Over a Barrel: The Truth About Oil

Charlie Gibson uncovers some of the little known secrets of the oil industry.

ByABC News
July 17, 2009, 4:33 PM

July 20, 2009— -- With Americans facing another summer season of rollercoaster gas prices, ABC News' Charles Gibson has traveled the country to uncover some of the little known secrets of the oil industry, including why prices fluctuate so much and what exactly is behind it. "Over a Barrel: The Truth About Oil," an ABC News special reported by Gibson, will air on FRIDAY, JULY 24 (10:00-11:00 p.m., ET) as a special edition of "20/20" on ABC.

From the trail of oil pipelines snaking through Oklahoma to the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, Gibson crisscrossed the country in search of the answer to one salient question -- what is the true cost of oil? He reports from Cushing, Oklahoma, a remote outpost where the price of a barrel of oil there dictates the price nationally. He travels 160 miles off the coast of Louisiana to see one of the deepest drilling oil rigs in America and visits "refinery row" along the Gulf Coast, where a third of America's oil refineries are concentrated.

Despite talk of dwindling oil reserves, new technologies have vastly increased the amount of oil, providing a larger reserve today than a decade ago. Last summer's $147 a barrel price baffled many Americans, but Wall Street insiders tell Gibson that speculators caused the price to skyrocket.

Americans consume a quarter of the world's oil, yet make up only 3 percent of the global population. When confronted by Gibson, Energy Secretary Steven Chu admits "we're headed for a train wreck." Chu explains how a new generation of biofuels could help the U.S. decrease its dependence on foreign oil. In addition to interviews with dozens of experts and industry leaders, Gibson also sat down with General Wesley Clark, the former NATO commander who discussed the role that oil played in the Iraq war.