Excellent - should be a requirement for every American
It is a shame there aren't more reviews for this series. Hopefully it will be transferred to DVD with a lower price for more people to watch. I was fortunate to check them out at my local library.
I was motivated to watch this after watching the more recent Commanding Heights series on DVD also by Daniel Yergin.
The scope of this series is very impressive. Recent and archival footage weave a very powerful narrative on nearly the entire history, worldwide scope, and impact of the massive oil industry. Positive and negative points are noted. The interviews with so many influential industry veterans is astouding - both corporate and government. The current Iraq occupation only emphasizes why more people should watch this for a better understanding that we can't get something for nothing.
I have visited myself the natural gas reserves of Qatar, the oil fields and refineries of East Texas - including Spindletop where oil was first discovered in Texas, and the strip coal mines of Gilette, Wyoming among other places. Living in Southern California for 6 years too, I am fully aware of the intoxication and fallacies/price of the car-intensive lifestyle. Which was excellently summed up in the very last line when the driver of a Porsche expresses concern for the air quality, etc...but then notes how it goes away once he steps on the pedal. ALso, when the former geologist, now with Greenpeace, talks about the mental "rush/high" from searching out oil but noting that it is a fallacy too once the true cost is realized. The Petersen auto museum in Los Angeles is also a very good place to see how the auto-lifestyle rose up.
This series brings incredible depth to my existing knowledge base for a small investment in time.
Improvements to this series could have been more exploration of the price of the car-intensive lifestyle as it has not only to do with the environment (Which it covers well, but only touching the surface), but also personal health - such as obesity / weight control, and diminished social interaction - with all of it's attendant consequences. There is a good reason why Americans are the fattest people in the world - the car-intensive lifestyle is a big part of this.
Also better completing the series would have been a better discussion on how to move away from the oil-intensive economy. The main argument seems to be on tougher environment and auto emission regulations and improved technology (The electric car never has done much - as hinted at in the final episode as a possible "cure." Even fuel cells aren't the panacea).
Actually, the answer is a bit more straightforward - price oil at it's true price - add in the military cost of securing it among others and the price of freeways - indirect subsidies, (Let truer market forces play out - hmmm...Commanding Heights?), redesigning our cities, and incorporating mass transit - such as in Europe and Asia - Japan and Singapore would be shining examples. Also by reintroducing simple technology like the bicycle - as used in Netherlands and Denmark. If we did this, maybe we wouldn't need to waste our time going to Bally's or 24 Hour Fitness.
Perhaps these aspects are better discussed in another documentary. But the door for this was opened once the author decided to discuss it in the last 2 chapters.
Cars are great - but like many things in life - it is over-reliance on one way of thinking that has gotten us in trouble. Which is the DANGER of a series like this, it looks at everything through the single lens of oil demand and procurement as an explanation for the modern world.
In summary, like the Commanding Heights series, I feel Daniel Yergin has done an excellent job on a very expansive subject, he has carried the story a VERY long distance - but some more insight would complete the series and bring it closer to "connecting the last mile." Hopefully another author can connect this last mile. 5 stars nevertheless....more info