia to become a world power innonly a few years. Here Yergin pointsnout the fact that the Soviet Union isntoday the worid’s largest producer ofnoil, and only its refusal to join OPECn(“we are not a producer of bananas,”none Brezhnev-era official sniffed) hasnkept it from taking the economic leadnaway from such lights as King Fahd,nand, yes, Saddam Hussein.nThe international petroleum racenwas on. Sensing a technological revolutionnin the offing, Thomas Edison’snchief engineer quit his job and set up anmachine shop in Dearborn, Michigan,nto mass-produce what he called then”horseless carriage.” By 1900 HenrynFord had sold eight thousand of hisncontraptions; a decade later, the figurenwould rise to 902,000. (Today, Yerginntells us, there are 148 million gasolinepowerednvehicles on the road in thenenergy-squandering United States, anothern292 million in the rest of thenworld.) The oil boom went into fullnswing, with companies and governmentsntraversing the globe for newnholdings and atlas companies annuallynrevising the maps of the world tonreflect the new powers that oil founded:nIndonesia, Libya, Iran, Kuwait.nFor Yergin, the history of the 20thncentury can be analyzed as the historynof oil exploration, extraction, and export.nHis long section on the SecondnWorld War is a tragedy drenched innblack gold, not ideology: his Hitlernlongs only for the fields of southernnRussia, his Tojo orders the sneak attacknon Pearl Harbor only to divert Americannattention away from Japan’s seizurenof the rich oil fields of DutchrulednMalaysia. Yergin’s analysis is farntoo simplistic, but it is nonethelessncompelling in light of today’s strangenevents.nThe closing chapters of The Prizenare the most urgent, though the booknnever fails to hold the reader’s attention.nWith an economist’s statisticalnprecision, Yergin demonstrates thatnpostwar patterns of energy consumptionnare the moral equivalent of addictionnto crack cocaine, constantly risingnwith no regard whatever for the conse-n