Book Review: Oil’s Deep State

Oil’s Deep State How the Petroleum industry undermines democracy and stops action on global warming – in Alberta, and in Ottawa
Kevin Taft

256 pages • ISBN 978-1-4594-0997-2

This book dwells on the science of global warming due to it is the driving force behind many of issues. However, Oil’s Deep State is primarily about democracy and politics. For eleven years, Kevin Taft was a member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta for the Alberta Liberal Party, including an almost five-year term as Leader of the Opposition Through two general elections.

He was also part of a team of people who devoted their lives with a dogged passion to democracy, politics, and governance. In fact, in his book, Taft intends to use his experience to reflect on the strengths and frailties of modern democratic societies as they struggle to respond effectively to global warming, an issue that could be their undoing.

Every politicians, businesspeople, lobbyist, and all people concerned about what the government is doing should read this book in order to understand why governments at the federal and provincial levels have been so reticent in taking action to get us off fossil fuels, and also to comprehend that money has undermined democracy. Why have democratic governments failed to take serious steps to reduce carbon emissions despite dire warnings and compelling evidence of the profound and growing threat posed by global warming?

Most of the writing on global warming is by scientists, academics, environmentalists, and journalists. Kevin Taft brings a fresh perspective through the insight he gained as an elected politician who had an insider’s eyewitness view of the role of the oil industry in Alberta. His answer, in brief: the oil industry has captured most key democratic institutions in the province, and many at the federal level as well.

Taft casts dramatic new light on exactly how the oil industry and its lobbyists work with Alberta and federal politicians, bureaucrats, universities, regulators and others to pursue the oil industry’s agenda, and how these efforts relate to the oil industry in the US.

He offers a brisk tour of the recent work of scholars who have developed the concepts of the deep state and institutional capture to understand how one rich industry can override and defeat the public interest at virtually every turn.

Taft views globe warming and weakened democracy as two symptoms of the same problem – the loss of democratic institutions to corporate influence and control. He sees citizen engagement and direct action by the public as the only response that can unravel big oil’s deep state, in Alberta and across Canada.