Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Blowout: Canadian TV At Its Best
The new Canadian TV documentary Blowout is about as good as Canadian TV gets.
It's the kind of challenging, in-your-face news treatment that fully justifies the continuing existence of public broadcasting.
The hourlong account of oil blowouts and the impact on the environment is subtitled Is Canada Next?
Producer-director Nadine Pequeneza says the team at Up Front Productions originally thought of a follow up study of the gigantic spill in the Gulf of Mexico but "American channels including National Geographic were already doing that."
That spill on April 5, 2010, unleased five million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico
CBC bought the concept by adding an insistence the inquiry be expanded to include possible Canadian disaster sites.
And the one many scientists say is an accident waiting to happen is the drilling off the coast of Newfoundland in water far deeper than the coast of Louisiana.
Located 430 kms from shore, Chevron's well is twice as deep as BP's Deepwater Horizon well and six times further out to sea.
"We got no cooperation from oil executives," Pequeneza says, "and that was expected." Other employees had to sign confidentiality agreements."
But there is a startling clip of Prime Minister Harper saying nothing like that can be permitted here. Ordinary fisherman are filmed saying their objections don't seem to matter.
The look at the cleanup of the oil operations in Louisiana is the most concise I've yet seen. Marine biologists say the oil simply did not disappear --it's still out there. An oyster fisherman trolls along a favored bed and comes up with a cloth filled with oil stains. Another says he wouldn't dare sell fish from this region for fear somebody might get sick.
The underwater plumes so prominent in the first days of the spill are still out there, maintains one environmentalist, but it takes longer to find them as they've drifted out of the main area.
Pequenza also used animation to show how deep water drilling works. "The pressure is tremendous and what's called mud is being transferred into the hole to prevent blowouts. They call it mud but it's really a mixture of chemicals."
Fisherman say the squalls in the region off Newfoundland are something fierce and in the event of some disaster it would take up to 11 days to even reach a distant spill.
One official remembers the Ocean Ranger disaster where an oil rig was toppled in near hurrican weather costing 24 lives to be lost.
The point is made that both fishing and tourism would suffer in a catastrophic situation. The ability of fish to reproduce on the Grand Banks would imperil fishing industry. Plus marine birds could not be cleaned off after a spill for the photographers and returned to their habitat --they'd swiftly die in the subArctic climate.
Blowout is scarier than any horror movie I've recently seen. And it's all true as Pequeneza builds a solid case for more safeguards before drilling presents us with a made-in-Canada nightmare scenario.
BLOWOUT PREMIERES ON CBC, THURSDAY DEC. 9 AT 9 P.M.
MY RATING: ****.