Why Prevent an Oil Spill Salvage Cash-In?

dirty water and dollar signs

Yesterday, Andrew Revkin over at the New York Times’ Dot Earth blog asked the sky, the ether or whatever great beyond you’re shouting into when you end a blog post with ‘what are your thoughts?’:

Why is salvaged oil going to BP instead of US reserves?

Taken at face value, the answer is fairly obvious: well, because that crude sucks.  While it appears that this gushing black stuff is some high-grade light sweet Louisiana crude, the fact that it’s being captured by some jury-rigged piping installed by a chainsaw-wielding robot under a tight deadline or by whoever has the Dawn soap and the scrub brush on the beach indicates that maybe this stuff just might be half seawater and beach trash.

However, this does raise an interesting point: is there money to be made in gleaning tarballs and filtering slicks, then selling off what you grabbed?  To explain a bit, the walking portion of my daily commute takes me past the dismembered hulks of many former computers, air conditioners, and  other sources of scrap metal so I imagine there just might be bottom-feeders/waste recyclers for any resource industry.  Why not oil?  Whatever the composition of those tar balls, I can’t imagine it contains less crude than oil shale.  And what an incentive for an entrepreneur if they could double dip by taking cleanup money and selling the crude they’ve sucked up at the end of the day.

What sort of cleanup solutions are not being developed by the magic of The Markets because BP is claiming all that gushing oil as their exclusive property, even if it’s on a dead seabird?  What are your thoughts on joining me on some rag-tag pirate venture to salvage tar balls for a bootleg oil refinery?

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