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Book Review: Crude not too crude, dude

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Oil, black gold, Texas tea, no other substance has a larger impact on our lives, either in terms of quality of life or how much money it can make us. However, dwindling oil reserves have come to shape the foreign policies of oil-consuming nations like the United States, a phenomenon examined in detail in Toronto Star journalist Linda McQuaig's sixth book, It's the Crude, Dude.

While McQuaig's focus is on American involvement in Iraq--the war is all about oil, hence the title--she also takes time to examine other factors in the conflict and how things got to where we are now. In doing so, McQuaig connects seemingly unrelated events. You'll learn how tariffs on frozen chickens aided relaxed fuel consumption standards for sport utility vehicles, how the energy lobby has hindered the efforts of United Nations scientists studying global warming and more about Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez than you ever needed to know. Despite these frequent detours, McQuaig never lets us forget the whole thing is about Iraq and emphasizes how these events influence others.

As is often the case with books about hot-button topics, the enjoyment you garner from this book will obviously vary depending on your stance on the issue. If you love oil companies, American foreign policy and think Dick Cheney is the most wonderful man in the history of the world then this book may serve you better as a means of leveling an uneven chair or table.

Even if you agree with McQuaig's stance on the issues, you may just plain hate her writing style. This is not a purely academic read and McQuaig takes her time to provide some context and uses anecdotes and jokes to prevent things from getting too heady. However, this may leave impatient readers foaming at the mouth.

Another minor frustration occurs whenever a topic is briefly mentioned in connection with another, then brushed off for the time being with a promise it will be covered later on. While these promises are always kept, it becomes tiresome to have to wait.

Despite these flaws, It's The Crude, Dude stands as an intelligently-written look at our current situation with a decidedly cynical tone and foreboding message: while those tied to the oil industry acknowledge oil reserves are dwindling, they're not really doing anything about it right now because there's money to be made and they may actually be hindering the efforts of others. Regardless of whether you agree with its politics or not, It's the Crude, Dude offers a lot to think about.

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