The proposed Keystone XL pipeline extends from Alberta, Canada, to the U.S. Gulf Coast. (Laris Karklis/The Washington Post)

This is not your typical summer road trip. Yes, we’re getting out the maps and fueling up the car. But we are going in search of a story about the very thing that makes such road trips possible: oil.

Our journey will take us the full length of the proposed route of the Keystone XL pipeline. We’ll begin with a visit to the oil sands in Alberta, then pick up the pipeline route, traveling down the spine of the country from Montana across the Great Plains to the Texas gulf coast.

Why trace the route of a proposed pipeline? After all, as of 2009 the United States had 1.7 million miles of oil and gas pipelines. And it’s no sure thing this one will even be built.

Even so, the Keystone XL pipeline has become a powerful symbol and political pawn in this election year. It is also a sort of Rorschach test of how Americans view energy issues: Are we energy rich or energy poor? How do energy policies affect job creation, tax revenue and U.S. manufacturing competitiveness? How pressing are climate change concerns? Can we drill our way to energy security or should we conserve our way there? Should we celebrate new oil and gas discoveries or do they delay the transformation of the energy sector and pose environmental risks?

This is where the rubber meets the road, if you will. As we travel the pipeline’s route, we’ll introduce you to the people, the players, the stakeholders — all with their distinct solutions to America’s energy crisis. By the end of the journey, we hope our in-depth report will help you arrive at your own conclusions.

Along the way, I, photojournalist Michael S. Williamson, videojournalist Whitney Shefte and my daughter Natalie Mufson bring you on the road with us through this blog. We’ve got 30 days and about 2,000 miles to go.

Meet the Keystone Gang below (from left to right): Whitney Shefte, Steven Mufson, Natalie Mufson, and Michael S. Williamson.

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