Auto / Energy

The Oil Road


Year: 2012

Type: popular book

Authors: James Mariott & Mika Minio-Paluello

Full title: The Oil Road: Journeys from the Caspian sea to the city of London

Publisher: Verso Books

Availability: from the publisher (Verso: book $26.95, £16.99, ebook  $12.99) and from Platform (book £10.00).

Page Reference: Mansfield, M., Ford, L., Rogers, O., Smith, M., Board, B. & Watts, C. (2013) The Oil Road. ( last accessed <insert date here>)

Unofficial trailer



In the same way our culture has become largely ignorant of the journey our food takes to get to our table, we are also ignorant of the route fossil fuels take to power our high-consumption lifestyles. It's the way agribusiness and the energy companies like it (Source: England 2013 np link).

As a travel book it is unusual because it follows an absolutely clear path – the pipeline – rather than a particular cultural or national route (Source: de Falbe 2012 np link).

A journey along a controversial European pipeline becomes a profound exploration of the oil economy. ... The human race travels the Oil Road, and this book helps us to realize where we are heading and why it is time to change direction (Source: Anon 2012a np link).

The Oil Road explores the murky realities behind the glittering facade of British Petroleum's thousand mile oil road from the Caspian Sea to the City of London. It’s a grimly fascinating story of high finance, corruption, displaced communities and environmental degradation, revealing the inevitable but usually hidden costs of globalization (Source: Anon 2012b np link).

Few would have the balls to level scrutiny at something as crucial to British industry as the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. But with this compelling criticism of BP's $4 billion project - and the deeper, touchier subject of the West's insatiable addiction to oil - writers and activists James Marriott and Mika Minio-Paluello have given it (pun absolutely intended) both barrels (Source: Sowa 2012 p.48).

The Oil Road is ... a forensic analysis of how poor farmers, hundreds of communities and entire nations – not to mention their sovereign legislatures – have been forced to make room for BP's BTC pipeline and, more widely, western energy imperialism with its attendant financial support structures (Source: Anon 2012c np link).

Marriott and Minio-Paluello seamlessly weave an engaging personal story into the current geopolitics of oil aggression and the volatile recent history of the region. Central to the story is BP, which promised a pipeline that would represent a new era of social and environmental responsibility (Source: Rowell 2012a np link). 

The Oil Road ... is part travelogue, part extensively researched study of the political economy of Caspian oil, part exposé of the intimate political and economic links between BP and various unsavoury regimes, the British government among them (Source: Mina-Paluello & Stern-Weiner 2012 np link).

... the book is more a series of reflections than a polemic or manifesto. Rather than John Pilger or Naomi Klein, the presiding spirit is that of Iain Sinclair, who uses rambling excursions in and around London to uncover hidden aspects of the city’s past and present (Source: Crooks 2012 np link).

Progressing further into The Oil Road, the more it assumes the detective-thriller genre - and not just because of the authors' regular observing of BTC workers in orange jumpsuits and hard hats, evocative of those helpless minions serving so many James Bond villians. The air of cover-up resonates throughout the book, not least with regards to its financing (Source: Anon 2012c np link).

Defying categorisation, it simultaneously blends travel writing, political analysis, history, investigative journalism, family stories, geography, oil engineering primer and more. It flows and pulses in parallel with the oil, and with each page the reader is conscious of that dense black river of liquid geology, distilled ancient sunlight, being sucked from the Caucasus across mountains and sea to feed Western Europe’s insatiable thirst for energy (Source: Housmans 2013 np link).

The Oil Road is an unusual work: an elegantly written travel book about a pipeline. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, known as BTC, carries crude from oilfields in the Caspian Sea to a tanker port in the Mediterranean, providing a secure route for the booming energy exports of the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan. Filled to capacity, it can carry more than 1 per cent of the world’s oil supply, making it a strategically critical piece of infrastructure for the world. (Source: Crooks 2012 np link).

Part-travelogue, part-reportage, the Oil Road is a powerful – if slightly repetitive – account of how a valuable natural resource can turn a tiny elite into plutocrats, destabilise nations and ruin the lives of ordinary people. Told through a series of vignettes and diary pieces, the book traces the journey of Azeri oil, from its extraction in the Caspian Sea all the way to the City of London, where BP’s financial power is consolidated (Source: Geoghegen 2012 np link).

...the book focuses on the human stories behind the the pipeline's construction. They find the neighbours of two boys who drowned in the pipe's flooded trench when it was being built across Turkey. They interview a woman denied compensation because a tunnel only passed under her garden and not under her house itself (Source: Bullough 2012 p.30 link).

James Marriott and Mika Minio-Paluello track the concealed routes along which flows the lifeblood of our economy. In The Oil Road, the human scale of village life in the Caucasus Mountains and the plains of Anatolia is suddenly, and sometimes fatally, confronted by the almost ungraspable scale of the oil corporation BP. Pipelines and tanker routes tie the fraying social democracies of Italy, Austria and Germany to the repressive regimes of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. A web of financial and political institutions in London stitches together the lives of metropolis and village (Source: Anon 2012a np link).

James Marriott and Mika Minio-Paluello … follow Azeri oil from the Caspian Sea to the filling stations of central Europe. By car, train, bus and foot, they ytrace the path it takes through a pipeline along the southern flank of the old Soviet Union, across remote Eastern Turkey, to the shores of the Mediterranean. They see it loaded onto ships, and track those tankers as they sail to Italy. They climb high into the Alps to accompany the crude on its way to German, Austrian and Czech refineries. The oil crosses some of the most significant fault lines in European geography: where Muslims meet Christians, where communists meet capitalists, where nomads meet settled agriculture. And it skirts plenty of smaller conflicts too: Armenians against Azeris, Kurds against Turks, Georgians against Russians; Slovenians against Italians. The pipelines themselves are engineering marvels, scaling passes in both the Caucasus and the Alps. BP's pipeline from Baku to Ceyhan represents the culmination of a geopolitical struggle for influence over Caspian oil supplies that pitted Washington against Moscow. (It is hardly surprising it was the centrepiece of a James Bond film) (Source: Bullough 2012 p.30 link).

Marriott and Minio-Paluello show time and again how the oil industry has captured putatively sovereign states. Legislation is passed at the behest of BP executives, at times with the direct assistance of Western politicos. In Turkey, one of the authors is detained near the pipeline. A secretary for energy and environment at the British embassy in Ankara calls, not to assist but to warn the writers against visiting villages affected by the pipeline without permission. No such prohibition exists in Turkish law. ‘(A)s in Azerbaijan and Georgia, the arbitrary power of the state is being utilised to prevent BP’s pipeline being scrutinised.’ For the next four decades villagers living near the BTC are forbidden from building anything within 40 metres of the pipeline. Although two Turkish children die while playing on a construction site adjacent to the pipeline, ‘(q)uestions about compensation are met with a snort of derision.’ In Georgia, locals whose homes were built near the route complain that BP, ‘send the police force instead of coming to meet us themselves’ (Source: Geoghegen 2012 np link).

The book systematically deconstructs BP’s false promises, as the authors meet affected communities and courageous individuals such as Arzu, a human rights campaigner who is on a list of people who might be killed by the authorities. ‘We ask them not to sell our democracy for oil. But do you think they’re listening?’ she asks. Across the Caucasus they hear stories of the pipeline disrupting lives and livelihoods. They encounter intimidating security officials who tell them that BP does not like people snooping around. In Tbilisi, they meet Manana, who helped local communities file complaints against the pipeline, which has become a ‘semi-forbidden zone’ and a ‘corridor of violence’. She too has been intimidated by the authorities. In the Georgian mountains they meet villagers whose houses were damaged by the construction work but who were never compensated. Their protests were met by intimidation. In Turkey, too, anti-pipeline activists tell stories of beatings and torture. The story ends in London, the financial capital that feeds much of our oil habit. The Oil Road is a vital tool in understanding - and breaking - the complex web of that addiction (Source: Rowell 2012a np link). 

One standout moment in the book comes when Minio–Paluello, on patrol with a camera in a Turkish village next to the pipeline, is confronted by an NGO representative administering the BTC CIP: "I will stop you, I'll smash your camera," they are told. With incriminating video footage concealed in a sock, Minio–Paluello is then carted off for several hours of state police detention (Source: Anon 2012c np link).

Unlike the Silk Road, which the title consciously echoes, the contemporary Oil Road is haunted by the spectre of climate change. Despite BP’s rebranding as ‘Beyond Petroleum’, less than one per cent of its turnover comes from renewable energy. Indeed, the company supports groups in the US that actively deny global warming (Source: Geoghegen 2012 np link).

Inspiration / Process / Technique / Methodology

Marriott and Minio-Paluello are two campaigners with the London-based oil watchdog Platform – an organisation that has bred a kind of activism that, while based in hard research, experiments with creative ways of communicating its findings (Source: England 2013 np link).

Marriott and Minio-Paluello work with Platform, a London-based environmental organisation that seeks to highlight the harm caused by the oil industry and to challenge the claims its makes. That background informs the approach their book takes. They travel with a network of local activists. They try to avoid the police where possible. They have no access to oil infrastructure, and quote only those company officials tasked with dealing with outsiders. … Had they been accompanied by oil-company officials, or been given permission for their journey, they would have missed out on being intimidated by police in Azerbaijan and interrogated in Turkey (Source: Bullough 2012 p.30 link).

Much writing on this region is top-down and seen from outside, from western Europe. Because the voices that are heard are frequently those of the coloniser, the international businessman or the academic describing "the other", we tried to prioritise the words of those standing up to power – be they Kurdish poets, Turkish fisherfolk, Azeri vilagers or Georgian environmentalists (Source: Marriott & Minio-Paluello 2013 np link).

The books draws strength from the inspiration that James and Mika take from the people they meet: Arzu, the human rights campaigner, whose activism has led her to be on a list of people who might be killed by the authorities. “We ask them not to sell our democracy for oil. But do you think they’re listening?” she asks. Mayis, who accompanies them through Azerbaijan, is a Green Party campaigner, who wants to wean the oil-addicted Baku off oil. “People aren’t quite ready for it yet, but we are getting there”, he says optimistically.  Both BP and the government have repeatably tried to to stop Mayis from speaking out against the pipeline. Central to the story of the pipeline is the oil giant, BP, and its ex-Chief executive John Browne and the Contract of the century, which BP said was to develop the country as well as the oil. Signed in 2005, it was the pinnacle of Browne’s career. They also meet the “invisible fathers” of the road like Sabit Bagirov, the  ex-head of the State oil company, who remembers Margaret Thatcher being flown in to seal BP’s first contract in the country. The Iron lady was a “formidable foreign policy weapon” noted one British official. BP promised a pipeline that would be a new era of social and environmental responsibility. But it is anything but (Source: Rowell 2012b np link).

[Jamie Stern-Weiner:] Can you describe the process of writing the book and what you were trying to do with it? [Mika Minio-Paluello:] We didn't want to write a book that would just be for oil experts. Although we are a centre of expertise on the oil industry we also want to challenge the whole approach of rule by experts, which ultimately includes those working in campaign groups and NGOs. The aim was to really get under the skin of the way the movement and pumping of crude oil, from its extraction in the Caspian Sea to Central and Western Europe, works, and to find a way of making that process accessible and interesting to people who aren't oil geeks. The book was the product of extensive research. James began thinking about the Caspian, the Caucasus and oil in the 1990s. Platform, the political campaigning group James helped establish in the 1980s and for which I have worked since 2005, has been engaged in related issues since 2001, particularly in challenging BP's then-proposed Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which forms the first part of the book. As a result we had a large base of knowledge to work from. We wrote a previous book before the pipeline was built called Some Common Concerns which tried to imagine what the pipeline would be like and what some of its consequences would be. Initially we saw this book as a follow-up to that, after the pipeline was built, to examine whether or not our warnings had been correct, and to challenge BP's writing of the history. [Jamie:] And to research the book you followed the route of the pipeline on the ground? [Mika:] Yes, although we didn't do it in order. We tracked the movement of the crude westwards from the Caspian, so the book's narrative is spatial rather than chronological. That involved going to the villages, to the cities and political centres, through the valleys and mountain ranges and coastlines, and spending quite a lot of time in Georgia, in Baku, in north-eastern Turkey, and a lot of the time in places people don't normally visit: little villages and so on. [Jamie:] Did being there on the ground highlight stuff that you hadn't fully appreciated from reading the reports? [Mika] We'd already travelled to the region before. But yes: we had a long-term engagement with people living in the communities along the route before the pipeline was built, while it was being built, and after it was constructed. A lot of the voices of people along the pipeline don't really come out unless you actually go and speak to them. You don't hear their stories in BP's sustainability reports, unless they happen to work for BP, and even then the quoting can be very selective. They rarely appear in media coverage, or in the academic papers that have been done, most of which I've come across relating to the pipeline were written in cooperation with BP. When you go there you find that people have varying perspectives. It's not that everyone you meet who lives near the pipeline says 'I hate the pipeline'. In fact a lot of people in Turkey, because of the way the pipeline has been represented as a national project and something the Turkish people should be proud of, will initially say 'the pipeline's great, it's wonderful, we should stand with it'. Only once you talk more, and less directly, about it do you start to hear their concerns or their unhappiness about the way their land was destroyed, or how they can't access their land, etc. (Source: Minio-Paluello  & Stern-Weiner 2012 np link).

[Mika:] We didn’t want to write a book that would just be for oil experts. Although we are a centre of expertise on the oil industry we also want to challenge the whole approach of rule by experts, which ultimately includes those working in campaign groups and NGOs (Source: Minio-Paluello & Stern-Weiner 2012 np link).

... the travelogue format, with all of its narrative immediacy and use of the present tense, is in fact a tool to make accessible to the general reader what is really a work of political advocacy (Source: Gordon 2013 np link).

Our campaign Tour will take place at venues across England, Scotland and Wales this autumn and winter, examine how Britain and the EU’s drive to control oil reserves – and hence people and events – has shattered environments and shaped societies ...  Our aim is to challenge the framing and presentation of militarised fossil fuel pathways as the innocuous ‘energy corridors’ of Europe. To reveal them as unidirectional ‘corridors’ that only permit the movement of certain commodities, not people. The tour will uncover the network of companies, financial institutions and government departments that create and maintain these Oil Roads, will render visible the hidden arteries of this continent and the ‘carbon web’ that lies behind them (Anon 2012d np link).

Discussion / Responses

This book is so masterful, so authoritatively researched and so elegantly written, that it succeeds in distilling a complex and changing ‘carbon web’ of engineering companies, legal firms, and financiers, into an intimate and engaging personal story (Source: Gablik in Anon 2012e np link).

The project is reminiscent of last year’s Extreme Rambling – Walking Israel’s Barrier for Fun by comedian-activist Mark Thomas, but comes after 12 years of visits along the route as part of an ongoing exploration of the impacts of BP’s controversial $25 billion investment in drilling platforms and pipelines. Here too we get to meet vicariously the people shaping and shaped by the route in question and reconstruct a more accurate picture of what is otherwise a hotly politicised, and therefore deliberately obfuscated, reality (Source: England 2013 np link).

In places, their writing is striking, particularly when they discuss how the past is mirrored in the present. A passage about how Europeans invest time and energy   excavating the Roman past, while ignoring the fossil fuel-driven present is particularly elegant and verges on the psychogeographical (Source: Bullough 2012 p.30 link).

This is great read. Highly informative and seriously well-written with lashings of decent political analysis you will not find elsewhere. The oil industry as seen from the bottom - man and woman on the street or rather in this case the field. We waited a long time for this (Source: terrymac999 2012 np link).

We often hear talk about “joining the dots”, seeing the connections between issues, but the challenge of sustaining that comprehensive vision and analysis is beyond most of us. Thankfully there are books like this that are able to grasp and communicate this sort of profound intellectual synthesis. The result is a serious, unsettling read. Yet, somehow, deeply satisfying too (Source: Housmans 2013 np link).

Other than its enjoyable, educational scope, the biggest compliment I can pay this book is that it is an eye-opener, bringing the BTC pipeline's problems that persist into full view – and I say that as someone intimately involved in the BTC campaign in 2003 and 2004, and for whom too the project has taken on, regretably, a certain 'done deal' aspect. This is reportage of the highest calibre. As PLATORM's Marriot and Minio–Paluello relate their shadowing of the BTC pipeline's marker posts in the ground, they lay down their own vital markers: not only for western consumers and BTC communities but for other people facing up to fossil fuel fantasies in the name of development, fantasies that continue to be bankrolled by western capital's finest public and private financiers (Source: Anon 2012c np link).

In particular The Oil Road spells out how BP and the Azeri regime "sold" the idea to both bankers and local communities: "BP's interconnectedness with the Aliyev regime goes beyond underwriting it with revenues. The company's cooperation with the repressive regime operates on multiple levels: local executive powers in villages, the Azeri secret service, and the troops of the Special State Protection Service of Azerbaijan." These are strong words to which BP should be given a chance to respond. I asked them myself whether they had any comments on these allegations but they declined (Source: Macalister 2012 np link).

While the travelogue style of the book can at times be a bit confusing, there is much in here of use to anti-capitalists and environmental activists. It is particularly difficult to read it without developing enormous anger against BP, a company that in 2006 caused "total emissions of 5.6 per cent of the global total" over twice that of the whole of the UK. This is a company that turns oil production on and off at the press of a button if the price of crude oil falls too low, whose products make enormous profits for a tiny minority yet balks at offering a few hundred pounds to farmers whose lands have been destroyed by the Oil Road. If there is one criticism, I feel that the Oil Road fails to offer much of an alternative. In part this is deliberate. The authors have clearly set out (and they this very well) to expose the reality of one part of the oil industry. But if humanity is to avoid catastrophic climate change, the Oil Road will need to be both explored and an alternative found. Other campaigns have been working on this and the Oil Road is an important weapon in these arguments. Perhaps one way of finding a solution is gathering some inspiration from the Bolsheviks and their nationalisation of the oil industry after the revolution. This is not to suggest that after the revolution greenhouse gas emissions could be tamed. Rather it is to argue that the problem today are the private companies that destroy people and planet in the interest of profits. Taking control of the means of production is as important today as it was in 1917 (Source: resolutereader 2012 np link).

"The Oil Road" is authored by two self-confessed "oil corporation resisters" associated with the campaigning NGO Platform. By no stretch of the imagination can it be described as a balanced account either of BP plc or the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline. If you like conspiracy theories, this is the book for you. If you want to read about the delivery of a huge industrial project that has been of some benefit to the poverty-stricken inhabitants of a forgotten part of Asia-Europe, buy another book. One doesn't have to be a BP shareholder (as I am) or a paid-up member of the political ruling class Azerbaijan, Georgia or Turkey to regard this book with suspicion. No one would deny that some things went wrong with the $4bn BTC project or that BP and the host governments have their problems. But "The Oil Road" is so one-eyed it ends up weakening its own case (Source: knight 2012 np link).

At times this story struggles to get through the book’s travelogue format, leaving the reader as frustrated as James and Mika in their meetings with the oil industry’s PR warriors. And their musings on the broader economy don’t quite add up to an analysis. But as a series of snapshots The Oil Road is a fascinating opportunity to see the filthy entrails of the world economy up close and personal (Source: Sewell 2012 np link).

There is no 'I' in this book, only a 'we', which creates an impression, at best, of it being narrated by Queen Victoria. … Every pairing has friction and humour, which leavens the drier material of the journey and creates the story. Marriott & Minio-Paluello, however, are always in agreement (Source: Bullough 2012 p.30 link).

The travelogue format works to make The Oil Road accessible: the narrative is brisk, compelling and interesting. It is, however, also to some extent artificial. While presented as a single journey, nominally taking place in 2009, it also contains material (“stories we gathered on travels”, say the authors) dating back to 1998. This will not hurt the authors’ credibility among those who are more or less in their camp anyway, but the book is, nevertheless, something of a constructed narrative (Source: Gordon 2013 np link).

There should, though, have been more to say about how the British players at the end of this remarkable vector of the modern globalised economy not only keep the oil we all use flowing but subvert the debate over the need for the UK and the wider world to move quickly to a low-carbon economy. After all, global warming is a threat greater than any unwholesome embrace of autocrat and oil corporation (Source: Macalister 2012 np link).

But we don’t produce oil in Wandsworth – do we? Not directly - but we contribute to investments in oil and gas production via our bank accounts, pension plans, insurance, and the investments made with our Council Tax. A tiny fraction of our own wealth is invested in those wells in the Caspian, just as a tiny fraction of the oil we consume here came from those same wells (Source: Charles 2013 np link).

The Oil Road brilliantly sums up the folly of a system bent on exploiting nations for profit, letting people live in poverty while millions of dollars in oil flows underground to far away markets. There are few books that have done as good a job at showing the links between companies and national governments, and providing all the evidence needed to continue the struggle against allowing this to continue. With many oil pipeline projects presently in negotiation, this is an important book for activists. While the authors do not put forward an alternative to this system, they certainly do not fail to provide motivation for the search (Source: Anna 2013 np link).

Mariott and Minio-Paluello’s position on big oil (and if anything is “big oil”, it’s BP) is reminiscent of anti-capitalist and anti-globalization positions of yore: commercial interests collude with government to deny people basic rights - property rights, political rights, etc. - as well as taking environmental risks with impunity. They posit a “Carbon Web” (a somewhat overarching term, perhaps, since they mean it to apply to petroleum), a network of interested parties, with London (and BP) at its center. The fact their views seem pre-Davos doesn’t mean they are wrong. No one really expects Azerbaijan to be an example of good governance, and the bloom had already somewhat come off Georgia’s “Rose Revolution”; Mariott and Minio-Paluello’s comments about the less-than-entirely-democratic actions of the Saakashvili administration no longer run completely against the conventional narrative. More important, perhaps, is that regardless of where one sits on the political or ideological spectrum, one is left feeling that the “oil road” - on which so many Western economies depend - is somewhat brittle. One would have  to work to put a positive spin on Mariott and The fact their views seem pre-Davos doesn’t mean they are wrong. No one really expects Azerbaijan to be an example of good governance, and the bloom had already somewhat come off Georgia’s “Rose Revolution”; Mariott and Minio-Paluello’s comments about the less-than-entirely-democratic actions of the Saakashvili administration no longer run completely against the conventional narrative. More important, perhaps, is that regardless of where one sits on the political or ideological spectrum, one is left feeling that the “oil road” - on which so many Western economies depend - is somewhat brittle. One would have  to work to put a positive spin on Mariott and Minio-Paluello’s accounts: perhaps it is that places without this sort of on-going, deep involvement by Western oil majors (Turkmenistan, perhaps) are even worse (Source: Gordon 2013 np link).

It’s a personable and lovingly-crafted narrative, a rich tapestry of first-hand anecdote and historical reconstruction with a political and social excavation of the geography that weaves in the region’s changing fortunes, from the Tsarist through the Soviet to the current pro-western repressive regimes. Along the way there are important lessons for investors about how oil companies manage and disguise risk; for policy makers about the real meaning of “energy security” in the 21st century; and for activists thinking about where and when to intervene in a complex system (Source: England 2013 np link).

It was a fascinating talk [about The Oil Road] that covered a hugely complex subject in a concise and interesting way.  It's also a painful reminder of the consequences of our actions and the ways in which we contribute to world misery in the West merely by existing.  Depressingly it's difficult to imagine a world without companies like BP, at least not without a hugely painful and devastating transformation in society, a transformation that would disproportionately impact upon those already in poverty.  Am I being too negative about this? Is there a viable way maintain our existence without the 'Carbon Web', a way to operate our society without propping up oppressive countries and destroying the environment? (Source: Anon 2013 np link).

The Carbon Web is powerful.  Reducing dependence on growth driven by fossil fuels needs a challenging vision of different technologies and meanings of growth – which may seem insurmountable. But as James [Marriott] said, the prospect of a different approach has ‘moved from being a joke to being a possibility’. So, one of the twin gas plants in Bavaria near the end of the ‘Oil Road’ pipeline has been mothballed, because the local take-up of renewable energy has made the plant uneconomic. And nowadays, forty years after it was built, surely there would be no support for burying a living river with a shopping centre. A ‘managed retreat’ from oil dependence is more possible to envisage and describe now. But there are plenty of hard debates going on – say over coal, and over access to resources by the world’s fastest growing economies. And debate over renewables: [Platform’s] Jane [Trowell] said ‘Just because it’s solar, doesn’t mean it’s just’: what are local inhabitants' rights? (Source: Charles 2013 np link).

Outcomes / Impacts

Platform’s campaign to put the Oil Road on the map has been given a fine start with our new travel book being chosen by London’s main cultural listings magazine, Time Out, as ‘Book of the Week’ (Anon 2012d np link).

'The Oil Road' ... derives from extensive walks by two artists/activists, and ... its writing style bridges conventional travel writing and activism. This mixing of forms is an example relevant for theatre-making (Source: Anon 2012f np link).

Just discovered a bizarre movie-trailer for our book #TheOilRoad ... I wonder who made it (Source: @mikaminio 2012 nplink).

@mikaminio it was me! #starstruck how did you find it? @followthethings (Source: @MelanieFSmith 2012 np link).

[Jamie:] Could you mention some campaigning groups which exist around these issues? [Mika:] There are lots. Liberate Tate has been working intensely on trying to get BP out of the Tate; Platform and others over the years have challenged RBS's role in funding dodgy oil and gas projects; there's a new campaign trying to redefine energy corridors; there's a lot of work being led by Jubilee Debt Campaign on Export Credit Agencies and their role in financing controversial projects; and so on. There are many specific groups, but at Platform and in the book we think it's important to recognise that it's the structures of society and the economy which need shifting. It's not enough for us to win on one policy or one campaign, welcome though that would be, so what's particularly exciting for us is the interlinking of these different movements and organisations. We need a wider shift if we're going to move London away from being an oil city and a colonial power (Source: Minio-Paluetto & Stern-Weiner 2012 np link).

Our campaign Tour will take place at venues across England, Scotland and Wales this autumn and wider, examine how Britain and the EU’s drive to control oil reserves – and hence people and events – has shattered environments and shaped societies. The stupendous wealth of crude has long inspired dreams of a world remade – how do we change direction? (Source: Anon 2012d np link).

Next steps: Have a look at the meeting hosts’ sites for practical ways to get involved:
Friends of the Earth Wandsworth at
Transition Town Wandsworth at
Wandsworth Environment Forum at
and other projects on Project Dirt
And of course have a look at Platform:
 On the [Transition Town Tootling] site here, scroll down to look at details of our next series of Carbon Conversations, which you can join to explore and take action about your own carbon footprint, with others locally. And have a look at the Warmer Homes, Lower Bills, Cooler Planet meeting being held in March 21st in the Furzedown Low Carbon Zone – details to follow (Source: Charles 2013 np link).

References / Further Reading

@MelanieFSmith (2012) @mikaminio it was me! #starstruck how did you find it? @followthethings. 7 November( last acessed 8 March 2013)

@mikaminio (2012) Just discovered a bizarre movie-trailer for our book #TheOilRoad ... I wonder who made it. 7 November ( last accessed 8 March 2013)

Anna (2013) The Oil Road - James Marriott and Mika Minio-Paluello. 31 January ( last accessed 8 March 2013)

Anon (2012a) The Oil Road: Journeys from the Caspian Sea to the City of London. ( last accessed 8 March 2013)

Anon (2012b) The Oil Road: James Marriott and Emma Hughes with Terry Macalister. London Review Bookshop ( last accessed 8 March 2013)

Anon (2012d) Putting the Oil Road on the Map – 5 star review kicks off campaign. 6 September ( last accessed 5 November 2012)

Anon (2012e) The Oil Road – Journeys from the Caspian City of London. 17 August ( last accessed 5 November 2012)

Anon (2013) ‘The Oil Road’ lecture by James Marriott and Anna Galkina at Shoreditch House, 29th January 2013. London City Nights 30 January ( last accessed 8 March 2013)

Bullough, O. (2012) Crude developments. The Literary Review 403 (October), p. 30 ( last accessed 8 March 2013)

Charles (2013) Exploring ‘The Oil Road'. 7 February ( last accessed 8 March 2013)

Crooks, E. (2012) Notes from underground. Financial Times 21 September ( last accessed 5 November 2012)

de Falbe, J. (2012) An “unusual travel book” along a pipeline. 21 August ( last accessed 8 March 2013)

England, P. (2013) The Oil Road – book review. 10 January ( last accessed 8 March 2013)

Geoheagen, P. (2012) Book Review, The Oil Road. 26 November ( last accessed 8 March 2012)

Gordon, P. (2013) The Oil Road by James Marriott and Mika Minio-Paluello. Asian Review of Books 10 March ( last accessed 8 March 2013)

Housmans (2013) Review: The Oil Road: Journeys from the Caspian Sea to the City of London. 28 January ( last accessed 8 March 2013)

knight, r. (2012) Heavily biased book. 29 December ( last accessed 8 March 2013).

Macalister, T. (2012) The Oil Road: Journeys from the Caspian Sea to the City of London by James Marriott and Mika Minio-Paluello - review. The Guardian 14 December ( last accessed 8 March 2013).

Marriott, J. & Minio-Paluello, M. (2013) Platform's top 10 journeys on the Oil Road. The Guardian 9 January ( last accessed 8 March 2013)

Menendez, J. & Minio-Paluella (2012) The Oil Road: interview with Mika Minio-Paluello of Platform. BBC Newshour 30 September ( last accessed: 5 November 2012)

Minio-Paluello, M. & Stern-Weiner, J. (2012) The Oil Economy: From the Caspian to the City. New Left Project  11 October ( last accessed 5 November 2012)

resolutereader (2012) James Marriott & Mika Minio-Paluello - The Oil Road: Journeys from the Caspian Sea to the City of London. 3 December ( last accessed 8 March 2013)

Rowell, A. (2012a) The people of the pipeline. Red Pepper, October ( last accessed 2 November 2012)

Rowell, A. (2012b) We Should All Scrutinise BP’s Oil Road. The Price of Oil 15 October ( last accessed 2 November 2012)

Sewell, D. (2012) The Oil Road: from the bowels of the earth to the City boardrooms. Socialist Worker 27 October last accessed 8 March 2013)

Sowa, D. (2012)  Book of the week - The Oil Road - James Marriott and Mika Minio-Paluello. Time Out 6 September p.48

terrymac999 (2012) the world of oil without the usual glossy sheen. 3 October ( last accessed 8 March 2013).

Other resources

For updated news about The Oil Road,

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See if you can lay your own gas pipe without causing offence or damaging the environment:

Compiled by Molly Mansfield, Louise Ford, Olivia Rogers, Millie Smith, Bryony Board & Charlotte Watts edited by Ian Cook (last updated March 2013). Page created as part of the ‘Geographies of material culture’ module at Exeter University.