Imperial Standard: Imperial Oil, Exxon, and the Canadian Oil Industry from 1880
by Graham D. Taylor
University of Calgary Press
380 pages, $39.99
Canada is the world’s fifth-largest oil producer and has the world’s thirdlargest proven oil reserves. As discussions about the future sustainability of one of Canada’s most important business sectors grow louder, Graham D. Taylor’s comprehensive history Imperial Standard: Imperial Oil, Exxon, and the Canadian Oil Industry from 1880 offers a rare look inside the growth and evolution of Canada’s oil-and-gas industry and the more than 130-year-old company that led it.
Imperial Oil’s story parallels the economic story of Canada. It began as a Canadian company rooted in British traditions, then it was brought into the gravitational field of American industrial aspirations. Taylor ably weaves the compelling story of a company striving to maintain its independence and identity while navigating complicated relationships — both with the large multinational corporation of which it was a subsidiary and with federal and provincial governments that were determined to claim the company as their own model of growth and ingenuity.
Imperial Standard explores challenges and controversies faced by the company over the years. Starting with an early pipeline debate in 1880, Taylor also looks at often-brutal labour practices, oil field operations, ocean disasters, and crippling investments in the oil sands. The book ends by discussing the current existential evaluation of the company’s role in contributing to the growing climate crisis, as well as the urgency of developing meaningful ways to respond to that challenge.