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Best Star Reporter 

Steve Everly

This year, as the war in Iraq slogged deeper into quagmire and gas prices choked paychecks everywhere, most of us cursed at Arabian oil controllers. But in June, Kansas City Star reporter Steve Everly made us see that the evildoers were here at home. Although the world's supply of crude oil is obviously a concern, Everly's story showed that U.S. ability to refine that oil into gasoline is a much bigger problem than we knew. His June 26 story, "The Big Squeeze by Big Oil," detailed how, back in the 1970s, the oil industry started to worry that it had too much refining capacity, which was keeping prices low. So, in an effort to squeeze supplies and improve its own profit margins, oil companies began shuttering U.S. refineries. Towns across the country lost thousands of well-paying jobs. Everyone paid more at the pump. Now the country doesn't have enough refineries and can't keep up with its own demand for gas. Meanwhile, big oil companies such as ExxonMobil turned in record profits. It was an economics story, but Everly told it in painfully human terms, painting pictures of dead refining towns where people still wondered what had happened to their economic lifeblood -- because truly, the industry's strategy made no sense to anyone except its profiteers.

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