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Government opens suggestion box for ideas to deal with oil spill

From Larry Shaughnessy , CNN Pentagon Producer
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Coast Guard responds to complaints that BP is too slow to respond
  • BP says it's getting 5,000 suggestions each day
  • Coast Guard promises a response in less than a day
  • Coast Guard: "There are no wacky ideas"

New London, Connecticut (CNN) -- There's no shortage of oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico and no shortage of ideas on how to deal with it.

BP, which leased the exploded rig that caused the oil leak, has solicited ideas itself, via a phone number listed to submit alternative response technology, services, products or ideas for the oil spill. But after hearing complaints that BP was not responding to solicitations, the government decided to open its own suggestion box.

"There were complaints that come to us that replies hadn't been given back, that suggestions hadn't been responded to in a timely manner," said Capt. Matthew Sisson of the US Coast Guard. "In that sense its time for us to help out."

BP's Mark Proegler told CNN the company is working with the Coast Guard to sort through the ideas that are pouring in.

"We're receiving over 5,000 suggestions a day," Proegler said. BP assesses the ideas along with the Coast Guard and others.

Sisson's regular job is commander of the Coast Guard's Research and Development Center. On top of all his ordinary duties, he has a new number one priority: to oversee the Coast Guard's effort to gather and disseminate ideas about dealing with the oil spill. His office wants to hear from anybody with an idea. It can be an idea for stopping the leak, cleaning up the coastline or saving the oil-covered wildlife.

And they promise a response in less than a day.

For Sisson, it's more than just another duty in his long career in the U.S. Coast Guard.

"I consider New Orleans my home. The Gulf is the most wonderful place in the world to me and I have never seen it like this," Sisson told CNN.

That's why he is adament that there are no bad ideas. "Some idea is out there that someone hasn't seen yet that might be helpful to the cause."

He does admit he doesn't understand some of the ideas he's seen.

"We had a suggestion to use sonic-solar technology to use anti-matter," Sisson said.

So what is that?

"We are looking into it. I couldn't tell you myself," Sisson admits.

Still Sisson makes it clear, "There are no wacky ideas."

After the Coast Guard gets the idea, it figures out which agency might be the best able to analyze the idea to see if it can really help. For example, if someone has an idea for a chemical that can help make the oil harmless, the idea would be sent to the EPA, which overseas any such techniques. Or if someone has an plan for saving oil-covered birds, the idea might be forward to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

As of late this week, the Coast Guard has received more than 400 ideas, mostly through the website www.fbo.gov.

It expects to be fielding calls, emails and website submissions for weeks or months to come.