Reviews for Blowout

by Rachel Maddow

Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Petroleum-industry profits inexorably subvert good governance, argues this scattershot indictment of the oil and natural gas industries. Maddow (Drift), host of MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, surveys Big Oil’s recent misdeeds, including Western oil companies’ support for Equatorial Guinea’s Obiang dictatorship, the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and blocking rules to regulate fracking practices that cause earthquake swarms and pollution in Oklahoma (while the same companies demand tax breaks). Anchoring the book is Russian president Vladimir Putin’s cutthroat petropolitics. Maddow contends he turned Russia’s oil and gas sectors into cesspools of corruption and inefficiency, seized well-managed private oil companies and arrested their CEOs, and made energy a foreign policy weapon while getting investments and technology from ExxonMobil. Maddow tells these stories in colorful, sardonic prose—she pillories Putin’s campaign “to piss in the punch bowl of free elections all over the civilized world”—but the resulting hodgepodge doesn’t always support her portrayal of oil and gas as a “singularly destructive industry” that “effectively owns” governments; her absorbing account of Putin’s skullduggery is really about a vampiric government victimizing the oil industry (and includes an unconvincing link to Trump-Russia collusion theories). Maddow’s absorbing but inconsistent exposť demonizes more than it analyzes. Agent: Laurie Liss, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Oct.)

Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Maddow (host, MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show; Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power) uses her knowledge, research, investigative skills, and snarky humor to complete this work about the global oil and gas industry. Beginning with a brief history of the oil and gas industry in the United States and the former Soviet Union, Maddow then moves on to modern removal methods, including the controversial fracking process and its devastating environmental impacts. She also details the end of the Cold War and the eventual rise of Russian oligarchs, including Vladimir Putin. The complex connections among players, including the major oil companies, American politicians, Russian oil interests, and others are displayed clearly and consistently. Not altogether surprising, Maddow furthers her discussion of the oil and gas industry to expand on how and why Russia hacked the 2016 presidential election. VERDICT All fans of Maddow, and even her detractors, will learn something new from this highly readable yet impressively detailed book. Anyone interested in the covert deals that change the nature of the global environmental and political landscape will devour. A must-have for all collections.—Jason L. Steagall, Arapahoe Libs., Centennial, Colorado

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

This engaging, wide-ranging account of the oil and gas industry is in the best tradition of investigative journalism. Focusing primarily on the US and Russia in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, Maddow (who is a political science scholar as well as a respected political commentator) offers a wealth of technical and historical facts that reveal "the nexus of fuel and corruption" (p. 230) emblematic of an industry that has generated vast wealth, political influence, and environmental damage. Blowout is especially informative on the Russian industry and its connections to Vladimir Putin's political project. Marked by smooth storytelling, superb wit, and a colorful cast of characters, this is sophisticated journalism rather than historical or social science analysis, but it drives an enlightening account of a wide range of negative consequences and corrupt behavior attributable to the industry. Minor flaws include mistaken conflation of the economic phenomena known as Dutch disease and resource curse and a meandering flow that sometimes lacks focus. But the central message is compelling and important: a different approach to managing the industry could vastly improve social welfare. Maddow sums up with a warning that democracy must overcome the malign influence of this industry or risk demise as a system of governance. Summing Up: Essential. All readers. --Richard Lotspeich, emeritus, Indiana State University

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Maddow (Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power, 2012) examines the disconcertingly disproportionate influence of big oil on world affairs.The author may be a popular, progressive news-and-commentary anchor on MSNBC, but it's not to be forgotten that she holds a doctorate in politics from Oxford and seems to devour whole libraries of data before breakfast each day. In her second book, she takes on the oil oligarchy, beginning with, fittingly, an opening: the first of a Russian-owned chain of gas stations in New York City in 2003, its celebrity highlight Vladimir Putin, accompanied by Sen. Chuck Schumer. Putin had not been in power long, though long enough that the U.S. ambassador to Russia "had already warned of the risk that [he] would evolve into an autocrat who monopolized control of government and the economy behind the window dressing of democratic institutions." From there, Maddow goes on to develop a densely argued exercise in connecting dots: A corrupt Russiaone in which, for example, the builders of the Olympic Village in Sochi skimmed off upward of $30 billionhitched its wagon to a moribund petro-economy, one that could not survive with the sanctions imposed on it by the Obama administration. This set in motion the whole chain of events now playing out, including Russian tampering in the 2016 election and the not-coincidental haste of the Trump administration to lift those sanctions the moment it entered power. There are many stops along the way. Maddow looks, for example, at the seismic effects of fracking in Oklahoma, a petroleum-extraction technology that, as one voter remarked, afforded "an issue that will turn a red state blue." Updating Daniel Yergin's The Prize with three decades' worth of material, Maddow concludes that big oil can and will do nothing to regulate itself and argues that "containment is the small-c conservative answer" to the problem of "the industry's reliance on corruption and capture."Expect a tweetstorm as Maddow's indictment of a corrupt industry finds readersand it deserves many. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

By almost any standard, the oil and gas industry can be viewed as a renegade enterprise that not only enjoys a sacrosanct protection from government interference but also flourishes, thanks to sweetheart tax breaks, bountiful subsidies, and lax regulations. Known for her intense inquiries into complex subjects, Maddow brings her laser-like intuitiveness and keen and wily perception to Big Oil, that stalwart of global economics, and the shadowy nexus of commerce and politics. Maddow likes murky, the murkier the better, and her examination of the intricacies of off-shore drilling, transnational pipelines, and hydraulic fracking is as deep as the coveted wells themselves. But there's more afoot than corrupt practices, including a labyrinthine connection between Oklahoma oil fields and Putin's Kremlin that goes a long way to explaining Russia's 2016 election interference. Cameo appearances are made by familiar Trump team members Rex Tillerson, Paul Manafort, and Carter Page along with Putin henchmen Igor Serchin and Dmitry Firtash and energy titans Harold Hamm and Aubrey McClendon. Maddow's trademark snark is on display, as is her geeky fascination with the minutiae buried beneath these massive social injustices. Like trailblazing journalists before her, Maddow exposes both the slapdash and sinister practices underlying geopolitics and energy policies and revels in peeling back the layers of malfeasance to stoke righteous outrage.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: As a best-selling writer and the Emmy-winning host of MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show, Maddow has a large, enthusiastic following who will be eager to check out this important exposť.--Carol Haggas Copyright 2010 Booklist