Dirty Little Secret

South Africa's Sasol says synthetic oil can reduce our crude craving. Yes, there's a catch

Benedicte Kurzen for TIME

Fuel's gold Sasol's Secunda plant is an economic mainstay but a notorious polluter.

Opinions on oil companies fall into two camps. If you own one or work for one, you'll probably see oil companies as vital lubricants of the world economy, without which business and development would collapse and millions would stagnate in poverty. If you're anyone else, you'll know them as giant enterprises making billion-dollar profits, by turns accused of holding the world economy hostage, precipitating a global food crisis and endangering the planet. Now imagine the public relations nightmare facing an oil company that uses technology responsible for powering Nazi Germany, that propped up apartheid for decades and that operates a plant...

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