BP’s Hollywood Ending: Kevin Costner Turns Gulf into Personal Waterworld


From the Hill…

Those of you who thought that Kevin Costner’s career was all wet, you were absolutely right. Taking a rather odd move, BP has thrown their cleanup business at Hollywood. In a plot that could have been lifted out of a movie, Kevin Costner stepped forward to promote a device that he says will aid the oil spill disaster – the exact same thing his character did to Dennis Hopper’s oil rig-fortressed villain in Waterworld.

(Waterworld, by the way, was produced and distributed by Universal Pictures in 1995, the year that Seagram Company Ltd. [booze people] and Conoco [oil people] were granted a controlling stake in MCA/Universal to the tune of $5.7 billion. It was a shaky relationship, and conspiracy theorists have gone to great pains revealing that several of the movie’s poor critical reviews appeared in publications whose owners had close ties to oil companies, including BP. Did the oil industry want Costner’s efforts to go dead in the water in 1995? It adds a whole new layer to the story, that’s for sure.)

Costner has invested some $20 million and spent the last 15 years developing oil-separating centrifuge machines. (Hey, he’s had a lot of off-time between cinematic bombs.) His manufacturing company, Ocean Therapy Solutions, which advances his brother’s research in spill cleanup technology, was endorsed by not only BP, but by the New York Times. In his testimony before Congress this month, Costner discussed the device’s operation, explaining how it spins oil-contaminated water at a rapid speed, which separates the oil and captures it in a containment tank.

BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles ordered 32 of them. He said the additional machines will be used to build four new deep-water systems: on two barges and two 280-foot supply boats.

“We tested it in some of the toughest environments we could find, and actually what it’s done,” Suttles has said. “This is real technology with real science behind it, and it’s passed all of those tests.” He reports that Costner’s device has proved effective at processing 128,000 barrels of water a day.

In his congressional testimony, perhaps citing experience having difficulty marketing his latest movies for general audiences, Costner recounted his struggle to effectively market the centrifuge. He explained that although the machines are quite effective, they can still leave trace amounts of oil in the treated water that exceeds current environmental regulations. Because of that regulatory hurdle, he said, he had great difficulty getting oil industry giants interested without first having the approval of the federal government. This is a very real concern – innovation on spill technology has been slowed in part due to federal regulation intervention.

The last time Costner invested millions into a national disaster, he came up with The Postman. So what do you think? Is this another big budget flop? Or might we be chanting a different – if familiar – message:

If he builds it…

Editor’s Note: This is the latest installment in Christopher Correa’s weekly column, Hill/Street Greens, examining the environmental deeds (and misdeeds) of Washington, D.C. and Wall Street.

Image: John Griffiths