Junk shot draws ridicule for low-tech approach

Tensions are running high during the House hearing today on the Deepwater Horizon disaster, but that hasn’t stopped a few moments of levity — and plenty of jokes — directed at the “junk shot” technique BP is considering to plug the oil gushing from a well a mile below the Gulf of Mexico.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have questioned why an industry that spends billions developing state-of-the-art technology is being forced to rely on an injection of golf balls, shredded tires and pieces of rope to stop the gusher. Under the plan — also called a “top kill,” BP would shoot a mixture of debris — under very high pressure — directly into a blowout preventer that has failed to close off pipe at the wellhead.
“It is a technique that has been used industry wide,” but never in deepwater, BP America Chairman Lamar McKay told a House Energy and Commerce investigations subcommittee today.
Golf balls are the most frequently mentioned component of the mixture that BP executive, Dave Nagel, has less colorfully required to as “a coagulant.”
“When we heard the best minds were on the case, we expected MIT — not the PGA,” quipped Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass. “We already have one hole in the ground, and now their solution is to shoot a hole in one?”
“Right now, by their own admission, BP is largely making it up as they go,” Markey added. “They are engaging in a series of elaborate and risky science experiments at the bottom of the ocean.”
Markey is known for his one-liners and pithy observations. But he’s had plenty of company today in picking on the junk shot.
“It strikes me as odd that with all the technology we’ve had, golf balls are our best hope,” said Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich.
Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., said that when he first heard the term, he was incredulous. “I asked my staff if that was really true,” Doyle said. Shouldn’t the energy industry have more resources and better technology “than golf balls and tires?”