Green Hero: Kevin Costner

June 28, 2010

Kevin Costner: actor, director, Academy-award winner and now greenifying leader.  Tell the truth, you did a double-take and your head turned completely around to check if you had heard right, but it's true: Hollywood's Kevin Costner may be one of the good guys in the unfolding crisis in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.  Here's what happened:

15 years ago, Costner was watching old pictures of the Exxon Valdez disaster and the cleanup of that mess in Alaska.  As he said, it was “rubber boots, pitchforks, straw and oil coming up on the beaches like pudding.”  He came up with an idea for a centrifuge device that separates the oil from the water and other elements.

$20 million of Costner's own money invested later, the machine, called a “V20,” was ready for testing. 

It was tested out by BP earlier this year, but turned out the oil with the consistency of peanut butter, so some adjustments have been made.  BP is interested and now retesting the re-adjusted machines for use in the Gulf and this news couldn't come at a better time, as we find out that the oil company may have downplayed the amount of oil gushing out of the broken well and into the environment. 

The well has now been leaking for more than two months and internal documents just discovered show that from the start, BP was privately estimating the leak's flow at 100,000 barrels per day, while publicly suggesting the leak was much smaller.  The news has not been well received.

“BP has either been lying or grossly incompetent from Day One,” said Rep. Ed Markey, (D-MA).

Also angering Americans, the news that BP's CEO Tony Hayward spent part of the weekend in an exclusive yacht race on an English coast this weekend.  The CEO has made several public relations errors recently including referring to victims in the crisis as “small people.”

The country is waiting for news that the tide has turned in this story.  We're all hoping that somehow, we'll awake from this ongoing environmental nightmare, but so far that hasn't happened.  But it does seem great that one possible light at the end of the tunnel is Kevin Costner's green machine.  What a wonderful thought that the man who “dances with wolves” may be the one who can Greenify our ocean, too.  He's recycled himself in our minds from actor to ultimate green business owner. 


Fish Farms in Coal Mines?

June 15, 2010

It's an interesting thought, isn't it?  Putting fish farms into spent coal mines?  I hooked you right in with that one! 

It's what they are thinking in West Virginia, where coal mines are famous for providing the livelihood of miners and their families.

Farmed fish are now accounting for about half of the world's annual consumption (mostly due to farmed salmon) of 110 million metric tons of fish.  The experts say, demand will soon exceed supply.  We're going to need more fish farms.

With an estimated 1,000 closed mines in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, some are beginning to look at those empty pits as future “fishing holes.”  Except the fish will be farmed and caught for consumers in grocery stores.

The Freshwater Institute in Shepherdstown, WV, estimates that turning mines into fish farms could generate hundreds of jobs and millions of pounds of fish annually.   And here's the best part: the particulars of mine water are especially conducive to raising fish.  Mine water temperatures hold steady at a brisk 56 degrees, which is impossible for human swimming but perfect for what else? Artic char, salmon and trout. 

It's an idea whose time has come.  When it was put forward in 1994, West Virginia dreamed of having hundreds of mines, but 16 years later, has only two.  America's fish consumption was not so great then, but now, demand is up. 

And to be sure, this may be not a case of “making lemonade from lemons,” but making dinner from leftovers found in a coal mine. 

Greenification at its best.


UPDATE FROM THE GULF: 12,000-19,000 Barrels of Oil Gushing Daily

June 3, 2010

It's now being called the “Worst Environmental Disaster in U.S. History.   The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana is still pushing oil out of the broken pipe, leaking and wreaking destruction on the once-clean gulf waters. 

British Petroleum, BP, is the company that owned the lease and the platform that exploded, starting the spill that has been going on for six weeks now.  The hard and painful news for most of us involves pictures of a massive oil plume, stretching across the water; ugly pictures of oil-soaked seabirds and dead fish; and the knowledge that wildlife in that area will suffer for years to come. 

At first, BP tried to contain the oil with booms, placing the massive sponges and blocks in the way of the plume in a painfully useless attempt to block the spread of the oil to beaches and breeding grounds of animals in the area. 

Then there was the dome.  BP lowered a huge dome over the well in an attempt to cap the well and stop the flow.  That didn't work either. 

The effort that followed was the “top kill” in which engineers tried for three days to top off the gusher with heavy drilling mud and junk to stop the leak.  After initial hopeful reports, we now know that is not working either. 

BP announced today that they have another plan.  Their latest attempt will be to send down unmanned robots to saw off the leaky broken pipe and cap it with a funnel that will then direct the oil to the surface and waiting boats. 

The company tried to reclaim the leaking oil with a funnel in the past, but ice crystals formed in the pipe and blocked the flow.   Why will this attempt be different?  The company intends to warm sea water and pump it into the pipe as well, preventing the formation of the ice crystals.  The soonest that this could work is four to five days.  Does that disappoint you? 

Then this could make you despair: the company says that the gusher may not be capped until August.  That news on Sunday amid the destruction, disappointment and misery that the spill has already wrought.

What can you do?  Only what you have been doing.  Try to think of your efforts as an “off-set credits” for the spill.  Put your best efforts into greenifying at home and at work in order to off-set the huge disaster that seems to be unfolding day by day to our great disappointment.   We can only do what we can do, but perhaps as a group, we can do the tiniest bit more as we watch this bitterly unhappy scenario continue in our world.


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