News / Arts & Entertainment

Costner's Dream Machine Separates Oil from Water

In a packed hearing room on Capitol Hill, lawmakers heard about the challenges of capturing the oil which continues to spew into the Gulf of Mexico following the explosion of the Deep Water Horizon oil rig on April 20.  The panel included scientists, government officials and an Academy Award winning actor.

Kevin Costner came before the House Committee on Science and Technology not as a movie star, but as a concerned citizen and entrepreneur with an idea that could help in the unfolding disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Haunted by images of the 1989 Exxon Valdez tanker spill, Costner saw promise in a technology that could separate oil from water.

"[It's] a technology that I believe that had the potential to fight catastrophic oil spills and serve as the first line of defense in the oil spill cleanup and recovery," Costner said .

Costner invested more than $20 million in a company to design and build the machine. "The biggest plus is that it would be easy to operate."

Essentialy, it's a power vacuum that sucks up as much as 760 liters of polluted seawater a minute, spins it through a centrifuge, separates out the oil into a holding tank and dumps the clean water back into the sea. But Costner told Congress that his enthusiasm for the project was outmatched by apathy from government and private industry.

"The list of government agencies, oil companies and foreign companies we contacted reads like a 'who's who' of those who needed it, those who should have been looking for it and probably more to the point those who should have been developing it themselves," he explained.

Costner was told the device was too expensive.  That there was no need for it.  That oil spills were infrequent. But, Costner said, when spills - large or small - did occur, he stepped forward.

"We would offer to take our machines out there,"he said.  "And we couldn't get out on to the spots because the Coastguard would regulate that we couldn't get there. This kind of ineptness silenced the company," said Costner.

One reason explained Nancy Kinner, co-director of the Coastal Response Research Center at the University of New Hampshire and another member of the panel testifying before lawmakers, was issues of trying new technologies during a spill.  

"You have to be sure that you are not increasing the risk by using those technologies," she said.

Nor, Kinner said, can the U.S. deploy controlled spills on water - like controlled forest fires - to test technology.

"They do it in Canada. They do it Norway. There is no opportunity to do it in this country, and I think we need to open up that possibility," said Kinner.

The technology deployed so far in the Gulf - booms, skimmer boats and dispersants - hasn't advanced much since the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill, the largest to date before the disaster in the Gulf.  Albert Venosa, who directs the Land Remediation and Pollution Control Division of the Environmental Protection Agency's National Risk Management Research Laboratory, testified that many unknowns remain about the impact of oil dispersants in the water column, especially at great depths.

"We've never had to deal with a deep sea blow out like this before, especially at 5,000 feet below the surface," he explained.  "So no, we don't know what the long-term effects will be and we didn't know it 51 days ago either," he said.  

Venosa added that the risks and benefits for each action must be weighed. "And, no matter what you do there is going to be something that is going to be damaged."

The risk could be minimized, according to Kevin Costner. He called on lawmakers to consider the valuable role his machine could play. Earlier in the week he got some good news. BP, which has been testing the device, has placed an order for 32 additional machines that will soon be deployed in the Gulf.

You May Like

N. Korea Sentences American to 6 Years Hard Labor

Matthew Miller's brief trial Sunday comes two weeks after 24-year old Miller and two other American detainees appealed to the US government to help free them More

Pakistan Rejects Afghan Criticism of 480-kilometer Border Trench

Military spokesman tells VOA the project is part of administrative and security measures taken to secure the mountainous border with Afghanistan More

Photogallery Typhoon Kalmaegi Makes Landfall in Philippines

Storm makes landfall late Sunday, cutting power and communications lines and forcing people to flee to higher ground More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interesti
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 12, 2014 8:35 PM
The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video Palestinians Turn to Rebuilding Gaza

After almost two months of conflict in Gaza, Palestinians are preparing to rebuild the isolated Mediterranean enclave with assistance from abroad. Meanwhile, an international human rights group has found that Israel likely violated international laws of war during some of its attacks on Gaza. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Middle Eastern Church Leaders Highlight Christians’ Plight

Patriarchs of Eastern Rite churches came to Washington this week to draw attention to the attacks against Christians in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. VOA’s religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Border Crossings

Graham Nash has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice – once for his work with The Hollies and once as part of Crosby, Stills & Nash. The legendary folk-rocker joins "Border Crossings" host Larry London to talk about his latest project, “CSN 2012,” which captured on video recent live performances by Crosby, Stills & Nash.