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Oil #1: We Buy Oil

Oil is everywhere, and in nearly everything: Our phones, our clothes, our food, and our medicine. It has driven industrial progress and technology. It has shaped our civilization, powered its rise. Despite all this, oil has exacted an enormous price: our climate is changing, smog is smothering cities around the world. That all comes, in part, from burning fossil fuels like oil.

Yet — how many of us have actually seen crude oil? How does it get from ground to gas tank? And who are the people along the way turning thick black crude into light, clear, gasoline. Oil companies are some of the largest businesses on earth, but there are thousands and thousands of tiny operations that are just as essential to the oil industry. We wanted to get to know them.

Here at Planet Money, we thought the best way to see into the business of oil would be to get into the business of oil. Today on the show, that's exactly what we're going to do, starting with a briefcase full of cash and plane tickets to Kansas.

Find the rest of the five part series here. And some photos here.

Music: "Wasting Away" and "Feel It Now." Find us: Twitter/ Facebook.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Robert Smith is a host for NPR's Planet Money where he tells stories about how the global economy is affecting our lives.
Stacey Vanek Smith is the co-host of NPR's The Indicator from Planet Money. She's also a correspondent for Planet Money, where she covers business and economics. In this role, Smith has followed economic stories down the muddy back roads of Oklahoma to buy 100 barrels of oil; she's traveled to Pune, India, to track down the man who pitched the country's dramatic currency devaluation to the prime minister; and she's spoken with a North Korean woman who made a small fortune smuggling artificial sweetener in from China.
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