Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Frehner reviews Daintith, "Finders Keepers?"

The latest Environmental History has a review by Brian Frehner of Terence Daintith's Finders Keepers?: How the Law of Capture Shaped the World Oil Industry (RFF/Earthscan, 2010). Frehner writes:
Much has been written about the history of oil and gas law within the United States, but few authors have provided an accessible entreé into the subject. Daintith has undertaken a daunting task by revisiting the subject and attempting to expand on it by approaching the topic in a comparative manner.
He goes on:
The author organizes the book's thirteen chapters into five sections to argue that the rule of capture was practiced worldwide but that its unique implementation in the United States had ramifications beyond the country's borders. The first section surveys the nineteenth-century historical context in which the rule of capture developed, and the second section presents case studies in countries that offer “alternatives and parallels” of US oil and gas production and regulation. The third section explores how the rule of capture brought politics and industry within the United States into an increasingly complex and intertwined relationship throughout the twentieth century and offers a provocative assessment of its impact on hydraulic fracturing. The last section most clearly conveys the author's perspective on what ails the oil industry past and present, and he asserts a simple remedy: “Put the rights in one pair of hands, those of the state,” and petroleum resources will be produced without waste (p. 305). This bold declaration would have better served the author's purpose if foregrounded in the introduction and argued more consistently throughout the book rather than introduced in the final section. One suspects early that the narrative will present a critique of capitalism's ability to regulate oil resources, but the author only hints at this point until articulating it specifically in the final section.

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