Books·Canadian

The Petroleum Papers by Geoff Dembicki

A nonficiton book about the role of the oil & gas industry in the climate crisis.

A nonfiction book about the role of the oil & gas industry in the climate crisis

Burning fossil fuels will cause catastrophic global warming: this is what top American oil executives were told by scientists in 1959. But they ignored that warning. Instead, they developed one of the biggest, most polluting oil sources in the world?the oil sands in Alberta, Canada. As investigative journalist Geoff Dembicki reveals in this explosive book, the decades-long conspiracy to keep the oil sands flowing into the U.S. would turn out to be one of the biggest reasons for the world?s failure to stop the climate crisis.

In The Petroleum Papers, Dembicki draws from confidential oil industry documents to uncover for the first time how companies like Exxon, Koch Industries, and Shell built a global right-wing echo chamber to protect oil sands profits?a misinformation campaign that continues to this day. He also tells the high-stakes stories of people fighting back: a Seattle lawyer who brought down Big Tobacco and is now going after Big Oil, a Filipina activist whose family drowned in a climate disaster, and a former Exxon engineer pushed out for asking hard questions.

With experts now warning we have less than a decade to get global emissions under control, The Petroleum Papers provides a step-by-step account of how we got to this precipice?and the politicians and companies who deserve our blame. (From Greystone Books)

The Petroleum Papers is a finalist for the 2022 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction. The winner will be announced on Nov. 2, 2022.

Weston Prize jury citation: "In The Petroleum Papers, Geoff Dembecki shows us how the petroleum industry has known about the risks to the climate for more than sixty years. This is a book that connects the dots between the industry, politicians, lobbyists, fake grassroots groups, media and corrupted think tanks. Basing his arguments on grounded research and using clear, accessible prose, Dembicki explains the players and the game. The stakes are the planet itself."

This is a book that connects the dots between the industry, politicians, lobbyists, fake grassroots groups, media and corrupted think tanks.- 2022 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction jury

Geoff Dembicki is a climate change reporter from Alberta who now lives in New York. He is also the author of the nonfiction work Are We Screwed?, which won the 2018 Green Prize for Sustainable Literature. 

Why Geoff Dembicki wrote The Petroleum Papers

"On the surface, this book can seem very depressing and demoralizing. But it gave me a weird sense of hope. For so long we've had this story that we've been telling about climate change, which is that it is a result of billions of people's individual actions... and that makes us all equally responsible. But looking at hundreds of pages of documents — and realizing the extent to which people have been lied to about climate change — made me realize that at certain key moments, a small handful of companies and executives sabotaged solutions.

On the surface, this book can seem very depressing and demoralizing. But it gave me a weird sense of hope.- Geoff Dembicki

"The solution isn't necessarily to change the behaviours of seven billion people around the planet. It's to begin looking at the huge role some of these companies have played in making sure that the solutions we need haven't happened."

Listen to the full interview with CBC Radio's On the Coast.

Interviews with Geoff Dembicki

In 1959 politicians and fossil fuel industry business people were informed of the dangers of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We speak with author and Tyee reporter Geoff Dembicki on his new book The Petroleum Papers which exposes the culpability of the industry in climate change.

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now

now