Monday, September 25, 2006

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Terrorism motivated Edwin Black to write about oil

The author discusses why a powerful American company continues to play a pivotal role in keeping the U.S. dependent on oil.

BY RICHARD PACHTER
rap@WordsOnWords.com

The author explains what motivated his new book on the history of the commercial exploitation of energy, and why a powerful American company continues to play a pivotal role in keeping the U.S. dependent on oil.

Author Edwin Black writes difficult books on painful subjects: American companies' collaboration with Nazis during the Holocaust, how "undesirable" people were sterilized for pseudo-scientific social engineering, Iraq, and how the future of energy and how the development of electric transit was thwarted by criminal conspiracies between automakers and corrupt politicians.

Black began his current tour in support of his new book, Internal Combustion, in South Florida, with several days of seminars and events at Nova Southeastern University and Florida Atlantic University in mid-September.

His 2001 blockbuster, IBM and the Holocaust, was sparked in 1993, when Black, son of Holocaust survivors, wondered why an IBM card-sorting machine was on display at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. The resulting book contained shocking revelations about the company's long-term collaboration with Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. The U.S. firm's machines made the German government's census possible. It also made the imprisonment and extermination of millions of Jews and other religious, ethnic, social and political minorities in Europe chillingly efficient.

His new book, an exposť of the confluence of corrupt forces that killed the growth of nonfossil transportation fuels, the trolley system and what is now called "alternative energy," is presented in the context of history stretching over a millennium, back when wood was man's primary fuel and horses were the main form of conveyance.

Miami Herald Business Books columnist Richard Pachter interviewed Black, who lives in Washington, D.C., during a short break in the author's South Florida appearances.

Q: Internal Combustion begins with the scene of the devastating fire on the eve of Thomas Alva Edison's and Henry Ford's announcement of their electric car project. It essentially killed their plans. You did not say who started the fire, though you seemed to imply it was not an accident and its circumstances were suspicious. Can you speculate who did it?

A: The sabotage and mysterious fire will never be explained. There are those who saw what Edison was doing as the end of internal combustion.

Q: Did it pain you to say nice things about Henry Ford, one of the most virulent anti-Semites in history, in light of your earlier work and the fact that you're the child of Holocaust survivors?

A: The Henry Ford I wrote about was a brilliant man in the decade before he became the greatest anti-Semite in the history of the United States.

Q: Automaker GM plays quite a role in this book, too.

A: General Motors is probably the most unpatriotic and destructive automotive company in the history of this country. They've done more to adversely affect our transportation than any other company. They continue to hurt this country and, most of all, General Motors went into a staunch alliance with Adolf Hitler that I'll soon be writing a great deal about. We must never forget that the blitzkrieg [was conducted] in a Blitz truck (from GM's Opel division). Alfred Sloan (GM's president) was so antagonistic to this country because of FDR and the New Deal; he sponsored unrest, social obstruction, tried to prolong The Depression while doing everything he could to enhance, strengthen and resurrect the German economy. He himself said that that's what he was doing.

Q: The introductions of all your books admonish prospective buyers that unless they're willing to read every word -- in order, without skimming or skipping around -- they should walk away. Why can't I just skim through your new book?

A: It's not an encyclopedia. It's not a travel guide. I'm providing a context and without it, it's easy to misconstrue, exaggerate and twist what I say. And there's even more background material on the website, www.InternalCombustionBook.com.

Q: Your previous books emerged from your life, but where did this come from? How did you decide to do this?

A: Terrorism. The next strike will push us over the brink.

Q: During your last tour, in support of Banking On Baghdad, I asked what you were working on next, but you refused to go on the record. Will you tell me now what your plans are after this, and what your next book will be about?

A: I'm going to rest and regroup a bit -- at least that's my intention, though you never know. But as I told you then, whenever anyone asks about my next project, I always say, "It's a secret."