Chicago Tribune reporter Paul Salopek spent the last year on “an energy safari,” working backwards from the customers and night-shift clerks at a single Marathon gas station in exurban Chicago (and the downstate refinery that supplies it) to the exact fields where the oil first left the ground. Last September, for instance, 71% of its gas came from the U.S., 20% from Africa, and 10% from Saudi Arabia.

The eight stories and related multimedia (photos from Iraq, Louisiana, Nigeria, and Venezuela, and a 12-part video documentary) neatly tie together the disparate lives on both ends of the petroleum pipe: an angry gang recruit in Itak Abasi, Nigeria, an oilfield manager in Basra living under what amounts to solitary confinement, fiercely Chavista village elders in Venezuela, the gas station manager who spends a third of her pay on gas, and a “concerned” Hummer-driving realtor in St. Charles, Illinois. The Tribune calls our “globe-spanning energy network” “so fragile, so beholden to hostile powers and so clearly unsustainable, that our car-centered lifestyle seems more at risk than ever” — a bit out of character for a Republican newspaper with a suburban circulation base.