It's been more than a year since the disaster in the Gulf, but Kevin Costner is wasting no time urging people to prepare for the next one.
The 56-year-old actor and entrepreneur made headlines last year after BP chose his oil separation centrifuges to help clean coastal waters affected by the spill. Coster reportedly invested more than $24 million into developing the technology after seeing the unfolding horror of the Exxon Valdez disaster in '89.
Now Costner has partnered with Louisiana barge builder Lee Dragner to create a fleet of massive skimmer barges equipped with his centrifuge tech. The venture will float under a new firm called Planet Blue Company. Had these high-tech skimmers been available before the BP spill, Costner says he's confident that most of the oil could have been contained on the surface.
“I'm saying that absolutely, 100 percent, if it would have been allowed to come to the top,” Costner told WWLTV.com. “The biggest detriment to collecting the oil is dispersants. That’s something that should have been a last line of defense. We can’t afford to be sinking the oil. The ocean can’t afford it and the people that live on the Gulf can’t afford it."
Costner and Dragner have been showing off their barges to coastal area parishes to build support for keeping a small fleet of them offshore and ready to be deployed at a moment's notice. The total operation would cost a staggering $48 million a year (fully funded by the oil companies), but that price tag might be acceptable when viewed as a coastal insurance policy.
“Eight of the barges could have stopped the oil, could have collected all of it,” Costner said. “These barges work as a last line of defense. So in the scheme of things, the fleet I think that is important to the Gulf would be eight of the barges, four of the large ones, four of the small ones, and 15 of these. We’ve designed these for the parishes.”
The largest ship in the fleet, dubbed "The Big Gulp" is 250 feet long and capable of processing up to 1 million gallons of water and oil per day. The "Little Gulp," at 180 feet, is smaller, but faster — capable of separating about 500,000 gallons daily. Finally, for shallow waters, the "Mini Gulp" at 40 feet long can be used in depths as minute as two feet and process 5,000 gallons daily.
So far, BP and the other oil companies have yet to formally comment on Costner's barge fleet. But as one site commenter made clear, residents can ill-afford another disaster.
"$50 million is nothing compared to the pain and suffering, loss of jobs, and the loss of wildlife and marshes that will affect us for years to come," the person said. "Get off your band wagon and if it works, make it part of the contract of any oil company that wants to drill in our waters."