Extreme Oil
Photo of engineers looking at plans
The Journey The History The Science

About the Series
In This Section
Extreme Oil

It's in our clothes, our laundry detergent, our toothpaste, cosmetics, furniture, contact lenses, and office supplies. It's in our telephones, CDs, tennis rackets, painkillers, and plastic. Oil doesn't just fuel our cars -- it fuels modern life. Continuing instability in the Middle East means a shaky future for the steady flow of oil on which we now depend so heavily. Factor in Western nations' insatiable power needs and the energy demands of huge, growing economies like China's. With the world's reserves of easily accessible "black gold" already strained, the oil industry finds itself forced to enter uncharted terrain. Where will tomorrow's oil come from? And how far are we willing to go to get it? EXTREME OIL looks at how the oil industry must now go to extremes to find new sources of the asset that drives the world's economy and fuels so many aspects of our lives.

Photo of pipeline Episode 1: The Pipeline

In Episode One, "The Pipeline," viewers shadow filmmakers as they follow the circuitous route of the 1,100-mile "BTC Pipeline," a string of 150,000 steel pipes that links the cities of Baku, in Azerbaijan, Tbilisi, in Georgia, and Ceyhan, in Turkey, transporting the rich, previously untapped energy reserves of the Caspian to the Mediterranean, from where it flows into the global market. Tracing the path the oil takes, from where it lies underground to where it becomes accessible to end-users, the filmmakers encounter numerous stumbling blocks -- including their arrest in Azerbaijan -- as they make their way through some of the most geographically challenging and politically unsafe places on earth.

Photo of protesters Episode 2: The Oil Curse

In Episode Two, "The Oil Curse," the production team travels down jungle rivers to the coastline of Ecuador, a nation in which the presence of oil has proven to be more a bane than a blessing and is now the focus of a landmark lawsuit over international corporate accountability. Then, it's on to western Africa, where an oil boom is poised to combat the "oil curse." Can the industry ensure that a potential $200 billion jackpot will reach and benefit the people of Africa themselves? Some oil companies have embraced a new ethical and political approach to business, creating health and education development projects as they attempt to extract the oil wealth from Third World countries. In Angola, the production team observes these efforts first-hand.

Photo of pipes Episode 3: The Wilderness

Wrapping up the series is Episode Three, "The Wilderness," in which EXTREME OIL heads to the far reaches of Alaska and Canada -- with a side trip to Washington, D.C. Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) could soon be the site of extensive oil development -- but at what cost? In Washington, those lobbying for and against tapping into ANWR's oil supply state their cases. In Alaska, too, there are passionate advocates both for and against drilling in ANWR, and the issue even divides the region's indigenous populations. In Alberta, the crew heads to a 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."

About the Series For Teachers Resources Pledge Sitemap
Filmmakers Credits Introduction