Professor’s call for action on oil spill one Congress should heed

From Congress to the corner bar, there’s no shortage of outrage or ideas when it comes to battling BP’s gulf oil spill.

One guy I know wants to blow it up. Not just in protest, but as a way of sealing off the leak.

Another wants to scoop it up. He figures ingenious entrepreneurs should be able to find a way to harvest the oil for profit now that it’s pooling in the gulf. For him, the worst oil spill in U.S. history can be addressed in an economic model by clever capitalists. (Never mind that we got into this mess with help from the clever capitalists who sunk a hole 5,000 feet under the ocean using what they now admit was shoddy work and oversight.)

Still another person thinks there should be some way to use a series of giant sponges to soak it up. Take a lesson from the ocean in how to clean the ocean and devise a way to pull giant filters through the water to collect the crude.

Call them all wet, but admit BP’s brain trust hasn’t devised a more successful plan .

The slick pollutes the gulf, slimes the Southern shoreline, and oozes all the way to the White House, where the Obama administration battles a public relations disaster. It hasn’t stopped the leak either, but it has drilled a hole in BP’s ocean-deep pockets, extracting the promise of $20 billion.

For the embattled president, the only solace may come from knowing he’ll never look as bad as oil industry lackey and human punch bowl turd Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, who saw the worst oil spill on record and rushed to call the administration’s recovery efforts “a shakedown.”

With due respect to family, friends, loyal readers and pub strangers, it’s time we started listening to UNLV associate professor of physics Michael Pravica. The Harvard-trained Pravica is a member of the High Pressure and Engineering Center at the university.

In an effort to be heard at the highest levels, and clearly experiencing the same frustration felt by others, Pravica has taken to YouTube, where he has posted two videos illustrating the challenge and the deeper issue: BP’s inability to fix the problem.

“I am asking that our political leaders set up a clearing house for ideas and information to be exchanged freely between scholars who might be interested in this problem,” Pravica said. “I am worried that BP has not been forthright and honest in all of the discussions and data that is released about the gulf oil incident, and I feel it’s imperative at the moment that we share data so that we can jointly try to find solutions, because I think now this crisis is so disastrous that it’s beyond the scope of BP’s abilities to solve it.

“I ask my fellow Americans to encourage our elected officials to begin to take over this project and stop this disaster in the gulf because life is truly hanging in the balance.”

Congress should have done this weeks ago after BP refused to disclose how much oil was roaring from its well.

So far, Pravica’s online high-pressure physics lesson and academic call to arms hasn’t generated a large response. As of mid-Monday, his videos had only a few hundred views.

Call him just another academic with an educated opinion, but remember the academics were the first to mathematically quantify the depth of BP’s lies about the oil spill when they calculated the amount of crude pouring out of the hole at many times the company’s estimate.

BP’s credibility is as shot as its oil rig. It’s time to bring in experts who aren’t motivated by profit, but by a desire to save the environment before it’s too late.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at or call (702) 383-0295. He also blogs at

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