Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 14th 2016 Contents B3
Thursday, April 14, 2016 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Oil: Money, Politics, and Power in
the 21st Century, Tom Bower.
Grand Central Publishing, 2009.
ISBN 978-0-446-54798-7; 490 pages.
Investigative journalist Tom Bower interviewed
more than 250 people all over the world for this
book which charts the history of the oil industry
charting industry from the 1980s to the early 21st
century, including the careers of leaders in the field.
Far from being a dry account, Bower adopts a nov-
elistic style, so that details of oil prices and drilling
and technology are continually enlivened by person-
alities and politics. The first chapter, for example,
begins like a typical crime thriller. It s September 25,
2003, in New York, and the opening lines are: "Lee
Raymond did not conceal his impatience. The Russian
president was 30 minutes late."
Within the next five pages, the reader not only
learns about the negotiations with Valdimir Putin
and Mikhail Khordorkovsky "the billionaire Jewish
oligarch", but also how Raymond, chairman and chief
executive of Exxon didn t want to work with his
opposite number at British Petroleum, John Browne,
because the latter was gay.
The blurb for the book says that it is "the ultimate
story of arrogance, intrigue, and greed". This purple
language is intended to sell the book as a thriller, but
it is misleading. Bower s account is far more balanced
and insightful, and it is really a story of business
people, albeit ones working in the richest industry
in the world. "Many of those employed in the oil
industry are remarkably intelligent individuals pursuing
their ambitions with expertise and inspiration, rather
than being inextricably tangled up, as the alarmists
suggest, in corruption, conspiracies and cover-ups,"
Conspiracy theorists get short shrift. "Experienced
traders knew that the stocks in tanks and pipelines
were constantly changing, data was always history,
forecasts were frivolous, and holding stocks in tankers
was hugely expensive. Psychology was crucial, but
rumours could only influence prices for hours, perhaps
a few days, but no longer," Bower points out.
Of course, all this will immediately persuade many
people that Bower is a shill for the industry. But his
book is hardly complimentary to many of the players
in it. But it is in the interest, even of politicians who
profit from them, to paint oil executives as bandits.
"Because the oil-producing countries retain up to
90 per cent of the profits, the Western oil companies
have the delicate task of persuading rightly self-inter-
ested governments to share their wealth and sell
access to their reserves," Bower notes. "In Africa,
Asia and South America, impoverished nations may
be ecstatic about the sudden promise of effortless
wealth; but it is only realisable with the marketing,
organisation and technology invented by Western
Is this the case for T&T? Ordinary citizens do not
know, because all administrations have always kept
contract details secret, with the present Prime Minister
even having stated that this is how it should be. But
he, and every policy-maker in the Energy Ministry,
need to read this book, indeed, had they done so
seven years ago and heeded its overview, the recession
might not now be hitting T&T in quite the same
You probably know his pictures,
though you may not know his name.
Richard Bridgens drawings are used
constantly to illustrate slavery in the
Caribbean in exhibitions, books and
films. But who was he, and do his
pictures of enslaved people accurately
depict their lives?
Bridgens had an artistically influ-
ential---though not financially suc-
cessful---career as a furniture designer
in Regency England. But in 1826 he
and his family sailed for Trinidad,
where his wife owned part of a sugar
estate in Arouca.
Here Bridgens drew what he saw
around him, in particular the cycle of
sugar cultivation, and the creole culture
being created by enslaved people and
their free counterparts. Though a
planter himself, in his book West India
Scenery he didn t attempt to disguise
the wretched conditions under which
enslaved people lived.
In The Colour of Shadows, Judy
Raymond has used Bridgens s drawings
and contemporary documents such
as the slave registers and the reports
of the Protector of Slaves, to tell the
story of slavery in Trinidad in the last
years before Emancipation, focusing
on the people who lived on Richard
and Maria Bridgens St Clair estate.
She has also unearthed previously
unknown facts about Bridgens s life
and work, some of his unpublished
images, and about what became of
his family after his death in Port-of-
Spain in 1846.
Raymond, a former editor-in-chief
of the T&T Guardian, has written two
previous biographical studies of local
artists, jeweller Barbara Jardine and
fashion designer Meiling, a release
The Colour of Shadows: Images of
Caribbean Slavery is published by the
Caribbean Studies Press of Florida.
It will be launched at the Bocas Lit
Station, Hart Street, as part of the
OCM Bocas Lit Fest 2016.
define this oil story
The Colour of Shadows
Judy Raymond will launch
her third book on May 1
at the Bocas Lit Fest.
PHOTO: MARLON JAMES
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