Transcript: Costner Inspired by Exxon Valdez to Create Oil-Cleaning Machine

BP has ordered more than 30 machines, actor says.

ByABC News via logo
June 13, 2010, 10:40 PM

June 14, 2010 — -- Actor Kevin Costner sat down for an interview with "Good Morning America" anchor Sam Champion last week. The following transcript of their interview has been edited for clarity.

SAM CHAMPION: First of all, let me just say that-- that your subcommittee transcripts are the only transcripts I've ever enjoyed reading because the way you spoke was to understand from the heart, made perfect sense to me, and I have never sat there and ready subcommittee transcripts and enjoyed reading them.

KEVIN COSTNER: The-- the written testimony on my speech? Which one did you read?

CHAMPION: I read the-- I read the written testimony.

COSTNER: The written testimony? Well, the speech was-- was-- a lot more my voice. The written testimony got a little more technical than even I like to get. (LAUGH) But thank you. You-- I don't know if you did see the testimony or not, my personal testimony.

CHAMPION: I saw some of it.


CHAMPION: On ... when you were testifying, what was the point you were trying to get across there … ?

COSTNER: Well, they invited me. You know, I haven't-- I've been tryin' to make my point for about 12 years. And-- and there's a moment in time where you just can't shout any louder, you can't-- you can't wave your arms anymore. Your ability to move the dial, you know, you run up against a wall and-- and-- and all of the money in the world that I had, had to stop. And so, you know, that-- you know, that's-- that's where I found myself. But I was invited into this process by-- some locals down in New Orleans who said, you know, they had-- they had seen this machine and seen them in oil conferences.

John Houghtaling, who is my partner … went in to, as unlikely as it may have seemed, went in to talk with (Plaquemines parish president) Billy Nungesser. And … "You know, this-- this may seem a little bit unlikely. But-- the actor Kevin Costner has a magic machine. You know what I mean …


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COSTNER: So he went in to talk to Billy, who is beside himself, who understood what was coming their way. And … help didn't seem to be on any horizon, no pun intended. And … and basically said, "Look. I-- there's an unlikely thing. You know, there's this guy. You know, you know him the actor." And Billy said, "Stop. Just wait a second. Just stop right there." He said, "I was in the oil industry ten years ago. I saw his machine work in Houston. And it works. Let's get him."

So I'm here writing movies and I get a call and invited to go down. And at that point, you know, I have re-engaged. So, you know what I mean? It … there's only so much yelling and hand-waving you do. But I was invited into the process and I'd begun to work with the locals down there ... And the people, the-- they have a lot of knowledge about how to work.

And they have a lot of fear about what's coming their way. And these guys are working night and day. So I have engaged with the local community, with Billy. And we've also engaged on a higher level with … BP. And the last two days, you know, I've found myself in Washington, you know-- testifying, you know, making people aware that there is … . We're coming to the fight late. But there is something that can add to this fight now, and can actually put things in place so that we never look feeble again, we're able to … combat this at the point of attack.

CHAMPION: So 15 years--


CHAMPION: --if I'm right. And correct if I'm-- if I'm wrong, 15 years--

COSTNER: I think the years are … the years could be wrong a little bit. But I don't, I'm not correcting you, Sam.

CHAMPION: Okay. And am I right with 20-- $24 million?

KEVIN COSTNER: Yeah. I, it's …north of $20 million and … I've said before, that's, that's after taxes. (LAUGH) So imagine how much I had to make to make $24 (million). So when you start adding interest and opportunity cost, it, the number goes a little bit north of that, I would say, by a long shot. But I think if you say over $20 million … I think that gets enough attention.

CHAMPION: It's a big-- it's a big number.


CHAMPION: --everybody's number. It's a big number. And … what have we got? Just tell me a little bit about what it is and what it does.

COSTNER: Well, it, literally … it's an oil separator. It … it separates oil and water at incredibly high speeds under very difficult conditions. So our largest machine separates oil and water at about 200 gallons a minute. I can't do the math. Somebody … somebody on your staff could extrapolate that.

But if we probably wanted to frame it in some kind of analogy that the world could understand, if you took the Exxon Valdez, which was kind of the motivating force for me to go into this technology when I saw everybody standing on the shore with rubber boots and pitch forks trying to clean up the problem that they didn't create, you know, the images of the birds, it was all very, very sad.

So I went ahead and I said, "Does this have to happen?" Created this machine, and … this machine works the same way now as it did ten years ago. If 20 of my V20s would have been at the Exxon Valdez, 90 percent of that oil would have been cleaned up within the week. And the reality is, it would have been used asset because the machine works at such a high efficiency, the oil could have come back to the … oil company. You know, they would have avoided most of their black eye and they would have had most of their precious asset back into their hands.

CHAMPION: So vacuums up--

COSTNER: I realize people go, "Huh? Really?" But that's really it.

CHAMPION: (LAUGH) And-- and that's why-- I think that's why it's so hard to believe that it's not in use but-- right now.


CHAMPION: But … okay. So it vacuums oily water mixture.


CHAMPION: And to--


COSTNER: What we're doing now is vacuuming up oil and water. And now where do we put it? All the skimmers are out there. It's 90 percent water, ten percent gunk, and where do they put it? If-- they're gonna have to go put that out of mind and out of sight.

It's an incredible inefficient system for dealing with the oil. It's just really … is. These machines could actually be on those particular ships, … mixing it, straining it, separating it, so that when those ships actually come back to shore, they don't have 90 percent water. They have almost 99 percent oil in the bottom. That's a more efficient model … .

CHAMPION: It … seems common sense.


CHAMPION: Now-- and I know you've tested it many times. I've read different areas that you've tested. But you ran into a problem trying to get it here because there's a catch 22, as you referred to it.

COSTNER: Well, that's-- it's a catch 22 that I've experienced … . We have tested it. And on all oil spills that were emerging over the last ten or 12 years, I volunteered my equipment, sending it as far away as Japan. But you get out there and what they go, "Well, if it hasn't been tested, we can't take it out. It's-- it's-- the Coast Guard's mandate. Well, if it hasn't been tested."

I said, "But we've been trying to test this." I mean, anybody who could look at it could see that it's kind of a Swiss watch. It's not just kind of a willy-nilly … thing. It took an enormous amount of money to bring this, you know. I mean, I've had scientists and engineers working on this, not me. I'm like a dodo. I've got the real guys working on this, okay?

CHAMPION: You weren't making this in your day time?

COSTNER: No. Aerospace-- Aerospace has signed on with our company. They have the mandate to not let us fail, to not let people put us in the position where we will fail. And if they put us into the toughest spots, which they have, the machine succeeds wildly there, which actually surprised me.

So, you know, we're designed to be a first response, meaning wherever oil comes into water, you drop it off. If your ship was sinking, you'd obviously be looking to a life boat. You'd be looking for your life preserver. You'd be, if somebody was hurt, you'd be looking for a first aid kit.

We've realized over time that we legislate that those things be on boats. If you don't have them, you can be arrested. You can be fined. The same thing should apply where this machine is concerned. Anybody doing business on the ocean where oil could come into contact, they have an obligation to the rest of us around the world who enjoy beaches like this that we know that they're doing something proactive when it's going down. We're just talking about a level of logic here. You know, we're talking about trying to get ahead of the curve. That's all.