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Internal Combustion: How Corporations and Governments Addicted the World…

by Edwin Black

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944215,534 (4.31)3
The tale of corruption and manipulation that subjected the world to an oil addiction that could have been avoided, that was never necessary, and that could be ended not in ten years, not in five years, but today. Investigative journalist Black mined corporate and governmental archives to assemble thousands of previously undiscovered documents and studies into this dramatic story. He traces a continuum of rapacious energy cartels and special interests dating back from wood to coal to oil, then to the bicycle and electric battery cartels of the 1890s, which created thousands of electric vehicles that plied American streets a century ago--but those noiseless and clean cars were scuttled by petroleum interests. Black also documents how General Motors conspired to undermine mass transit in dozens of cities and how Big Oil, Big Corn, and Big Coal have subverted synthetic fuels and other alternatives.--From publisher description.… (more)

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Showing 4 of 4
A truly eyeopening book. Who would have thought ? Well written. A great contribution to not only American automative history but general American history. A "what if" tale. ( )
  carterchristian1 | Aug 5, 2010 |
The early history of automobiles was interesting, but then he jumps around a bit, first visiting the destruction of the electrical rail lines in the midwest, and then chronicling the torpedoing of the street car industry by GM. The last two chapters are a polemic. He's interested in Hydrogen power. ( )
  3wheeledlibrarian | Jul 4, 2009 |
Drawing on 58 pages of references and sources, including the court proceedings in United States vs National City Lines, this book is both an excellent survey of the shameful catalog of failings in motive power in the last century, and an authoritative deeper resource.

In Black's chapter on the GM Conspiracy he refers to specific testimony from the actual court proceedings, giving an accurate portrayal of the unfolding events in which GM and its co-conspirators Firestone, Standard Oil, and others ripped up electrified transit infrastructure, and put dearly loved electric streetcars to the torch. He adds balance by noting the relative size percentage-wise of infrastructure destroyed and explaining that the conspirators campaign didn't really intend to promote the private car. I knew about the conspiracy before reading the book but the myriad extra details this book unearths reveals the ruthlessness and illegality of what they did - for example I did not realize that on one of the two charges the conspirators were convicted.

Drenched in factual accounts and historical details as it is, the book is still readable and engaging. It does not come across as a polemic either. Its drawbacks as a book are mostly in that it fails to bring a coherent message across the chapters, although each chapter tends to work reasonably well as an essay in its own right.

My main argument with Black is his avowed love of hydrogen technologies, laid out as a manifesto in his chapter "Hydrogen Solution". Here he appears to lose his balance, and is effusive in his praise of the Honda FCX hydrogen car, clearly swayed by his personal experience in the vehicle. He does not treat at all the love affairs of electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle proponents with their chosen solution to the energy problem.

The book is an eye-opener and works well in its goal of lifting the lid on how dirty the corporations are, and why we cannot leave to the corporations the earths much needed salvation in an energy solution for transit and transport.

In this uncovering role Black's journalistic style shines.

My take home message from the book: the free market is not free, as long as the GMs, Standard Oils and other players break the rules and get away with it.

As I write this review the Obama administration has slashed funding for Hydrogen initiatives - these very same initiatives being implicated in the killing of the electric car (see Sherry Boscherts book "Plug-in Hybrids: The Cars which will Recharge America" for more on that).

Black's book finishes up with a two page epilogue titled "The Green Fleet Initiative". Again here in the offering solutions department Black is out of his strong suit, but the idea is a sound one. Fleets are the place to begin the green car revolution.

Let hope it happens soon. ( )
  raymond_and_sarah | May 12, 2009 |
Electric cars. Rockefeller Family. Selden patent.
  BooksOfFaith | Apr 10, 2007 |
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The tale of corruption and manipulation that subjected the world to an oil addiction that could have been avoided, that was never necessary, and that could be ended not in ten years, not in five years, but today. Investigative journalist Black mined corporate and governmental archives to assemble thousands of previously undiscovered documents and studies into this dramatic story. He traces a continuum of rapacious energy cartels and special interests dating back from wood to coal to oil, then to the bicycle and electric battery cartels of the 1890s, which created thousands of electric vehicles that plied American streets a century ago--but those noiseless and clean cars were scuttled by petroleum interests. Black also documents how General Motors conspired to undermine mass transit in dozens of cities and how Big Oil, Big Corn, and Big Coal have subverted synthetic fuels and other alternatives.--From publisher description.

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