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The International Energy Agency, an organization set up by the industrialized countries to coordinate responses during an energy crisis, has issued the definitive handbook on the factual background (not the political context) of Persian Gulf oil and gas. This superb work should be in the library of every political analyst and policymaker working on the Middle East.

The first 100 pages summarize the Gulf's importance for world energy, oil, and gas development plans, energy policies, and the general economic context. The next one hundred pages describe the energy industry in each of the six countries considered here (Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates): oil and gas production, pipelines, refineries, electricity generation, and domestic energy use. The statistical tables that make up the book's second half have no parallel, providing the best data in existence on every energy issue and on many economic developments (such as national income and government budgets). The tables extend back far enough in time (often more than twenty years) to provide real historical perspective.

One shortcoming: the volume provides too little on energy prospects. The IEA prepares one of the most widely cited forecasts for the world oil and gas markets, and it would have been useful to include a brief summary in this volume, along with an explanation of how that forecast fits with the development plans of individual countries. Such a comparison would show that the Gulf states are developing additional production capacity that will be more than ample to meet increased world demand for their oil.