[Homestead] "Extreme Oil", PBS program---role of Athabasca Tar Sands
tvoivozd at infionline.net
Tue Feb 1 19:42:30 EST 2005
*PBS: Extreme Oil*
Tuesday, September 14, 2004; 1:00 PM
"Extreme Oil <http://www.pbs.org/wnet/extremeoil/>" looks at how far the
oil industry has to find new resources to drive the world's fuel economy
and the many energy aspects of modern life. The series examines the
difficulties of balancing the quest for new energy resources with
security risks, environmental safety and the ethics of disrupting lives
while tapping into tomorrow's reserves. From the construction of a
massive pipeline that flows through some of the most unstable corners of
the world to the debate over the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)
and the new oil boom in Africa, the three-part PBS series is a voyage of
discovery through the world's newest oil-producing regions.
Executive producer *Stephen Segaller* was online *Tuesday, Sept. 14, at
1 p.m. ET*, to discuss the program.
"Extreme Oil" airs on PBS Mondays, Sept. 13-27, 2004, at 10 p.m. ET.
(Check local listings <http://www.pbs.org/tvschedules/>).
Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control
over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for
guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.
*Stephen Segaller: *Hello, I'm Stephen segaller at WNET in New York.
*Laurel, Md.: * I watched your show last night and thought you were
trying to make your documentary about building the Azerbajian pipeline
look like a James Bond movie.
I was expecting to see some insight as to why the price of gasoline has
approximately doubled since Exxon and Mobil, BP and Amoco, and Chevron
and Texaco merged in the last six years.
But you played down the role of oil companies and up the role of
security and corruption in small nations. Are we going to see anything
about the role lack of competition plays in setting prices?
*Stephen Segaller: *I don't think we played down the role of oil
companies. Getting oil from where it is to where it's needed is what oil
companies do. In every one of the seven or eight countries we visited,
it's the oil companies who extract, ship, or pipe the oil. It's a very
tough and dangerous business - something we don't much think about on
the clean garages along our streets.
I'm not sure mergers have caused prices to rise - they may have
contributed. But global economic and political disruption - and greater
competition - play a part. The rapid industrialization of China depends
on energy, and China is a huge importer of oil. That wasn't tru a dozen
*Arlington, Va.: *Some groups have said that in order to just maintain
current petroleum production rates, prices will rise because the oil is
getting harder to extract, and of course to increase production (if that
is even possible) to meet growing demand would mean even higher prices.
Others seem to be saying that there is enough excess capacity or
untapped "easy" oil that rising demand can be met while maintaining
basically current prices. Which is closer to the truth ? Given that our
current economy and way of life seems so tied to the premise of stable,
relatively low petroleum prices why has this not received serious
discussion in this election (beyond just claiming that one candidate or
another will ‘reduce our dependence on foreign oil') ?
*Stephen Segaller: *I'm not sure that anyone really knows. It's pure
supply and demand. If the price is high enough, the cost of discovering
and extracting "hard oil" can be covered. There is no question that the
present and future global economy is tied to oil or energy generally
being available - indefinitely. Energy security or independence is a
great goal - there aren't any easy ways to get there.
*Eau Claire, Wis.: *Showing the American people the extreme effort that
is undertaken to supply them with petroleum is something that has been
long overdue. I think your series will help open up the eyes of the
consumers to the geopolitical world of oil and the environmental costs
of oil exploration. As a veteran of the Persian Gulf War, I have seen
the Royal Dutch Shell, Samarec, and Aramco operations along the
northeastern coast of Saudi Arabia. I was amazed at the scale and
capital devoted to oil production, and I developed a great appreciation
for this resource as a participant in an "oil war". I greatly enjoyed
part one of your series and look forward to parts two and three. Thanks
for making this wonderful series.
*Stephen Segaller: *Thank you. We wanted to give viewers a sense of the
trade-offs we're all involved in if we use the product. It makes no
sense to say the oil companies are bad environmental citizens, any more
than it is true to say that drivers are bad citizens because they
pollute the atmosphere too. We wanted to offer a sense of the complexity
of the issues - political, technological, environmental and ethical...
*Mt. Lebanon, Pa.: * 1. What's the REAL expected date of first oil
pumping through the pipeline?
2. Did they tell you how many days it would take to fill the pipeline
from initial injection?
3. Do you recall all of the flawed and failed pipeline welds we had back
home - Anchorage is my hometown - when TAPS was first placed into
operation (1976?)? By the way TAPS came in 10 times over budget - just
under $10B. What are they expecting here for flawed welds and cost
4. What's the diameter of the oil pipe. I couldnt' quite make it out
from my TV set?
5. What's the nominal depth of burial to the top of the pipeline? And
will it be enough given the explosive power of armored shells and
Glad it's not my project to agonize over. Buried pipelines and pump
stations are notorious maintenance headaches even in stable, civilized
parts of the world.
Thanks much. Professional Consulting Engineer
*Stephen Segaller: *1. 2005 projected, I don't know if it's real.
3. Watch on September 27 - the third epsiode, The Wilderness is all
about Alaska and Alberta.
4. About 3 metres, 9-10 feet.
5. It's buried about ten feet deep. Not sure how armored it is.
*Fairfax, Va.: *I understand the world has a large supply of tar sand
that contains a great deal of extractable oil. Has any progress been
made on making this economically feasable?
*Stephen Segaller: *We cover that very topic in episode 3, on September
27 in most places - The Wilderness. We go to Alaska and Washington DC
for the debate over the ANWAR, but also to Alberta where tar sands are
being exploited in a huge way. It is said that by counting the oil in
tar sands, the estimated global oil reserves were upped by the biggest
*Jamaica, NY: *How do the issues with oil in the Middle East differ from
the ones we saw in the show last night? Do you do any programs that
deal with the Middle East?
*Stephen Segaller: *We don't cover the Middle East, because it's the
most familiar. The central issue there is political instability,
clearly. It's at least partly because of that instability that we look
at three other regions of the world where the oil companies and nations
dependent on oil have to explore and extract - Alaska & Canada, Africa,
and Central Asia.
*Takoma Park, Md.: * Hello Stephen. I would like to ask about oil
discovery rates. Is it true that for every barrel of oil that is being
discovered this year four or five are being burned?
*Stephen Segaller: *You'll get different numbers from every expert, but
there's some agreement that "soon" - in the next ten years - the
consumption will exceed the discovery rate.
*Naples, Fla.: * Please comment on the industry's claims (including in
several recent law suits and protests in developing countries) that
doing business according to the corrupt practices of developing nations
exempts the industry from liability to indigenous people for unsafe
practices (such as Texaco's unlined disposal pits in the Ecuadorian
rainforest). Considering that the indigenous do not consider their
nations' governments as acting in their interests, who should be
responsible to these people for increased cancer rates, decreasing food
supplies, and a general state of chaos allegedly caused by pollution as
well as colonial encroachment into their territories?
*Stephen Segaller: *Please watch next week's program, The Oil Curse
(Sept 20) when we cover exactly this subject. In Ecuador, there is a
landmark lawsuit now in court in which Texaco faces huge damages if it
is found responsible for the environmental and health consequences of
drilling there in the 1970s. But by contrast in Angola, Chevron Texaco
today is working closely with USAID and other agencies to ensure that
local populations benefit from the presence of oil companies. Stay tuned!
*Rochester NY: * Hi,
I saw the "Pipeline" show on PBS last night and found myself wondering
if Putin's latest moves to increase control over the government have
more to do with controlling oil than terrorism? Any reaction to this
*Stephen Segaller: *I can't answer that exactly, but it's clear that
Russia today has less access to oil than the Soviet union did - much of
the reserves are in former Soviet Republics like Azerbaijan. Every
industrialized nation has to be concerned about how to keep its economy
going at eevry level if the supply of energy is limited, rationed, or
*Saint Paul, Minn.: * The diameter of the pipeline could not be more
than 1.5 meters. L. Sullivan, Petroleum Engineer
*Stephen Segaller: *Thank you for the correction.
*Deerfield beach, Fla.: * how high can oil prices go?
I have heard that bin laden has a price that he came up with. Is that
true? What is that price?
*Stephen Segaller: *supply and demand
*Stephen Segaller: *supply and demand will answer that question. The
price is suppressed only by an unwillingness to pay. Like Broadway
tickets at $100, quickly followed by even more exclusive tickets at $500.
I'm not aware of a Bin laden pricepoint.
*Hartford, Conn.: * A few questions for you:
What's the solution, in your opinion, to solving the oil crisis and
easing our national dependency on that resource?
Are there alternatives that are viable at this time that we, as a
country, aren't taking advantage of?
Are alternatives covered in the series?
Thanks for doing the topic.
*Stephen Segaller: *1. More supply, less demand, or alternatives. There
are no other answers. One reason (some) people are so concerned about
ANWAR (see episode 3 on Sept 27) is that they feel if we're willing to
drill in (and risk) the wilderness, will we be willing to drill offshore
along the eastern seaboard - where there may also be oil. It's a matter
of trade-offs - the risks we can tolerate for the security we demand.
Clearly higher MPG would reduce demand a bit. But the great hope is
perhaps Hydrogen-power. This series doesn't look at alternatives - we
might do that in a future series.
*Detroit, Mich.: * Did your crew really get arrested while filming the
show? How dangerous was it?
*Stephen Segaller: *They were arrested twice - in Azerbaijan. It's
always hard to know how dangerous it is in such cases - It's no fun
being arrested, or filming in minefields in Angola, for example (episode
two, Sept 20). But the film-makers are intrepid and adventurous types.
*Edmonton, Alberta: *Alberta's oil sands are recognized by USDOE as
holding 170 billion barrels of proven reserves, and up to 350 billion
ulitimately recoverable (Saudi Arabian reserves are 230 billion). My
familiarity with this resource makes me concerned about your program's
presentation - based on your website's description: "pristine forest
landscape -- perhaps a model for the ANWR project -- that has become the
extraction site of what some call "the world's worst oil."
First, there is no honest way to compare ANWR (3-5 bill bls max. of
conventional oil) with the oil sands. Second, oil sands prod'n is now 1
million bl/day, and forecast to be 2 mill by 2010, 3 mill by 2015, and
potentially over 8 mill by 2050. This huge resource, in a stable
freindly NAFTA partner right next door is the best hope for the U.S. to
reduce reliance on OPEC imports. (Alberta already provides 10% of U.S.
crude imports). Third, oil sands producers take their environmental
responsibilities very seriously. They reclaim all land (muskeg and scrub
brush actually) disturbed during extraction, maintain water quality, and
are vigourously developing technology to reduce CO2 emmissions -
including reinjection that will increase extraction efficiency. Advances
in oil sands technology to date have been most impressive - reducing the
per barrel costs of its high-grade synthetic crude from $30 two decades
$8-11 today. Will your program provide a balanced perspective on the oil
sands, and if not, why? Hope to see a reply. Thanks.
*Stephen Segaller: *I hope you'll watch the program on Sept 27 (The
Wilderness) and see that it's balanced in its presentation. One of the
corporate guys in the Alberta tar sands operation himself describes it
as "not benign" but we have other people who make the point that North
American environmental controls are so much tougher than elsewhere in
the world that it's better to be getting the oil here than elsewhere.
Local First Nations people describe the replanting and restoration of
We also represent the Candian concern that Candian reserves are becoming
"America's gas tank". Please watch & let us know.
*Nashville, Tenn.: * It's been long reported that the BTC Pipeline is an
effort to squeeze out Russia from access to much of the Caspian Sea
resources. Does the pipeline from Baku through Grozny, Chechnya, still
operate given the war situation there and what are the foreseen
political dynamics of that situation? With greater political control
over Russia, what likelihood is there that Putin will invade Azerbaijan
in the interest of recovering a former Soviet state and a major source
*Stephen Segaller: *It's scheduled to go on stream next year.
*Yelm, Wash.: * you mention
"some agreement that "soon" - in the next ten years - the consumption
will exceed the discovery rate."
Given that, would it not be vitally important to our economy to begin a
national debate over preparations for the energy economy we will have to
transition to after petroleum production enters it's decline?
*Stephen Segaller: *You bet. I hope the series will contribute to that
*Stephen Segaller: *The difficulty is knowing when to project that
transition, and how to base it on reliable information.
*Rumson, N.J.: * Interesting show...can you explain the relationship
between the refugees we saw in last night's episode and the overall oil
story? And did you uncover why they have to live under such conditions?
*Stephen Segaller: *It's one of those post-Cold War legacies. They are
Azeri refugees from a part of Armenia that used to be under the control
of Azerbaijan - called Nagorno-Karabakh. They are illustrative of the
kind of simmering threat of conflict that affects the planning of this,
or other pipelines. I think they are stuck there becuase they can't
settle in Azerbaijan, and they can't cross back to where they fled from.
Another related issue is the fact that in Turkey there are Kurdish
nationalists who have used violence as part of their campaign. If the
pipeline were to be routed through areas where their population is
concentrated, there could be the risk of sabotage. Hence, the pipeline
makes a great big turn west and south to get to Ceyhan.
*Minneapolis, Minnesota: * Was the series shot on film or tape? If
tape, what format? Also HD or SD? Pictures looked good.
*Stephen Segaller: *It was shot on Standard Definition, and mostly small
format, tape cameras. Sony PD150, etc. They are wonderful for this kind
of flexible, adventurous shooting.
*Wheaton, Md.: * If the west is to continue to depend on oil from
arab-occupied countries, how long until this supply would run out?
*Stephen Segaller: *I can't answer that. But remember, we depend
heavily, but not exclusively, on oil from the Middle East. But I think
Russia has the second-largest oil resevres after Saudi Arabia, for
example. The US produces about 20% or so of its oil domestically. Oil is
found in China, Norway, the UK, Sudan, Angola. Places where oil is
expected to be found also become the sudden focus of a great deal of
interest - both at national government level, and oil companies. See for
example the islands of Sao Tome, off Nigeria; and the Spratly Islands,
in the South China Sea. Both are relatively insignificant dots of land,
with major oil reserves proven or suspected - and their status and
importance increases accordingly.
*Washington, D.C.: *The show said that the pipeline discussed in last
night's episode is going to be a major supplier for China. Do you know
from where Asia currently gets its oil and whether they are feeling the
same timeclock-crunch to find alternate resources like us?
*Stephen Segaller: *No, this pipeline goes west and south to the
Mediterranean, supplying Europe mostly. There is another pipeline, on
the eastern side of the Caspian, heading east. China has transformed the
global oil market in the last dozen years. Their national oil
corporation is all over the world looking for oil exploration and supply
contracts, because China's rapid industrialization depends ona
continuing supply of oil that exceeds China's domestic production and
reserves. In a few years' time China will outstrip Japan as Asia's
largest consumer of oil.
*Ocean, N.J.: *How did you find your stories for this series? I had not
heard about the BTC pipeline before seeing the show...is it a well known
*Stephen Segaller: *Good research team, I guess. We looked at big themes
- the extremes of political, environmental, ethical and technological
challenges to the pursuit of oil worldwide, researched a lot of them,
and narrowed down to these three programs: The Pipeline, The Oil Curse,
and the Wilderness. The BTC pipeline is one of the larger engineering
ventures, backed by a consortium of several nationalities, led by BP.
Well known in the industry, less so to the public in Europe or
elsewhere. But our series is airing on the BBC at the same time, and it
aired already in Canada on the CBC.
*Baltimore, Md.: * Just logged onto the discussion - the subject matter
caught my eye. Missed the show last night....will it air again?
*Stephen Segaller: *Last night's show, probably not (for a while at
least) but episodes 2 and 3, next Monday at 10 in Baltimore, 11 in DC.
And check out our program website: www.pbs.org/extremeoil
*Washington, D.C.: *With Mexico as a major oil supplier right on our
border, why don't US oil companies initiate a major initiative to
explore, drill, import, etc. as much oil as possible from them? No
major pipeleines to build, no possible oil tanker spillages, no delays
in transport, no unstable and despotic countries to deal with -- and,
this would not only help our economy and energy needs, but significantly
bolster Mexico's economy.
*Stephen Segaller: *I think you'll find that energy security is making
Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, and Mexico all more important in US
geo-political thinking, and you make a good point about accessibility.
*Saint Paul, Minn.: * Stephen, what a great project and a fine film. I
have worked in international oil for over 20 years and found your
insight very accurate. I have 10 years of university education and 20
years of experience. I always tried to help locals get a foot hold in
this crazy business but they just do not have the education, skills and
refinement. In Gabon, I tried to train locals in drilling engineering
but they did not have the basic mechanical mindset so needed to do this
work. The opposite was true in Norway: I was training them in new
drilling and guess what? The took the technology, made it better and now
lead the world in it! It is the mindset. Norwegians used to go to sea to
fish-now they fish for oil and have the mindset.
Keep up the good work. We need folks like you to show the world the
dramatic effect oil and gas development has on locals.
*Stephen Segaller: *Very pleased to hear your reaction. Thanks.
*Duluth, Minn.: * Mr. Segaller:
I watched Part I of Extreme Oil last night- and was prepared for an
onslaught of propaganda. (Against the Oil Industry and Americans).
Excellent program!! You did a great job. (My car has been stored for
winter and I'll be on foot and skiis for the next nine months. It's not
much but it's one less person driving.) In any event:
You had a quick shot of a survey crew. Can you please tell me where I
can find a list of contractors bidding on the prelim/stakeout surveys
for this PL? Im a surveying/mapping tech. and worked in the Prudhoe Bay
Oil Fields on the Arctic North Slopes in AK. No big proj.coming up
there, and the economy is tight here in Northern MN. I'd do anything to
get on this project.
Thanks if you can point me in the right direction- Sarah
*Stephen Segaller: *The pipeline is being built by BTC, led by BP.
Headquartered in Baku, Azerbaijan. Try their website ? Good luck!
*Stephen Segaller: *Thanks for all your very interesting questions. I'm
sorry I couldn't answer more of them, or the more technical ones. Please
do visit the website for the series www.pbs.org/extremeoil and stay
tuned on September 20 and 27 for The Oil Curse and The Wilderness.
best to all
© 2004 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive
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