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Thursday, May 20, 2010

What We Aren't Doing in the Gulf

BP and the Department of the Interior report we have on scene and on the job some 17,000 workers, over a million feet of boom, hundreds of boats and ships and the very best and brightest of industry professionals. Unfortunately, it's all a big show for the public. BP doesn't believe this spill is going to have a significant environmental impact and the White House and the rest of the government is buying the hype.

If BP and the White House really wanted to mitigate this mess they would have taken greater and more immediate steps to that end. The technology and the resources are out there to clean up the oil that has spilled. Tankers with their own on board pumping and siphoning equipment can suck in a water/oil mix and bring it to shore side storage facilities where it can be separated in centrifuges and other types of oil/water separators. Large OSRVs (Offshore Oil Spill Recovery Vessels) are sitting idle in countries like Saudi Arabia, Norway, and Turkey. More importantly, there are new technologies on hand ready to be implemented. We can tow giant underwater collection nets through mid-water or even at the bottom. The nets can be hauled back and squeezed out through giant presses, the oil/water mix recovered and pumped into a cargo vessel for delivery to oil/water separators on shore. We can use advanced boom systems that sink below the surface. We can use ships that have separators and storage tanks on board, ships that function like a dredge. There are microbial solutions.

Even Kevin Costner has a solution, a patented centrifuge that he says can reclaim up to 97% of the oil or diesel in an oil/water mix. (The machine has been tested by the Army Corp of Engineers in Louisiana and is reportedly being field tested by BP this week.)

The thing here is this: The White House and the industry don't care. What they're doing is a show put on for the benefit of the public. Like the guys they sent into the Gulf of Alaska to clean oil off rocks with toothbrushes after the Exxon Valdez ran aground. And how did that turn out? (The picture above was taken 20 years after the Exxon Valdez spill.)

When I think of how U.S. industry mobilized during World War II to beat Nazi Germany, and I think about Obama blaming BP and the industry as a whole for not taking the necessary precautions and not being prepared for this accident, and I think about the catastrophic potential of this spill for the entire planet, I have to wonder why the person in charge hasn't taken the bull by the horns and wrestled it to the ground.

It's not enough for our politicians to point their fingers at private enterprise and announce investigations and hearings. What are we paying these guys for? A bunch of theatrics?

Of course, it's all about money. As a former commercial fisherman, and a former technical writer for a national commercial fishing magazine, I can tell you that we have devised the most technologically advanced systems for pulling every single living creature out of the ocean. We can tow giant trawls between two ships. We can set thousands of miles of long lines. We have multifunction radars and sonars and all types of electronic navigation and sounding aids for finding schools of fish. If a gallon of spilled oil was as valuable as a red snapper, the oil in the Gulf would have been sopped-up already.

Obama claimed he wanted new business. He wanted fresh entrepreneurship. He wanted a source of new technology and new economic growth. Well, here's his big chance. The opportunity for building up a new and viable business sector and placing it positive territory is staring him in the face. It's called oil spill mitigation and there's more than enough private money to set it on its course. What the hell is he waiting for? The need is here. The resources are here. The technological know how is here. The will is here.


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