Oil on the Brain is a smart, surprisingly funny account of the oil industry—the people, economies, and pipelines that bring us petroleum, brilliantly illuminating a world we encounter every day.
Americans buy ten thousand gallons of gasoline a second, without giving it much of a thought. Where does all this gas come from? Lisa Margonelli’s desire to learn took her on a one-hundred thousand mile journey from her local gas station to oil fields half a world away. In search of the truth behind the myths, she wriggled her way into some of the most off-limits places on earth: the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the New York Mercantile Exchange’s crude oil market, oil fields from Venezuela, to Texas, to Chad, and even an Iranian oil platform where the United States fought a forgotten one-day battle.
In a story by turns surreal and alarming, Margonelli meets lonely workers on a Texas drilling rig, an oil analyst who almost gave birth on the NYMEX trading floor, Chadian villagers who are said to wander the oil fields in the guise of lions, a Nigerian warlord who changed the world price of oil with a single cell phone call, and Shanghai bureaucrats who dream of creating a new Detroit.
Deftly piecing together the mammoth economy of oil, Margonelli finds a series of stark warning signs for American drivers.
“If you drive a car, you must read this book.” —Mary Roach, author of Stiff
“By giving voice to the people who are the links in the global oil chain, Margonelli invites us to leapfrog all the rhetoric, dry statistics, and dire pronouncements about oil in order to truly understand it.” —Fast Company
“Hugely enjoyable, compulsively readable, and brilliantly reported.” —Po Bronson, author of What Should I Do with My Life?
“From the corner gas station to the oil fields of Nigeria, there couldn't be a better traveling companion than Margonelli. She's fast, fearless, funny, and a brilliant observer."
—Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed
WINNER 2008 - New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age
LISA MARGONELLI is currently an Irvine Fellow at the New America Foundation. She has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, Wired, Business 2.0, Discover, and Jane, and was the recipient of a Sundance Institute Fellowship and an excellence in journalism award from the Northern California Society of Professional Journalists. She is based in Oakland, California.