Peter Maass

Speech Topics

Peter Maass delves into oil’s paradoxical impact on the world. Oil is like gravity, influencing everything we do, but it is oddly invisible, passing unseen from underground reservoirs to suburban gas tanks. Oil, he writes, has “no voice, body, army or dogma of its own” but is often the source of conflict. He unpacks the past, present and future of petroleum in vivid ways, visiting the nations that produce oil and finding people whose lives have been shaped by it. His encounters include oil warlords in Nigeria, petro-billionnaires in Moscow, American soldiers in Iraq, the gesticulations and politics of Hugo Chavez, as well as officials in Riyadh who avoid questions about Saudi reserves


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Peter Maass was born in 1960 and raised in Los Angeles. In 1983, after graduating from the University of California at Berkeley, he went to Brussels as a copyeditor for The Wall Street Journal/Europe. Peter left the Journal in 1985 to write for The New York Times and The International Herald Tribune, covering NATO and the European Union. In 1987 he moved to Seoul, South Korea, where he wrote primarily for The Washington Post. After three years in Asia Peter moved to Budapest, Hungary, to cover Eastern Europe and the Balkans. He spent most of 1992 and 1993 covering the war in Bosnia for the Post.

In 1994, Peter took a sabbatical and wrote Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War, which was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1996. The book, which chronicled his experiences covering the Bosnian conflict, won The Los Angeles Times Book Prize (for nonfiction) and the Overseas Press Club Book Prize, and was a finalist for several other literary awards. In 1997, after working for a year in Washington as a staff writer for the Post, he left the paper and moved to New York City, where he is a writer at The New York Times Magazine and other publications, including the New Yorker and Foreign Policy. Peter has also have written for The Atlantic Monthly, Outside and Slate. His new book is Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil, published by Knopf.

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