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Tracking Oil’s Journey From the Pipeline to the Pump

The price of oil fell slightly Thursday after reaching a record high a day earlier. In the second installment of our series on the consequences of the high price of oil, Lisa Margonelli, a fellow with the New America Foundation, discusses her book "Oil on the Brain: Adventures from the Pump to the Pipeline."

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    Now, the second in our series of conversations about the consequences of the high price of oil, which closed today at more than $110 a barrel. Ray Suarez has our interview.


    For tonight's conversation, we turn to a writer who spent four years researching the oil supply chain from the well site to your gas tank.

    Lisa Margonelli is author of "Oil on the Brain: Adventures from the Pump to the Pipeline." She's a fellow at the New America Foundation who's written widely about global culture and the economics of energy. She joins us from Oakland, California.

    And, Lisa, in your research, you watched how oil and money move around the world. What are the consequences of $100-plus-per-barrel oil that maybe can't be immediately seen by American consumers?


    Well, I think most of us are really focused on the price at the pump. And what we don't realize is like how much that aggregates into an enormous amount of money.

    And right now we're spending more than $1.2 billion a day on gasoline alone in the United States. And about five years ago, we were spending less than half that. So now we're spending $600 million or $700 million a day on getting no more than what we were getting in 2003.

    So I guess the question is, where are we getting that money?

    And one thing that we kind of can see from the numbers is that people are paying for it on credit cards. They're changing the way they shop at the grocery store, so they might be cheaper cereal or they might be a different kind of chicken that's cheaper.

    But they're not really taking their foot off the gas pedal, and I think that that's a real concern. In the last month or so, we've kind of drawn back by about 1 percent, but that's really very small compared to the amount that the gas is costing us. So people are kind of in a bind.