Read “Death and Oil”

Subtitled “A True Story of the Piper Alpha Disaster on the North Sea,” Brad Matsen’s 2011 book is a gut-wrenching account of the various tolls of putting profit before all other concerns.

The story: On July 6th, 1988, human error triggered a blast which started a catastrophic chain reaction aboard the world’s largest offshore oil rig. Within two hours, Piper Alpha was reduced to a mass of twisted metal. Of the rig’s 225 workers, only 60 escaped with their lives. Two of the 167 who perished were would-be rescuers killed aboard an aid vessel.

Matsen’s page-turner offers a brilliant look at the history, circumstances and costs – human, environmental, fiscal, corporate – of operating such a money-maker in an accident-prone industry. During Piper Alpha’s construction, workers had joked that it would be the first oil rig on the moon.

Some 22 years after the rig’s demise, an April 20, 2010 explosion doomed the Deepwater Horizon, killing 11 and setting off the worst man-made environmental disaster in U.S. history.