July 01, 2010

Dear Govt., RE: Oil Spill, You're STILL doing it wrong - reason 86,348 the Free Market is Better - A, B, & C Whale

Yesterday I shared with you reason 86,347 that the free market is better than Government, Kevin Costner. Today, Lo, and Behold, there is yet ANOTHER story of interest along the same lines. Presenting, A Whale:

This behemoth, 1,115-foot, 10-story tall ship was originally designed to be an oil tanker. But then Mr Nobu Su, CEO of TMT Corporation of Taiwan, had a wild idea. His idea involved turning this large oil tanker into the worlds largest oil skimming ship. His radical design involved cutting slits in the side of the ship, a chore that required the ship first be sailed from Shanghai to Portugal to a suitable shipyard for modification before eventually making its way to the gulf coast. Of course, along the way he hit a snag: The US Federal Government. Now, it must be said that the system he is using is unproven, no one, including Mr. Su, knows just how well it will work in practice. It is estimated however that A Whale could suck up as much as 500,000 barrels daily of spilled oil and water—250 times the capacity of the other ships now engaged in the cleanup. If it works he will begin work to retrofit another one, B Whale, and start sailing C Whale to the Shipyard.

According to Su, Big Problems, require Big Solutions. Sometimes eccentric, out of the box thinking is what is necessary. Su’s team generously gives credit to the USA for creating his entrepreneurial and innovative spirit that he says is part of his Taiwanese upbringing. His senior vice president, T.K. Ong, says the environment for success was created by the “moral and material support” provided by the USA to the island nation after it broke from mainland China. (back in our more freedom loving years)
He has already beaten the odds and the government on one score; after making the decision to act about May 1st', the completed ship arrived in the U.S. by June 25—a timetable that U.S. officials had considered impossible to achieve. (our Government and Our People used to make careers out of believing and doing the impossible) Even if the ship is only marginally effective, only removing 50 % of the oil from the water, is that not an enormous improvement? Common sense says yes, EPA regulations say, not really. EPA regs state that in order for water to be released it must be over 99% oil free. That is a tall order. An order that President Obama could rescind with a stroke of a pen, but it has not happened…yet. Also, the Jones act is still in play, preventing ships of foreign registry and crewed by foreign workers to help with the cleanup. Bush lifted the act in the aftermath of Katrina, a feat Obama seems unwilling to do. Finally the Coast Guard must sign off on the safety and efficacy of the vessel itself, but that sounds as though it will not be as big of an issue. Coast Guard inspectors toured the ship for about four hours on Thursday, said Capt. Matthew Sisson, commanding officer of the Coast Guard's Research and Development arm in New London, Conn. "We take all offers of alternative technology very seriously," Sisson said. The ship, he said, is "an impressive engineering feat." Another plus on the side of A Whale is that Su says the mammoth vessel can withstand what others cannot, so it would be the last ship that had to leave due to weather—and the first to return to oil removal work. Because his company also operates oil drilling platforms in Asia, Su is familiar with the challenges of weather. Although he was originally dismissed when he shared his concept with BP and U.S. officials immediately after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, Su was not deterred and spent millions, when they initially refused his request to stage a test, he secured an invite to bring her into port from the Governor of VA, where he then staged a big media blitz. Once there, it became the whale in the room, unable to be ignored. A Whale is now scheduled for a test run, and Su has nothing but kind words for the Coast Guard and BP’s willingness to accept his offer to help. To be sure, this “help” will not come cheap, Nobu spent millions getting A Whale moved and retrofitted, and her operating costs are probably huge, but at this point, if she works, who cares. BP is on the hook for the entire cleanup, and now is not the time to be pinching pennies. What is galling is the amount of money being spent FIGHTING efforts at cleanup. Government spending money to halt cleanup efforts….typical. Entrepreneurs making money while coming up with innovative solutions AND helping people…also typical.
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