The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 104, July 2000 - April, 2001 Page: 483
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managed company in the role of Satan's lackeys; as a combination, the two were
unbeatable. The industry was corrupt and Rockefeller its personification-a
bull's eye for public and political invective.
The Oliens do a wonderful job of examining how petroleum lost the public
relations war. Examining the matter through historians' eyes, they address and
investigate the motives behind industry critics. As an example, Standard Oil
faced foes at every point of the compass. If the company was not defending itself
against fellow oilmen, it struggled against a public view that granted no quarter.
Rockefeller's decision to ignore public opinion, to avoid soliciting citizens' good
graces, proved but the commencement of the decline. The notion of gender-
based attacks against "big oil" resonates of the times and the Oliens work this
vein with success. Each attack, no matter the source, used the newspapers and
periodicals to affect legislation.
The industry could never unite or develop a singular voice or perspective. By
necessity, disparate goals evolved from different operators. Small and large,
domestic and international operations maintained their divergent points of
view. The whipsaw of abundance and deficiency made stable prices and supply
impossible to achieve. And consumers and their advocates never withheld their
concerns about "big oil." These factors made the industry a prime candidate for
political "trust busting."
The crazy quilt of statutes, the utter incompetence of attempts to "regulate"
oil and gas, the scandal and illegalities, particularly at the federal level, evolved
as a result of the public discourse, as defined and articulated by the Oliens. And
that, finally, is the crux of the issue and the thesis of Oil and Ideology. What is puz-
zling is that the authors appear surprised. Politicians remain blessedly pre-
dictable-they will do the public's work, so long as the public reelects them;
public opinion counts, particularly at the ballot box. And if the New York Times,
Newsweek, Mother Jones, or USA Today is screaming stridently enough about an
issue, politicians will respond.
From preface to conclusion, the Oliens strike at federal regulation.
Extrapolating from petroleum's run-ins with federal meddling, the authors are
concerned about the future of health care-an interesting point considering the
fact that most citizens likely desire some reliable, affordable health care cover-
age of any sort.
Even though their perspective is without question anti-federalist regulation,
the Oliens may have hit on a sound point with regard to the impossibility of suc-
cessfully controlling petroleum. As cited in Chapter Six, the "law of capture"
places the industry in its own legal sphere. Because hydrocarbons are fugitive,
and move through subsurface strata without recognition of surface boundaries,
he who produces it owns it; this turns ownership and production models on
their heads. This, teamed with the constant petroleum of adequate or excessive
production, supply and prices for the invaluable commodity are never stable and
subject to international as well as domestic political whim. What the Oliens' view
does not concede is the inevitability that public discourse will remain strident as
long as oil and gas fuel so much of our economy and so many of our SUVs-and
Here’s what’s next.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 104, July 2000 - April, 2001, periodical, 2001; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101221/m1/551/: accessed August 18, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.