Kevin Costner (seriously!) successfully promoted a slick idea for separating oil from water:
It was treated as an oddball twist in the otherwise wrenching saga of the BP oil spill when Kevin Costner stepped forward to promote a device he said could work wonders in containing the spill's damage. But as Henry Fountain explains in the New York Times, the gadget in question — an oil-separating centrifuge — marks a major breakthrough in spill cleanup technology. And BP, after trial runs with the device, is ordering 32 more of the Costner-endorsed centrifuges to aid the Gulf cleanup.
The "Waterworld" actor has invested some $20 million and spent the past 15 years in developing the centrifuges. He helped found a manufacturing company, Ocean Therapy Solutions, to advance his brother's research in spill cleanup technology. In testimony before Congress this month, Costner walked through the device's operation—explaining how it spins oil-contaminated water at a rapid speed, so as to separate out the oil and capture it in a containment tank...
The device can purportedly take in thousands of gallons of oil-tainted water and remove up to 99% of the oil from it.
But 99% is not 99.9985%, which is a problem:
In his congressional testimony, 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.
Obviously, what we want is a machine not yet invented that separates the oil and dumps pure water back into the gulf at a high flow rate. But for purposes of the current exercise, Costner's device ought to be better than nothing; fortunately, the Feds seems to have figured that out.
A CAVEAT: The linked Times article includes this:
BP said last week that it would buy 32 of Mr. Costner’s machines to help clean the oil spill. But the machines work much better on fresh oil than weathered oil, so it is unclear how much of a contribution they will make.