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Blowout By Rachel Maddow


#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Big Oil and Gas Versus Democracy—Winner Take All

In 2010, the words “earthquake swarm” entered the lexicon in Oklahoma. That same year, a trove of Michael Jackson memorabilia—including his iconic crystal-encrusted white glove—was sold at auction for over $1 million to a guy who was, officially, just the lowly forestry minister of the tiny nation of Equatorial Guinea. And in 2014, Ukrainian revolutionaries raided the palace of their ousted president and found a zoo of peacocks, gilded toilets, and a floating restaurant modeled after a Spanish galleon. Unlikely as it might seem, there is a thread connecting these events, and Rachel Maddow follows it to its crooked source: the unimaginably lucrative and equally corrupting oil and gas industry.

With her trademark black humor, Maddow takes us on a switchback journey around the globe, revealing the greed and incompetence of Big Oil and Gas along the way, and drawing a surprising conclusion about why the Russian government hacked the 2016 U.S. election. She deftly shows how Russia’s rich reserves of crude have, paradoxically, stunted its growth, forcing Putin to maintain his power by spreading Russia’s rot into its rivals, its neighbors, the West’s most important alliances, and the United States. Chevron, BP, and a host of other industry players get their star turn, most notably ExxonMobil and the deceptively well-behaved Rex Tillerson. The oil and gas industry has weakened democracies in developed and developing countries, fouled oceans and rivers, and propped up authoritarian thieves and killers. But being outraged at it is, according to Maddow, “like being indignant when a lion takes down and eats a gazelle. You can’t really blame the lion. It’s in her nature.”

Blowout is a call to contain the lion: to stop subsidizing the wealthiest businesses on earth, to fight for transparency, and to check the influence of the world’s most destructive industry and its enablers. The stakes have never been higher. As Maddow writes, “Democracy either wins this one or disappears.”


SUE*** Well, this has been quite a reading experience: a sequence of “aha” and “I remember that” moments followed by my absorbing the deeper meaning behind a news story or legislative moment that occurred sometime within the past several years. As a news junkie since childhood, I knew something about most of the subjects that Maddow covers in her over-arching view of the oil industry at work throughout the world. Even my most pessimistic self would not have imagined the inner workings of the U.S. components of this business.

This is my first time reading a book by Rachel Maddow who I have enjoyed watching on television. She presents her information in a conversational tone. The facts are backed up with quotations, statistics, etc, which are more fully delineated in the Sources section provided at the end of the book.

And there are so many outrageous events detailed in Blowout. From very basic concepts such as why does an industry that has historically had some of, if not the highest profits in United States history still receive annual tax breaks they were initially given as incentives to explore? And what about the huge increase in earthquakes that seemed to in the area of fracking? And what about the relationship between Exxon and Russia/Putin? These are just three areas dealt with in depth.

There are also very strong links to Ukraine here, ones that I don’t recall hearing discussed on any talk shows yet. More reasons why Putin would want to destabilize that country.

All in all, I think this is is a must read for anyone confused, worried, otherwise wondering what is happening in this world around us where there seemed to be some rules in the past and now it’s a free-for-all. So, highly recommended. It is a very readable source on the oil industry, the new Russia, the state of our democracy, and our potential future.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

JIMMIE*** If you’re a regular viewer of her show (or, like me, a regular listener to her podcast) you’re aware that Rachel’s stories come with EXHAUSTIVE background, preambles, and prefatory material. But, if you’re a regular viewer of her show, you know the windup is worth it. This book takes a little while to get off the ground, but eventually it soars.

SUANNE LAQUEUR*** One million stars. I listened to the audible version and it was like Rachel telling me secrets. Especially the sections about Harold Hamm's divorce case. Hamm's wife's name is Sue Ann. And so I got to hear Rachel say my name over and over and over and... Sorry, where was I?

Besides her bottomless well of knowledge, impeccable explanations, dry wit and incomparable expertise in weaving all the parts together, you get to hear Rachel curse (which I wish she would do on air, but I'm weird like that.)

Fascinating. Horrifying. Sobering. But not without hope. Rachel swears she'll never write another book. I call bullshit. :-)

JOHN HATLEY*** This amazing and brilliant book gets five stars from me. I'm not normally known for reading non-fiction--especially current events usually make me furious--but I can highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in returning a minimum of democracy to democratic governments and breaking the strangle-hold of big industry, not just the oil and gas industry, on governments east and west. Very well researched and, as one might expect from Rachel Maddow, she manages also to spice the book with humour, black-humour to be sure, but funny nevertheless.
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