On Tuesday, the NewsHour put out a YouTube call for viewers to submit their own suggestions for how to stop the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and clean up the oil that’s been gushing for more than a month.
More than 7,000 people responded — many of them in jest: “Duct tape, what can’t it fix?” “Shamwow” and “Call Chuck Norris, Macgyver, Jackie Chan, and Samuel L. Jackson…together they can solve anything!” were among the many suggestions.
But others took the question seriously. We’re posting some of the video responses below, and we also spoke to an expert — Greg McCormack, director of the Petroleum Extension Service at the University of Texas — about the ideas.
DCersonsky suggests a flexible tube be dropped down to the sea floor to contain the leak, and he demonstrates a miniature version:
The idea, says McCormack, is actually similar to the containment dome that BP tried to install soon after the explosion. The dome would have funneled the escaping oil up to a ship on the surface. Unfortunately, BP discovered that the ice-like crystals that formed when escaping gas met seawater blocked up the tube — and so they had to abandon the effort.
M.Adil suggests using a version of the technique doctors use to stop an artery from bleeding in a severe hemorrhage — a kind of magnetic airbag — to stop up the pipe:
The problem with this idea, says McCormack, is that the pressure in the oil pipe is much higher than pressure in an artery — up to 10,000 pounds per square inch. “I don’t think there’s any kind of expandable material that could resist that pressure,” McCormack says.
Johnforchange suggests laying down concentric rings of booms to contain the oil that’s still spilling from the well:
Unfortunately, McCormack says, the oil from the leaking pipe doesn’t go straight up to the surface — it’s carried on currents far from its origin. “You’d probably need two or three hundred miles of boom,” he says.
Finally, one video submitted to the NewsHour channel has been in YouTube circulation for several weeks. In it, employees at C.W. Roberts Contracting in Tallahassee, Florida, demonstrate how to use hay to soak up oil:
This, McCormack says, might actually work — particularly for soaking up oil close to a shoreline — because it looks like the oil really does preferentially stick to the hay. And in fact, it seems local authorities in Florida have considered using the tactic.