344 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-88866-956-8
DDC 333.8'232






Reviewed by Patrick Colgan

Patrick Colgan is the former executive director of the Canadian Museum
of Nature.


Bacher, an Ontario writer and activist, makes a valuable contribution
with this most recent volume in the Science for Peace series. In the
book, he seeks to explain “how the deadly trinity of oil, war and
dictatorship presents the greatest challenge to humanity at the start of
the new millennium.” The less oil, the more democracy is one of his
central contentions. Income from oil is linked with repressive regimes,
whereas income from taxes requires at least some compliance from the
populace. The less oil/more democracy correlation applies not only
between nations but also within nations, as seen in India’s Kerala and

The ugly alliances between oil-hungry nations—especially the United
States—and dictatorships are graphically depicted. Chapter by chapter,
the text works through the regions of the globe in a wretched litany of
violence and greed. Ken Saro-Wiwa, Mikhail Gorbachev, Osama bin Laden,
and red–green alliances all make appearances. The contrast between
filthy Mexico and green Costa Rica is one of many comparisons presented
with impact. Israel, Jordan, and Palestine are seen as an emerging
Benelux of the Middle East. Canada’s Talisman Energy Corporation,
active in the Sudan and France with its “blood-for-oil invoices,”
appears in an especially unfavorable light, while elsewhere the oil
industry buys out critical newspapers in Russia and internationally
debunks the Kyoto Protocol. Strategies for ending petrotyranny are
well-articulated, but it is difficult to share in the “Vision of Hope
for 2015.”

Petrotyranny is meticulously researched and well-documented, providing
much general history in support of the central theme. Amid so much
detail missteps are inevitable (e.g., was Churchill a “broadminded
statesman”?), but these are few. In his foreword, David Suzuki
correctly describes Bacher’s energetically written book as “shocking
documentation”; for that reason, it deserves to be widely read.


Bacher, John., “Petrotyranny,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed March 1, 2024,