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Former Shell Oil Exec: Instead Of Dispersing, Burning And Booming, What About Collecting?

Okay we've got an environmental lawyer saying the same thing as a former oil company executive. Now that it looks like most of BP's attempts to cap of
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Okay we've got an environmental lawyer saying the same thing as a former oil company executive. Now that it looks like most of BP's attempts to cap off that oil well aren't going to work, this sounds better than what we're doing now. I would like to know why BP or the government doesn't think we should be trying this technique to get the oil out of the water.

Even if the leak is stopped tomorrow there's so much oil down there that you can't stop the environmental damage just by trying to contain it on the shores. This is the only thing I've heard anyone talk about that sounds reasonable to at least attempt to get some of that oil out of the ocean before it does more damage than it already has. I can understand why BP would not want to try it. It's costly and it prevents them from hiding how much oil has gone into the ocean. Why the government doesn't think we should be doing it is another matter. Maybe Candy Crowley or one of her cohorts at CNN can follow up on that for us.

Just as a reminder, here's what Mike Papantonio said last Monday on Hardball:

I hope he's wrong, Chris, but I hate to hear the talk coming from David Axelrod, like we're all in this together and everything's going to be OK. There are two different issues here. Stop the leak. The other issue, though, is clean up the mess. They know how to clean up the mess. Back in Saudi Arabia, in 1994, they had a 700 million dollars -- 700 million gallon spill. And you know what they did, Chris? They brought in tankers from all over the world and they sucked it up out of the bays, and they treated it. And you know what? They cleaned up 85 percent of it.

You know where those tankers are right now? They're filled up. They're waiting for the market to change so they can go unload in Asia and Europe. Those tankers have the technology and the ability to suck it right out of the water and treat it.

And here's former Shell Oil President John Hofmeister on State of the Union:

CROWLEY: Let me ask you, as you look at what's going on with BP, what it is dealing with and what it is not dealing with. Where are they falling short, or is it everywhere?

JOHN HOFMEISTER: Well, one of the things I do say in my book, Candy, is people have a hard time imagining the size, the scale, the magnitude of what happens with these oil companies and the wells that they drill. Now we see playing out in front of us the largest oil spill in the history of the country.

I think that we are still relying upon old techniques for the control of the surface oil. I think we have to change our mindset, put a new paradigm in place. And instead of dispersing and burning and booming, what about collecting? What about collecting that oil, setting up a row of barges, a wall of barges with high-volume pumps, or use of supertankers that could drift back and forth in the sea, sucking in huge volumes of, yes, water and oil, but get the water off the sea to start with?

We don't seem to be going in that direction.

CROWLEY: Could you take the oil off the sea, obviously with water, cleanse it and then put the water back in?

HOFMEISTER: Yes, that's what could be done. In fact, there was a spill not reported because of the location off the Saudi coast back in the early '90s, larger than this spill, from what I'm told, where a flotilla of supertankers did just that. They would take the oil off the surface with water, dump their load on shore. Clean the water, send it back out to the Gulf, and get the oil out of the water that way.

CROWLEY: So, if the Saudis can do it, and it seems like an obvious thing -- you know about it -- why has this not occurred to BP?

HOFMEISTER: It's been presented, and it's presented to the Coast Guard. This is where I'm concerned that we have something called NIH, not invented here syndrome, because this is a different paradigm. This has never been done in the United States before. There may be arguments against it which I'm unaware of, but we've been asking for either a thumbs up or a thumbs down for weeks now, and it hasn't happened.

CROWLEY: So you think, essentially, ,we don't want the Saudis to come here and clean up what we can't?

HOFMEISTER: Well, I think we could acquire the supertankers. There are supertankers sitting out in the oceans that are full of oil, waiting for a place to go. Buy them out, buy out the oil, rent those supertankers, equip them with the piping that they would need to float along the ocean, sucking in that oil.

It would not be cheap. It would not be logistically easy. But I believe that under the circumstances we have now, ,with the failure of top kill and the failure of junk shot -- and the containment may work, maybe the containment will be helpful. But there's still a lot of oil out there that I would hate to see drift ashore or be forced ashore through a hurricane some time, let's say, in June or July.

CROWLEY: Would that also work for oil that's beneath the surface? Because we're led to believe there's kinds of layers of this, so you sort of see there'll be water, and then there's oil, and then there's more water and then there's the top. So, could you get other layers?

HOFMEISTER: It's my understanding that you can attach pipe to pipe to pipe to go down to some depth. The depth would have to be dependent upon the power of the pumps and the motors driving those pumps in terms of how deep you could actually go given the weight of the water. But those are very powerful pumps on a supertanker, so you could go down quite some depth, I believe.

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