With so many harebrained schemes designed to plug BP's gushing well in the Gulf of Mexico, it's difficult to distinguish wisecracks from actual proposals. After all, BP tried pumping the ruptured well full of golf balls and shredded rubber tires. Others seriously believe detonating a nuclear bomb would seal it up right quick. Such suggestions make a couple of wild ideas coming out of landlocked Montana almost seem feasible.
The first idea involves, improbably, football players and Jacque Cousteau's son. Last week in New Orleans, former NFL quarterbacks Drew Bledsoe and Troy Aikman joined Jean-Michel Cousteau to tout a technology developed by the Whitefish-based company Ecosphere Energy Solutions, which both Bledsoe (a part-time Whitefish resident) and Aikman invest in. The company's 53-foot mobile trailers—which resemble something John Madden might drive around in—use a combination of ozone, ultrasound and high-voltage electricity to separate oil from water. The process is called "sonoluminescence," and it's supposedly chemical-free and already used at drilling sites around the country.
"The water that comes out at the end of the process is cleaner than bottled drinking water," Chad Wold, Ecosphere's general counsel, was quoted as saying. "And the oil is pure enough that they can truck it up and sell it."
Last Wednesday, Ecosphere signed a letter of intent with Mid-Gulf Recovery Services to use the technology in the Gulf of Mexico. Wold says the system can process more than a million gallons of contaminated water a day, about half of what's spewing out of the well every day.
Perhaps Missoula's favorite mycologist, Larry Evans, can clean up the other half. Evans and Cliff Bradley, of Montana Microbial Products, are proposing using mushrooms to digest the oil that's covering more than 120 miles of coastline.
"Essentially fungi have the ability to break down oil because of the way they digest," Evans explains. "They digest outside their body. They push these enzymes out into the space between their bodies and the soil, and it creates a little reaction chamber that can decompose about anything that gets in there."
Evans suggests using mushroom spawns on beaches and in wetlands. The byproduct would simply be CO2 and water. "I think we will be able to dramatically speed up the process of remediation," he says.
Sure, these ideas may sound like Hail Marys, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Considering the circumstances, we have just as much faith in a bunch of mushrooms as we do a pile of golf balls.