When Gary Ross heard reports of an oil tanker accident off the coast of Alaska, he picked up the phone.

"I call the pilot of the port of Valdez and basically asked him, 'Can you tell me what's going on?'," the Brooklyn-born founder of Pira Energy says of the Exxon Valdez disaster.

"He said, 'There's so much oil, I've never seen anything like it in my life — miles and miles of oil!'," said Ross, mimicking the panicked voice on the other end of the line.

Ross breaks into a broad grin. "I said, 'Thank you very much'."

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