Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Prize: Book Blogging

Daniel Yergin's book of that title is as good as the reviews promise - even better. The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power (1992, 2008) won the Pulitzer, and it's easy to see why. Oil is probably the most pivotal commodity in the modern economy, and he tells its story with wit and style, including all sorts of telling details.

Oil was known in ancient Mesopotamia at least 5000 years ago. Bitumen was used as mortar for the walls of Jericho and Babylon. It is one of the most global of commodities. Kerosene, its first commercially important product was refined in the 1850s, named by a Canadian. Its first good lamp was invented in Vienna, imported to the US and exported to the world. The drilling techniques first used to recover "rock oil" in Pennsylvania were invented for extracting salt 3000 years ago in China.