Blowout Book Summary - Blowout Book explained in key points
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Blowout summary

Rachel Maddow

Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth

4.2 (91 ratings)
27 mins

Brief summary

Blowout by Rachel Maddow is a non-fiction book that shines a light on the fossil fuel industry's political and economic power. Maddow reveals how the industry's influence touches all aspects of modern society, from energy policies to national security.

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    In the United States, oil extraction got going in the late 1800s, with John D. Rockefeller turning it into an industry. 

    It all started on a Pennsylvania farm in 1859. Two men, Edwin Laurentine Drake and his hired assistant “Uncle Billy” Smith, managed to drill a hole and force a cast-iron pipe sixty-nine-and-a-half feet into the ground. What emerged was called “rock oil,” and it led to an industry that has become one of the most dominant powers in the world.

    That day, Drake and Smith got around twenty barrels of oil out of the ground. Fast forward to 2019, and more than 90 million barrels are being produced every single day. How did we get from there to here?

    Well, the man who really turned the industry into the one we know today was John D. Rockefeller, the founder of Standard Oil and the guy who wrote the book on how to operate a ruthlessly successful oil business.

    In his first twenty years of business, Rockefeller put the squeeze on and bought out any competitor that crossed his path. By 1875, he owned every major oil refinery in the United States. Other men were building up monopolies too, like those that Andrew Carnegie and Philip Armour created in, respectively, the steel and meat industries. None proved as lucrative as oil, though. Rockefeller was making so much money that paying off the politicians who regulated the industry amounted to just another business expense. Estimates suggest that, at his peak, Rockefeller was worth the equivalent of $305 billion in 2006 dollars.

    In 1911, a landmark antitrust lawsuit led to the Supreme Court finding Rockefeller and his company guilty of creating a monopoly through unfair business practices. But the ruling only managed to divide Standard Oil into a bunch of smaller businesses, all of them still owned by Rockefeller. As a result, he was able to continue amassing his fortune and ended up richer than ever before.

    Rockefeller also left the oil industry with a legacy of making sure no penny went unpinched. He kept a close count of every piece of inventory that was bought and made sure that nothing went unaccounted for or unused. 

    As the years went on, this focus on keeping operating costs as low as possible would continue to be the modus operandi of the oil industry.

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    What is Blowout about?

    Blowout (2019) takes a deep dive into the murky waters of the global gas and oil industry and reveals just how toxic it is. Author Rachel Maddow looks at evidence of this in the US, along with the corrupt deals being made in Russia and Equatorial Guinea, and makes a strong case for why big gas and oil needs to be held accountable for its actions – before things get any worse.

    Blowout Review

    Blowout by Rachel Maddow (2019) is an eye-opening exploration of the global influence of the oil and gas industry. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It uncovers the corruption and power dynamics surrounding the oil industry, revealing the impact it has on governments and societies worldwide.
    • By delving into compelling case studies and exposing the consequences of unchecked fossil fuel extraction, the book provides a thought-provoking analysis of our energy landscape.
    • With Maddow's meticulous research and ability to present complex information in a captivating manner, the book ensures readers are informed and engaged throughout.

    Who should read Blowout?

    • Citizens worried about the erosion of democracy
    • Close followers of news about US-Russian relations 
    • People concerned about corporate influence on world affairs

    About the Author

    Rachel Maddow is a political commentator and host of the long-running and award-winning Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC. She has a doctorate in political science from Oxford University and is also a best-selling writer whose work includes the book Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power (2012).

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    Blowout FAQs 

    What is the main message of Blowout?

    The main message of Blowout is the corrupting influence of the oil and gas industry.

    How long does it take to read Blowout?

    The reading time for Blowout varies, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Blowout a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Blowout is an eye-opening read about the impact and dangers of the oil and gas industry. It's definitely worth a read.

    Who is the author of Blowout?

    The author of Blowout is Rachel Maddow.

    What to read after Blowout?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Blowout, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Friedman