Actor Costner chides Shell exec on oil industry spill record

The actor who dropped the biggest water bomb in the history of cinema, “Waterworld” producer and star Kevin Costner, is now trying to save as much precious liquid from oil industry contamination as possible, and in Aspen Monday he talked up the machine he developed to do just that.

According to the website Real Aspen, Costner on Monday at the Aspen Environment Forum joined former U.S. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, Robert Gagosian of Consortium for Ocean Leadership, and Shell Oil executive Libby Cheney, in a panel discussion.

Inspired by the Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster in Alaska, Costner said he spent $24 million of his own money to develop a machine that quickly and efficiently separates water from oil. He was initially spurned by the federal government and the oil industry, but now the machines are being used to combat BP’s monstrous Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

“An industry that can drill through the depths of water that they do, miles into the core of the earth to get oil, somehow doesn’t have the logic, the science or the will to develop machinery to clean up the spill that will actually occur?” Costner reportedly said. “Had my equipment been out there [for the Gulf spill] we wouldn’t have stopped this leak, but we would have fought it right at its point of impact.”

Real Aspen reported Costner then looked at Cheney, who is vice president of exploration and production, and delivered this speech about the Marine Safety Response Corporation, which is funded by companies like Shell:

“I think it’s a mistake fundamentally for MSRC to decide what would be safe and what would be an overwhelming response. I think you can weigh in because we do need the advice of experts but sometimes experts can intimidate us — ‘you don’t need this, that’s a redundant statement.’ I realize you’re on the hot seat in front of everyone here representing this thing, so as a fellow human being I’m not trying to put pressure on you, but we don’t need to come up to the bar of safety, we need to hurl ourselves over it. We need to have an overwhelming response the same way we would if anything is attacking us. This is in fact attacking us. … It’s about dollars [of which] the oil industry has plenty of. The fact that it’s not sexy, because it’s not a profit center: Safety never is a profit center.”

Editor’s note: Due to a reporting error on Real Aspen, the original version of this post incorrectly stated Shell Oil executive Libby Cheney is the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney. There is no relation.

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About the Author

David O. Williams

is an award-winning reporter who has covered energy, environmental and political issues for years. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Denver Post. He's founder of Real Vail
and Real Aspen.

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