April 25, 2010 | permalink
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
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
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
A genius video about the problems (there are lots) with bottled water.
March 03, 2010 | permalink
February 19, 2010 | permalink
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
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
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
A good review and excellent illustration in The National.
January 12, 2010 | permalink
Oxfam America has released an excellent public service advertisement about following the oil money.
December 26, 2009 | permalink
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
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
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”
November 28, 2009 | permalink
The folks at Droemer, my German publisher, have designed a cool cover for the German edition of Crude World, which comes out in April. For catalogue info on Droemer’s edition, click here.
November 26, 2009 | permalink
Along the lines of my earlier post about climate change and civil disobedience, here’s a new public-service advertisement commissioned by planestupid.com, a group that wants to reduce airplane travel due to its high levels of CO2 emissions. The ad is arresting, to be sure.
November 22, 2009 | permalink
More reviews from Britain, the U.S. and Malaysia…
The Observer: “The strength of Crude World, filled with vivid reporting, is that it leaves you no option but to care.”
The Guardian: “The narrative is compelling. Maass hears the human story.”
Christian Science Monitor: “Persuasive, intelligent, and passionate.”
Boston Globe: “Angry, bravely reported.”
Malaysia Star: “Maass opens our eyes.”
November 18, 2009 | permalink
Sometimes, as a reporter, you can’t believe you’re getting paid to do work that is such fun. That happened in 2001 when I profiled Tomaz Humar, the great and crazy Slovenian climber. I had a blast with him. So it was sad to hear today that Tomaz has died in a climbing accident in the Himalayas. One of a kind.
November 16, 2009 | permalink
It’s the horseshoe-shaped, red-tiled one in the lower center of the adjacent picture, located in Malibu and valued at $35 million, the possession of Teodorin Obiang, the son of the dictator of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea. I’ve written extensively about the Obiang clan, in my book and here and here and here. Which means I am delighted to see the New York Times report on the Obiangs’ ill-gotten wealth and the U.S. government’s failure to take even the feeblest of measures against them (that would be denying an entrance visa to Teodorin). There’s a presidential election in Equatorial Guinea at the end of this month; hopefully in the weeks ahead we’ll hear more about the Obiangs. The Times has posted a variety of useful documents, acquired through the good offices of the always excellent Global Witness. It’s a sordid and embarrassing tale, and here’s how the Times begins its dispatch—
Several times every year, Teodoro Nguema Obiang arrives at the doorstep of the United States from his home in Equatorial Guinea, on his way to his $35 million estate in Malibu, his fleet of luxury cars, his speedboats and private jet. And he is always let into the country. The nation’s doors are open to Mr. Obiang, the forest and agriculture minister of Equatorial Guinea and the son of its ruler, even though federal law enforcement officials believe “most if not all” of his wealth comes from corruption related to the extensive oil and gas reserves discovered more than a decade and a half ago off the coast of his tiny West African country, according to internal Justice Department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement documents. And they are open despite a federal law and a presidential proclamation that prohibit corrupt foreign officials and their families from receiving an American visa. The measures require only credible evidence of corruption, not a conviction of it.
November 15, 2009 | permalink
Several days after coming across it, I remain intrigued by an interview in Mother Jones with Tim DeChristopher, who faces up to five years in prison for disrupting an auction of oil and gas leases. His action raises the question of whether the environmental movement should do as the civil rights movement did and use civil disobedience to reach its goals. From the introduction:
During the final days of the Bush administration, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) scheduled a controversial auction of oil and gas leases on federal lands, including areas bordering national parks and monuments in Utah. While environmental organizations launched a round of protests and lawsuits, Tim DeChristopher, a 27-year-old econ major at the University of Utah, decided he had to try to stop the sale by himself. Not knowing exactly how he’d do it, DeChristopher walked into the auction in Salt Lake City on December 19, 2008, and had a sneaky idea handed to him in the form of a bidder’s paddle. Simply by raising it again and again and pretending to bid on the leases, he proceeded to drive up their prices and outbid the real speculators on 13 parcels covering more than 22,000 acres and worth $1.7 million dollars. When it became clear that bidder No. 70 was an impostor with no intention of paying for his purchases, federal agents removed him from the auction. But the damage was done. DeChristopher’s monkey-wrenching tainted the sale, forcing BLM to offer the other buyers the option of withdrawing their bids. That effectively postponed any final decision on the leases until February 2009, when the Obama administration would be in office. Soon after taking office, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar canceled the results of the chaotic auction and criticized the previous administration for allowing it in the first place. Despite this reversal, DeChristopher was indicted in April on federal criminal charges of interfering with a government auction and making false representations. He faces up to five years in prison on each of the two counts and as much as $750,000 in fines. As his trial nears, DeChristopher and his lawyers hope to convince the judge to allow a “necessity defense,” an unusual tactic in which they would argue that his actions were justified because of the moral imperative of stopping catastrophic climate change—and because all legal means of stopping the auction had been blocked by the Bush administration due to its cozy relationship with the oil and gas industry.
November 11, 2009 | permalink
It sounds like the title of a book, “Curse, Peak, War: The Future of the Planet,” but I’m referring to a trio of stories in today’s papers that tell us an enormous amount about our energy problems. The Guardian reports that the International Energy Agency, due to pressure from the U.S. government, has published intentionally inflated estimates of world oil reserves, so as to cover up the problem of peak oil. Outsiders have long criticized the agency’s numbers, but the Guardian report is based on statements of insiders who are blowing the whistle. The New York Times reports that Venezuela, awash in oil and natural gas, has had to endure blackouts because its power grid is so inefficient and ill-supplied. It’s one of the ironies of resource-rich countries that their incoherent economies are unable to turn their carbon reserves into power that keeps the lights on. Lastly, Aviation Week reports on a consumer of oil that finds itself paying $45 a gallon—the U.S. military, which has to provide elaborate protection for its fuel convoys in Iraq and Afghanistan. Once the cost of protection is added to the purchase price, a gallon of gas that goes into a Humvee in a warzone costs $45.