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

Video Video Claims to Show Shi'ite Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

While not yet independently confirmed, brutal killing already has gotten attention of Islamic State followers on social media More

After Six Years, Little Change for Niger Delta's Former Militants

Nigerians who laid down arms in exchange for government amnesty subsidies fear program may end with upcoming presidential elections More

Vietnam Pushes for More Educated Drivers to Curb Road Deaths

Transportation officials hope that making a greater effort to get drivers to learn the rules of the road will reduce fatal crashes 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.
Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boyi
X
Jeff Seldin
March 05, 2015 2:36 AM
A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

Country-pop singer, Lizzie Sider sits down with "Border Crossings" host Larry London to perform songs from her new album, “Butterfly,” and to talk about her anti-bullying tour.

Blogs

African Music Treasures