Planet Money Buys Oil

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Oil is everywhere, and in nearly everything — our phones, our food, our medicine. It has driven industrial progress. It has also contributed to air pollution and climate change.

For something so ubiquitous, oil is remarkably invisible. We wanted to change that. So we bought 100 barrels of oil and followed it out of the ground, through a refinery, and into someone's gas tank.

Episode 1: We Buy Oil

We head to Kansas with a briefcase full of cash. We wait out a rainstorm, meet a preacher at an oil well and haggle over the price we'll pay for our oil.


Episode 2: The Price Of Oil

We paid $40 a barrel of our oil. A few weeks earlier, we would have paid $50. Who really sets the price of oil? And why is it so volatile?

We go from an oil well in Kansas to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. And we track down an oil speculator.


Episode 3: How Fracking Changed The World

We make a deal to sell our oil to a middleman.

And we meet the mild-mannered oil engineer who unlocked the secret of modern fracking, largely by accident. We ask him what he regrets, and how it feels to change the world.


Episode 4: How Oil Got Into Everything

We follow our oil to a refinery, where it'll become gasoline, diesel, and fertilizer.

We meet the chemist who helped put oil into everything — and another chemist who's trying to get it out.


Episode 5: Imagine A World Without Oil

We follow the Planet Money oil to the end of the line.

And we ask: What would the world be like if fossil fuels did not exist?

Oil, coal and natural gas are this incredible store of energy, just sitting there in the ground waiting for us to dig them up. Amazing boon to humanity! But also: Climate change!

Would a world without oil be better? Worse? Or just different?

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