Peter Maass's blog

June 08, 2010  |  permalink

To BP Or Not To BP?

“The truth is that we care mightily when BP wreaks havoc in the Gulf of Mexico, but we pay scant attention when Shell harms Nigeria, when Chevron pollutes Ecuador, when PDVSA stains Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela, when Suncor extracts oil from tar sands in Canada. It’s understandable that as we watch the live webfeed of the gusher, we want to know what BP officials knew and when they knew it, and we want to know why the Obama administration didn’t react sooner. But if we don’t broaden the horizons of our questions, we run the risk of reinforcing a fairy tale that says we can have our oil and our environment, too. The worst outcome of the mess in the Gulf would be the perpetuation of the conceit that error and greed can be regulated out of the worldwide oil industry.”—To BP Or Not To BP, By Peter Maass

June 01, 2010  |  permalink

Öl - Das Blutige Geschäft

This is for the readers of my blog who speak German (a population estimated at 1-2). German radio has posted what appears to be (if Google Translate can be relied upon) an interesting discussion about the German version of my book. Austrian radio has chimed in, too. Cicero excerpted a chapter in its April issue.

May 25, 2010  |  permalink

Oil in Ecuador…

An oil pit and gas flare in the Oriente region of Ecuador. Chevron faces a multi-billion dollar lawsuit for pollution in the region during the 1970s and 1980s. (Time/Ivan Kashinsky)

May 25, 2010  |  permalink

...and in Louisiana

A dragonfly tries to clean itself as it is stuck to marsh grass covered in oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, in Garden Island Bay on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana. (AP/Gerald Herbert)


May 12, 2010  |  permalink

5,000 Barrels a Day

The amount of oil that is gushing into the Gulf of Mexico at BP’s broken well. The video shows one of the two main rupture points.
Update: Scientists who have seen the video say the leak is much more than 5,000 barrels a day.

May 04, 2010  |  permalink

We Are All Nigerians Now

In an interview on the marvelous “The World” radio program, I describe the ways in which the spill in the Gulf of Mexico has brought home to America, quite literally, the environmental costs of oil extraction that countries like Nigeria have had to endure for decades. If America is to awaken, it needs to understand that drilling less in its own waters is not the remedy; the solution is drilling less everywhere.

April 28, 2010  |  permalink

Who Is This Photographer?

I’m trying to find the photographer who is on the tank in the pictures below (which are stills from a video). This was one of the first Marine tanks into Baghdad’s Firdos Square on April 9, 2003. If you know who the photographer is, please email me via peter at petermaass dot com. Thanks!
Update: I found him.


April 25, 2010  |  permalink

Vive la France!

My French publisher, Autrement, has just come out with their version of Crude World. The French title is Pétrole Brut. The cover is fantastic, I think. For Autrement’s webpage about Pétrole Brut, click here. The Dutch edition—the title is Ruwe Wereld—has just been published, too; for more info on that, click here.

April 12, 2010  |  permalink

Second Time a Charm at Harvard?

After being postponed due to a snowstorm in February, my talk with photographer Ed Kashi takes place on Thursday at 5:30 pm at Harvard Law School (to be precise, in Griswold Hall, Room 110). We’ll discuss the problems of oil and the ways we’ve chosen, with pens and cameras, to document them. Should be interesting, and refreshments (of some sort) will be served. For more info, click here.

April 01, 2010  |  permalink

What’s Behind Obama’s Drilling Plan?

My short contribution to an online debate in the New York Times about Obama’s decision to expand offshore drilling:

I consider myself an environmentalist and have written at length about the problems of oil extraction, but I have a hard time getting upset about the decision to expand offshore drilling.

As a matter of global justice, why should America exclude its coastlines while coastlines all over the world are drilled for oil that goes into American gas tanks? Banning oil companies from operating in our waters while encouraging them to do so in other people’s waters — there’s a whiff of hypocrisy to that, a sort of outsourcing of oil pollution. Perhaps if we suffer more of the inconvenience of extraction we will reconsider the merit of continuing down the road of a fossil-fuel based economy.

But don’t get me wrong — drilling to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and reduce gas prices is a charade. President Obama seems well aware of that, in a sense calling the other side’s bluff. With 2 percent of the world reserves, there is no way to extract our way to lower prices or energy independence; the impact will be between “not at all” and “hardly at all.”

The new policy, rather than being a vindication of the “drill, baby, drill” argument, will show its shallowness and hopefully allow us to have a more constructive debate about our energy future. Paradoxically, drilling a bit more in the short term may help the effort to drill a lot less in the future.

March 24, 2010  |  permalink

The Story of Bottled Water

A genius video about the problems (there are lots) with bottled water.

March 03, 2010  |  permalink

‘Crude World’ in Danish



If my book could talk it would say “Hello Denmark.” In a few weeks, Gyldendal, the oldest publishing house in Denmark, is bringing out a Danish version of Crude World.

February 19, 2010  |  permalink

When a Philosopher Goes to War

If you ever thought war reportage could use more intellectual depth—wouldn’t it be interesting for a philosopher to wander the fields of battle?—I have two wonderful words for you: Carolin Emcke. Other than her last book, “Echoes of Violence,” little of Emcke’s work has been translated into English from German. But Emcke, who has a doctorate in philosophy and is a war correspondent for Die Zeit, has begun posting translations of her articles, including a great one she wrote not long ago for Die Zeit about Iraq. Read her work, remember it (you will) and pass it around.

February 10, 2010  |  permalink

My Harvard Talk Postponed

Due to the snowstorm on the East Coast, my talk with Ed Kashi at Harvard, scheduled for tonight, has been postponed. It will be rescheduled—details to come.

January 28, 2010  |  permalink

Harvard Talk on February 10

Looking for something to do in Boston on the evening of February 10? Please stop by Harvard Law School for a talk I’ll be doing with Ed Kashi, a photographer whose work in Nigeria has been amazing. We’ll discuss the problems of oil and the ways we’ve chosen, with pens and cameras, to document them. The discussion begins at 7 pm at Pound Hall 102 and refreshments will be served.

January 21, 2010  |  permalink

‘Goodbye to Oil That’


A good review and excellent illustration in The National.



January 12, 2010  |  permalink

Following the Oil Money

Oxfam America has released an excellent public service advertisement about following the oil money.

December 26, 2009  |  permalink

The story of dysprosium and terbium

The headline over this New York Times story says it all: “Earth-Friendly Elements, Mined Destructively.” It’s what happens when the green technology revolution meets the extractive industry in China.

December 20, 2009  |  permalink

Tiger Woods, Meet Frank Rich

Frank Rich is on fire in his Sunday column in the New York Times.

After his “indefinite break” from golf, Woods will surely be back on the links once the next celebrity scandal drowns his out. But after a decade in which two true national catastrophes, a wasteful war and a near-ruinous financial collapse, were both in part byproducts of the ease with which our leaders bamboozled us, we can’t so easily move on. This can be seen in the increasingly urgent political plight of Barack Obama. Though the American left and right don’t agree on much, they are both now coalescing around the suspicion that Obama’s brilliant presidential campaign was as hollow as Tiger’s public image — a marketing scam designed to camouflage either his covert anti-American radicalism (as the right sees it) or spineless timidity (as the left sees it). The truth may well be neither, but after a decade of being spun silly, Americans can’t be blamed for being cynical about any leader trying to sell anything. As we say goodbye to the year of Tiger Woods, it is the country, sad to say, that is left mired in a sand trap with no obvious way out.

December 19, 2009  |  permalink

Maassapalooza, Cont.

A few more reviews have rolled in…
The Nation: “Riveting and illuminating…a moral reckoning with basic instincts.”
Harvard Business Review: “Maass writes beautifully about this ugly stuff.”
The Majalla: “Maass weaves a tale that is distinguished by its scope, wit and verve.”
Morgenbladet: “Et amerikansk traume”

Page 3 of 14 pages  <  1 2 3 4 5 >  Last »

Crude World by Peter Maass Crude World by Peter Maass

A look at oil’s indelible impact on the countries that produce it and the people who possess it.

» More

Love Thy Neighbor by Peter Maass Love Thy Neighbor by Peter Maass

Dispatches from the war in Bosnia, published in 1996 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

» More

About Peter Maass

» More