Imagine you personally knew (beyond a shadow of a doubt) that a huge earthquake was going to hit a major city and cause massive damage, loss of life, starvation, loss of employment, destruction of property as well as countless hardships. Imagine that the majority (say 95%) of this could be avoided, if only the easily available resources and technology were deployed to prevent this before it happened. Would you deploy the technology? Would you deploy the resources to prevent 95% of the problem?
Naturally, any sane, ethical person would. However, what if you stood to earn $100's of millions from this disaster? Your choice . . . do the right thing or go for the money? I understand that this is a hypothetical situation and predicting an earthquake is pretty much impossible; however, knowing an oil spill is going to happen is not. It has happened in the past, it just happened in the Gulf of Mexico and it will happen in the future. Sadly, there are people who have actually made the choice to take the money at everyone's and every living things' expense and this article is about showing you the proof.
Having said that, you need to know how oil spills are currently being cleaned up, why they cost so much and how they should be cleaned up to minimize the damage using the technology that would have minimized the harm and cost? Let me break this down into simple common sense steps for you starting with plugging the hole(s). What they are doing is trying to make a super duper capping device that allows them to control the spill and keep pumping oil. So far it's not working and there are some pretty impressive reasons/excuses why this is not working. Let's apply some common sense to this problem. Find a barge, fill it with cement, tow it over the hole, sink it and problem solved. Is that too simple? A couple of days work and a little expense to minimize a major disaster. Please tell me that this is just incompetence.
Now that the spill is moving and spreading, containing the spill is of major importance. This is done with booms and you basically corral the spill. Then you use skimmers that grab the oil and you pump it into a ship. The problem that occurs is if the water is moving faster then 3 to 4 knots it's impossible to corral the spill and it starts mixing with the water and forming mousse. This is like multi-size balloons that stick to everything when they pop and make all those scary pictures of bird and otters covered in oil and dying a horrible death. In other words, it's the worst case situation.
Typically the idea is to beach the spill so it can be dealt with and not spread any further. Unfortunately, with a spill of this magnitude that means the clean up is huge and it will end up just like the Exxon Valdez spill where you can still turn over rocks today and find the oil. What they are doing is spraying a toxic chemical called a dispersant that is designed to break the oil down into smaller particles and make the oil non sticky. The problem is the chemical itself has limited effectiveness and is toxic. Remember that the problem is the oil is sticky so it sticks to living things and everything else. As it happens, no one takes into consideration that the oil is still there, it just mixes better with the water. Sadly, with this procedure the beaches will be coated with oil for years killing all the life and destroying the local economies. Did I mention the chemical has huge profit margins and they use tonnes of it? I wonder who supplies the chemical?
It gets better; when the spill is on the beach they get out these really cool looking rags made from a substance called poly propylene and various other things including human hair and chicken feathers and dump them into the spill. Looks great for the cameras and to be fair, it does have a limited effectiveness. The problem with these materials is that the oil is on the outside of the material and is still sticky. With that done, they then proceed to pick up each oily rock and wipe it with the rags and then put it back into the water. I'm not kidding you, they actually do this. They put the oily rocks back in the water. The reasoning is they want to minimize the change to the natural geology of the beach, etc. It's kind of like saying "Doctor, Doctor don't cut out all that skin cancer from my chin, you might ruin my beautiful profile". Now you don't want to know were the actual recovered oil goes? Or maybe you do but have fun trying to find out. Native land is usually a great choice to get around those pesky water protection laws and expensive hazardous waste disposal costs. Did I mention those costs are usually included in the clean-up estimates?
I could go on and on for pages and pages with the complete utter nonsense surrounding spill cleanup yet the bottom line is always the same. The environment is destroyed along with the local economy, lots of oil is left behind and then the lawyers get to jump in and make lots of money to add injury to insult. Don't believe me? Just take a trip up to Alaska and ask Dr Riki Ott her opinion on the subject. She wrote the book on that Exxon spill fiasco.
Now that you know how not to clean up an oil spill, let's look at applying some science and common sense that all the top people in the game are fully aware of and make sure does not get used.
Step 1. Cap the hole. Step 2. Contain the spill with booms. Step 3. Quickly and effectively stop the oil from being sticky. This is the first part that they don't want you to know about. For decades, hundreds of millions of dollars have been lost by companies that set up to make oil recovery materials made from polymers that grab the oil and turn it into non-sticky rubber. Remember sticky is bad, non sticky is good. The shoes you are wearing, the bubble gum you're chewing, the computer plastic and the paint on your wall are all made from these polymers.
It's a well known fact that specific polymers turn oil into rubber and stop it from sticking to surfaces and there are many of these polymers and dozens of formulations. In other words its not some big secret, it's a well known fact in the industry, I've got thirty or forty in my lab alone. These polymers are made into booms or snakes and simply put into the spill and then removed and recycled.
If the current spill had been capped and contained, we could have used helicopter, planes and boats to turn the spill into rubber and have cleaned it up long before it hit the beach. Even if the spill had gotten out of control, it could have been made non sticky and massively reduced the damage. To add insult to injury, the argument used to stop the use of these materials so they can keep making ridiculous profits is that a fish or bird may eat some polymer. This ignores the fact that these polymers smell and taste funny which seriously negates this possibility. If you had the choice of being suddenly coated in black goo that made you drown and put you into shock with a high probability of dying horribly or taking your chances on eating a piece of rubber but you would survive, which would you choose?
So, let's get back to the spill response. Imagine the spill occurred and a bunch of helicopters were alerted and started dropping booms filled with polymer and a GPS or transducer attached into the spill. You've seen this in movies when they are chasing enemy subs. By the time the boats turned up the entire spill could be rendered non sticky and they would simply haul in the booms. Is that too simple? I've got to stop giving away these completely obvious ideas that could make me billions of dollars.
Now that that has not happened lets move to the beach and step 4 . Again polymers can be simply put into sand blasters that you can rent at your local hardware store and fired into the oil to turn it non sticky. Also, there are several types of completely non-toxic bacteria that can be simply mixed into the sand and all the oil can either be recycled or eaten leaving a clean beach. Yes, really it's that simple. Here's a neat idea, how about sending some of that bacteria up to the folks in Alaska?
So, getting to the bottom line, I'm not being sarcastic just for the fun of it. I'm trying to get you to understand that the whole thing is a big media event to make you believe that it's really a lot harder to deal with the problem then it really is. The problem is that this is being done at your expense. All spills can be quickly rendered non sticky and recovered at less then 10% of the cost of the current fraudulent and amateur methods being used. It's time that a serious congressional investigation is done into the flow of money, the people controlling this shell game and we start taking care of our environment and the economic health of our communities. Not to mention put some people behind bars.
Please send this article to everyone you know especially your politicians and demand that this be corrected. If they don't respond and take action start sending them all your used motor oil and this article so they have instructions on how to clean it up.
Kevin Daum is the Founder of Save the Oceans Inc. He developed and patented a process for removing oil from surfaces so it could be recycled as well as several other inventions. He has formulated multiple eco-certified cleaners for cleaning everything from airplanes to ships, graffiti and your laundry. He has also authored numerous insightful articles and booklets such as "How to Kill your Cleaning Staff" a really green guide to cleaning. His web site is www.OilLift.net