Oil, God, and Gold: The Story of Aramco And The Saudi Kings

The comments below are an edited and abridged synopsis of an article by Peter C. Speers

Anthony Cave Brown’s Oil, God, and Gold: The Story of Aramco and the Saudi King provides a detailed report on the formation of the concession agreement and OPEC.

Oil, God, and Gold: The Story of Aramco And The Saudi Kings | BullionBuzz

In 1933, the Standard Oil Company of California (Socal), against stiff competition from the Iraq Petroleum Company, concluded an agreement with Saudi Arabia that permitted it to explore for, produce and export oil. Today, it seems that Socal was betting on a sure thing, but in fact it was taking a considerable gamble. At the time, the world was in the throes of the Great Depression, the US had just gone off the gold standard, and oil was selling for less than 50 cents a barrel. Saudi Arabia was a little-known country, the population had few contacts with the outside world, and it had little familiarity with modern technology.

The profit-sharing agreement of December 1950 was probably the major event between the granting of the original concession and the final transfer of ownership to the Saudi government in 1980. It not only enhanced the Saudis’ income from Aramco, but also gave them an interest in the price at which the company sold its oil. Ten years later, this and similar agreements entered into by other oil companies led to the formation of OPEC.

According to the Middle East Policy Council’s review, Brown’s book contains multiple misstatements and distortions of fact, and the reader is left wondering whether any of Brown’s statements can be trusted. Brown has produced a good read, but a badly flawed one. Unfortunately, it may be taken by future historians as a reliable source.

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