It is about to become utterly obvious that I am no petroleum engineer. How about we stop trying to plug the Gulf oil leak, other than the major relief well effort that will take until August and which, by all accounts, is a high percentage play to solve the problem entirely. All these interim plug the leak measures are failing anyway.

Instead, how about we focus on containment? Implement strategies to contain and gather all the oil coming out. My high school daughter had what I thought is a great idea. The leaking well is, what, 21 inches or so in diameter, right? Why don’t we simply lower a pipe that’s, say, 5 feet wide over the leak, a pipe that runs all the way to the surface? Then we would be able to collect the oil under surface conditions and under much less pressure.

There are probably innumerable versions of this same concept. I had envisioned a huge parachute-like thing lowered over the leak, the size of a couple of football fields maybe. Trap the oil in that. Then you have hundreds, or thousands even, of relief valves in the “parachute,” with hoses to channel the oil to the surface to be collected.

Who knows, maybe they’ve all thought about that already, and there are engineering reasons why such solutions would fail. But maybe not. When you’re a drilling company, you think like a drilling company. Not an environmental disaster averting company.

It seems all the efforts have been to plug the leak. All I’m saying is, maybe we should just try to contain the leaking oil instead. Or in addition to. If the new government estimates are right, and if it takes until mid-August to finish the relief well, we could avert more than 1,000,000 more barrels of oil leaking into the Gulf. The entire Exxon Valdez spill was about 250,000 barrels.

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