Almost Oily

by Amy Zidell

What can we learn from the movie Aliens and the show Huckabee in relation to the blown out BP deep-water oil well? They may reveal a possible explanation why stopping the gushing oil is taking so long.

While recovering from a particularly nasty 24-hour stomach thing, I sat down and flipped through the channels to find something to watch. As I paused a few seconds on the Fox News Channel, a tease for the next segment of Huckabee caught my eye. He was going to feature numerous inventors demonstrating their products or devices that could be employed to clean up the oil spewing into the Gulf. I had to see this; I stayed with Fox News.

On the Huckabee stage, in front of a live studio audience, a demonstration area was set up complete with a couple of large fish tanks. One by one, the inventors used water filled tanks to represent the Gulf of Mexico. They poured oil, or fluids meant to simulate oil, into the tanks and then would introduce their products whether powder, liquid, special mats, or material that looked like dirt.

Viola, the pesky oil became solid, or easier to scoop up, or was repelled entirely from demonstration feathers. The phrase, "completely inert," was used frequently. When former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee asked the oil industry expert on hand whether or not a seemingly miraculous product could work in the Gulf, the expert was encouraging and nodded a lot.

Then a massive device was demonstrated via video. This metal contraption, as big as a small bus and looking like it could be a turbo charger for a steamship, cleans water and recovers oil. This device is tried and true, already in use with natural gas drilling in a southern state. Unlike most of the other inventors when asked if the company was in contact with BP, the answer was, "Yes."

That's when my old-school incandescent light bulb went off. Recovery was the key objective.

At every briefing, Admiral Thad Allen, cites a quantity of how many barrels of oil have been produced. Certainly, this figure is important. The more barrels produced, the fewer barrels free floating in the ocean.

I'm not an engineer, but it seems to me that stopping an oil leak is very different from capturing leaking oil. No matter how completely inert an oil stopping substance may be, how does one recover oil once it has been transformed into a solid ball? Probably, you don't.

That's the Huckabee part. Now for Aliens, and not the illegal kind. A few days later, scrolling through the onscreen television program guide this time, I saw Aliens was on and decided to relax with the remainder of the classic sci-fi movie. A basic part of the Alien franchise is: stay alive, save the humans, keep the Aliens from spreading, and kill the Aliens. Of course, that's from the perspective of heroic protagonist Ellen Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver. In Aliens corporate bad guy, Carter Burke, played by Paul Reiser, wants to RECOVER an Alien because the creature could be valuable to the company. Burke also, is an impediment to the plan that would quickly annihilate the Aliens by turning the planet into a massive nuclear bomb, as the, "installation," on the planet is a multi-million dollar facility. Burke's recovery interest and facility protection interferes with simply escaping the planet and blowing up the Aliens. This contributes to most of the team being killed, and, in the end, the planet still goes ka-boom.

The parallel is crystal clear to me.

Add to this, in the realm of curiously interesting, that the same James Cameron who wrote and directed Aliens, also offered his deep-water expertise to the blown BP well. That's less than six degrees of oily separation.

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