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Interview with Philippe Cousteau

Aired May 25, 2010 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, diving beneath the Gulf's oil slick waters -- oceanographer Philippe Cousteau discovers what he calls a nightmare -- a toxic combo of crude and chemicals -- one awful aspect of what the White House says is the worst spill in U.S. history.

BP is prepping for another try at stopping the gush of oil.

What if the "top kill" technique doesn't work?

And even if it does, how do we deal with the millions of gallons already spilled?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In this area, everything is dead. There's nothing that can survive in this.


KING: It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening.

I apologize for the way I sound. I'm still fighting off a cold. The cold is winning.

Anyway, it's day 36 of this oil spill disaster. We've seen the huge slick floating on top of the Gulf waters, washing onto the U.S. coastline. We've seen the ruptured well that spawned the slick still gushing about a mile down. And now a shocking snapshot of what's happening in between.

Philippe Cousteau, the chief ocean correspondent for "Planet Green," the grandson of legendary oceanographer, Philippe Cousteau, has gone diving in the Gulf waters and witnessed firsthand what's going on beneath the surface.

Where, exactly, Philippe did you dive?

Where did you go?

PHILIPPE COUSTEAU, CHIEF OCEAN CORRESPONDENT, PLANET GREEN: Well, Larry, yesterday I was out about 20 miles offshore with Sam Champion of "Good Morning America" diving into a very large plume of oil.

KING: And what was your reac -- what did you find?

COUSTEAU: Well, you know, as, you know, Larry, this -- this course of events is developing constantly. And unfortunately, our worst fears were realized. You know, there's a chemical dispersant/oil mixture that is now in the Gulf in huge -- over vast areas of the Gulf. And as we feared, it's not concentrated at the surface.

We got in the water. We were about 15 to 20 feet down and it was dispersed into smaller and smaller particles throughout the water column in these billowing clouds that were just circling us -- encompassing us with this toxic soup. It was very, very alarming.

KING: Nightmare is the word you have used.

Would you stick by that?

COUSTEAU: I would, indeed. This absolutely is a nightmare.

KING: And you said there's a -- there's a cloud of granular oil beneath the surface.

Is the breakup due to the dispersants that they were using or, in a sense, is this just Mother Nature going wild on top of an accident?

COUSTEAU: Well, Larry, I think it's important to start with what we do know. You know, since, in the last 35 days or so, since the oil spill, BP has -- has applied about 800,000 gallons of a dispersant called Corexit, which does break up the oil. It breaks up the oil. It doesn't make the oil go away.

This is a very, very toxic substance that you wouldn't want in your kitchen. We had to wear full HAZMAT gear when we went diving. And this -- we're -- we're spreading this in unprecedented quantities into the Gulf.

On top of that, we have, on the low side, about 5,000 barrels of oil coming out of this. It's not even an oil spill, it's an oil geyser, from a mile beneath the ocean. That means about six million gallons of oil so far. That's on the very low side.

The last time I was on your show, there was a scientist from Purdue that said it could be upwards of 70,000 barrels a day, which is, you know, many, many times -- it could be 50, 60 million gallons of oil that has come out. So it's somewhere in between there.

That's what we do know. And it's not very much.

This is unprecedented. It's happening on an unprecedented scale. And, indeed, this oil is behaving -- like I said, it's our worst fears. It is breaking up into smaller and smaller particles. It's toxic soup and spreading throughout the water column.

KING: Do you see a light at the end of this sea tunnel?

COUSTEAU: There is no silver lining, Larry. There's no -- there's no there light, necessarily, at the end of the tunnel. This is a tragedy -- a catastrophe of epic proportions. This is far worse than Exxon Valdez. I think Carol Browner today talked about it as the worst oil spill in this country's history. And that is absolutely correct.

The problem is we just don't know the extent of the damage. This has never happened like this before. Unlike Exxon Valdez, which was about a million -- excuse me, 11 million gallons, it was confined to the surface. This is a three-dimensional spill with very complex currents in the Gulf of Mexico, spreading this toxic chemical dispersant oil soupy mix throughout the Gulf of Mexico at a critical time for both the ecosystem and the economy.

This is the breeding time. This is when the sea turtles and the fish and all the -- all the creatures in the Gulf are -- are -- are mating. This is nursery time.

Of course, it is also an important time for fishermen and shrimpers and the tourism industry. So this couldn't come at a worse time.

And I think that the scariest part, as I said, this morning on "Good Morning America," is that we just don't know what's going on. This is unprecedented.

KING: What did your diving suit look like when you came up?

COUSTEAU: We had a thin layer of oil and -- and muck that was -- that was covering us. We had to actually be decontaminated -- sprayed down with a soapy substance and scrubbed. Our suits were scrubbed. We, of course, had no flesh that was exposed to the water while we were diving. And this Corexit chemical dispersant can cause nervous system damage. It can cause damage to red blood cells, nausea, vomiting.

And that's with a minimum exposure. Imagine all the creatures in the Gulf of Mexico that are living in this every day. We saw dead fish -- dead jellyfish floating at the surface of these clouds of -- these deep red clouds of oil and -- and chemicals.

KING: You know, but not to put it crudely, is this a very bad bet for them?

COUSTEAU: Most likely. It's not a -- it's not a pretty way to go. You know, the -- I actually just came straight from Grand Isle down in Southern Louisiana, where I was working with scientists from the fishery -- wildlife and fisheries department here in Louisiana. And they're finding sea turtles and birds. We found tar.

My hands are still yellowed today. We found tar along the beaches, into the mangroves. And that's the biggest fear, it's being realized. It's making its way into the marshes, into the mangroves. Once that happens, it's almost impossible to get it out. This is a -- this is a tragedy.

KING: Philippe Cousteau is with us. He'll be back with us in a little while to join a panel to discuss this pressing problem, which will be the subject of our entire show tonight.

By the way, we have some great guests coming up on our anniversary week next week, including a surprise guest. We can't tell you now. It will be announced, I guess, Tuesday. But trust me, you will enjoy this.

No doubt this is an environmental disaster, but is this oil spill turning into a political disaster?

We're going to debate that, next.


KING: Joining us now James Carville, CNN political contributor, Louisiana native and a resident.

And John Hofmeister -- he'll join us in a moment or two -- the former president of Shell Oil; also, founder and CEO of Citizens for Affordable Energy and author of the new book "Why We Hate The Oil Companies."

All right, if we're laying blame here, Mr. Carville, does your man deserve some of it?

Is President Obama -- does the buck stop there?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I mean, clearly -- I think that, as I has said before, I thought the response of the administration has been slow out of the box. It's been a little lethargic. I think they were naive. I think they went along and they believed BP.

They need to kick BP out of the way. I -- I admit that BP has to -- they're got a hole they're trying to fill up. They have the expertise so they're billing (ph) people in.

Everything away from there, they need to move them aside. They can't pay attention. BP lies about everything. They need to open a federal grand jury investigation to see if there was criminal negligence involved in the death of these 11 fine people who worked on this rig, who were killed as a result of this, who get so little attention in our media. There needs to be criminal investigation into the Minerals Management Service to see what they did and were they bought off by these different oil companies.

You know, we've got a lot of -- a lot of questions answered. And I think the president has a chance. He's coming down here Friday. People in Louisiana are very happy that he's coming to see what's going on. He's got to take charge of this thing, though. He's got -- this thing is a -- a -- a disaster of the first magnitude. And this president's got to quit trusting BP and start -- and start taking charge of this matter.

KING: Your wife, Mary Matalin, was on Campbell Brown earlier. And she said this is really not a political argument, Obama shouldn't get the blame that, that this is a tragedy of immense proportions. Would you agree?

CARVILLE: Yes. And I think my wife is like everybody down here, she -- she's very upset about this. She -- she's been down there. She's -- actually, I'm going down with her and the governor and Anderson Cooper of our network. We're going down tomorrow to get more of a firsthand look at what's going on here.

And I think people want to -- down here, they want to do something. They want to -- they want -- they want to try to deal with this thing in the best kind of way they can. And they want the president down here. They want the president to know what's going on. There's a sense here that, you know, people haven't -- haven't caught on fast enough to the magnitude of this disaster. And I -- I think now that the president has -- I think some of his advisers have not served him well. I think people need to get fired over this. I...

KING: All right.

CARVILLE: I don't think it -- I think that's the way you demonstrate some -- some sensitivity here.

KING: John Hofmeister is in New York, the former president of Shell Oil, founder and CEO of Citizens for Affordable Energy and the author of the book "Why We Hate The Oil Companies."

John, is this an example -- is BP an example of why we hate the oil companies?

JOHN HOFMEISTER, FORMER PRESIDENT, SHELL OIL COMPANY: Well, I think that there are certain issues that have to be dealt with in a larger context. I think the industry as a whole has done a horrible job, over many decades, of telling its story. Nobody is talking about the 35,000 wells that were safely drilled in the Gulf of Mexico. We have to get to the bottom of what happened here.

Is this a systemic problem or is this a case of some individuals who made horrible judgments that went terribly wrong?

And let's understand what really happened, even while we have to clean up this horrific mess.

KING: But it does, does it not, John, hurt the whole industry?

HOFMEISTER: It absolutely does. And I have to ask the question, Larry, this is fundamental -- why is the industry pushed into the deep water 5,000, 10,000 feet of risk that they're taking for Americans, when there's oil onshore, there's oil in the shallow water that the industry is not allowed to pursue?

Tomorrow, we will consume 20 million barrels of oil in this country. A lot of it is coming from foreign nations and deep water. We will not tolerate, as a country, drilling in shallow water, which puts us into this horrific risk. If this was a shallow well, this would have been -- this blowout would have been stifled weeks ago.

CARVILLE: I didn't hear this...


CARVILLE: I didn't hear this gentleman right. You're telling me you drill 35,000 wells and you have a blowout like this and we're supposed to salute you?

I don't think so.

HOFMEISTER: No. I'm saying...

CARVILLE: That's not...

HOFMEISTER: -- let's get to the...

CARVILLE: That's not the way the (INAUDIBLE) works, man.

HOFMEISTER: Let's get to the bottom...

CARVILLE: -- (INAUDIBLE) the CEO. That's not the way the rule works.

KING: One at a time.

HOFMEISTER: Let's get to the bottom of...

KING: One at a time.

CARVILLE: This is a massive environmental disaster -- a massive environmental disaster.

HOFMEISTER: I think we need to get to the bottom of what happened...


HOFMEISTER: -- in this case.

KING: What about -- James, hold it.

What about his point about offshore drilling, that we should drill closer in?

CARVILLE: The idea that they're being forced to do this, this is an unbelievably productive field out there. They assured everybody. BP assured everybody there was no chance that this could happen.

I'm not against the oil companies. I have stock in oil companies. My family works for them. But this is corporate irresponsibility and greed of the first magnitude. It cannot be excused. It has to be prosecuted. We've got to get to the bottom of this.

But you don't get to drill 35,000 good ones and one bad one. The one bad one has ruined the Gulf of Mexico.

KING: John, what blame do you put...

CARVILLE: And people down here are livid about that.

KING: John, what blame do you put on BP?

HOFMEISTER: Well, at this point, they're the operator in prime. All the blame goes to BP. The ultimate accountability for this project is BP's.

I have experience in what is going on in a crisis. The crisis has to go forward to solve the immediate problem. The well has got to be shut in. Nobody is in a better position to do it than the people who engineered the well in the first place. Something went badly wrong. And it is inexcusable that it went so badly wrong.

My point is we will consume 20 million barrels of oil tomorrow. We have no alternative. We have to drill our domestic oil unless we're going to be completely in debt to people that don't like us.

The spill is a tragedy. It's got to be cleaned up to the best extent possible. I think they're doing a horrible job -- the government and BP are doing a horrible job of managing the cleanup. I've been suggesting for weeks, what about supertankers on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico to suck up this pollution as soon as it hits the surface.

I haven't heard anything.

CARVILLE: I completely agree.

HOFMEISTER: And I don't know why.

CARVILLE: I -- I thank this gentleman and I completely agree. In -- there are some talks, sir -- and maybe you can address this. What people are saying is, is that these tankers are sitting there full with the oil waiting for the oil price to go up.

Now, I don't -- I hope that that's not true. But there are people that say they did this in Saudi -- I think it was in Saudi Arabia, cleaned up 85 percent of it. And people like you that have experience.

I'm not -- understand, I -- I know we've got to drill for the oil. I'm not an anti-oil company to that extent. But I don't trust these people at all.

KING: OK, let me...

CARVILLE: I don't trust (INAUDIBLE)...

KING: Let me get a break.

All right, hold it.

We'll be right back with James Carville and John Hofmeister, the former president of Shell Oil. What happens if this keeps going like until August?

Could this be Obama's Katrina?

Is he going to get the total?

Stay with us.

We'll be right back.


KING: John Hofmeister -- excuse me -- what happens if the latest try doesn't work?

HOFMEISTER: Well, then you move on to the next try. And you keep moving on. There are several different alternatives. The "top kill" is the next best attempt. The junk shot is an attempt after that. I suspect there are even additional efforts that could perhaps put a new BOP on top of the existing BOP to try to shut it off that way.

There are a number of -- of possibilities for a temporary cessation of the flow. The real solution is the relief well and that drilling is continuing day by day.

KING: James, there's a new report that federal inspectors overseeing the oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico accepted company gifts from the companies that they were supposed to be monitoring.

Are we going to have a total investigation when this ends?

CARVILLE: Two words -- grand jury. Federal criminal investigation. This story today was unbelievable. And -- and talking about letting the -- letting the oil companies fill out in pencil the forms. And then they come in over and writing over in pen. And this is the kind of thing -- and, you know, if want to have -- and we have to have -- I'm -- I'm with -- we have to have offshore drilling. And we have -- and believe you me, as long as we're cranking our cars up, we need oil. I'm all for alternative energy, but you're not going to do that overnight.

We have to have a regulatory process that people have trust in. Everything has to be looked at and we have got to get to the bottom of this and the bottom of this pronto. And if laws were broken, the United States needs to see people in shackles going to jail.

KING: John, do you think this could be...

CARVILLE: And that's -- that's what's going to restore...

KING: John, do you think...

CARVILLE: -- confidence in this process.

KING: John, do you think this could be another Katrina for the president?

HOFMEISTER: Well, first of all, I agree...


HOFMEISTER: I agree that whatever allegations are being made should be investigated and appropriate punishments should be forthcoming. Under no circumstances should an employee of a company be in bed with or be in cahoots with a regulator. There are two contradictory forces for good reasons.

I don't think this will be the president's Katrina. I think Katrina was such -- I lived through it. It was such a debacle, such devastation, such human life that was lost, such bureaucratic ineptness in which basically no one cared. And then Governor Blanco calls me up after Katrina saying, I just got a bill for a billion dollars from FEMA, what am I supposed to do with it?

I said, send it back. Katrina was a complete unmitigated disaster of the worst proportions. This is an environmental disaster of the worst proportions. And we've got to find the ways to clean it up.

CARVILLE: Yes. You know, this could be a great success for the president. I was critical of the president. But this president could come down here and people want the president to see this. He can take charge of this. He can hold people's feet to the fire. He can marshal resources. He can heal people's feelings. We can explain to the nation what went on. And he can do that. But -- but he's been -- he's been misled by advisers. He needs to fire some people and there needs to be accountability.

This gentleman (INAUDIBLE), he ran a major corporation. When you have a screw up of this magnitude, somebody's head has to roll. And somebody -- and he needs to find out what went wrong, fire people and get people in. This could be, to him, one of the great moments of his presidency if he seizes it. If he comes to it and he's detached and he lets BP run the cleanup, it's going to be --it will be Katrina. It will be worse than Katrina.

KING: We shall stay right on top of this story.

Thank you both very much.

HOFMEISTER: Thank you.

KING: James Carville, John Hofmeister.

Actor and environmental activist Ted Danson and deadliest captain -- "Deadliest Catch" captain, Keith Colburn, will join the discussion next.


KING: Back with us, Philippe Cousteau. And now joining us, Ted Danson, the Emmy-winning actor and long time environmental activist. He serves on the board of directors of Oceana, a non-profit organization focused on ocean conservation.

And Captain Keith Colburn, who can be seen on Discovery Channel's "Deadliest Catch." He is captain of the commercial fishing vessel The Wizard and is national spokesman for the Coast Guard's Boating Responsibility Initiative.

All right, Ted, is -- is this going to get worse?

TED DANSON, ACTIVIST AND ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST: I -- I have no idea. I mean it certainly appears that it's getting worse, you know, every moment, every day. My -- my thought is that -- and I'm glad that James reminded us 11 people died. And the footage that Philippe showed us, you know, the devastation of what's happening is heartbreaking.

And I also heard David Gergen talk about we need to focus on now, not the future. And my only disagreement with that is two months from now, Shell is scheduled to drill two wells in the Arctic Ocean. This could happen again. Accidents happen. We've just proven that.

And my position and the position at Oceana is no more ocean drilling. You know, we -- this -- we had a 26 year moratorium on offshore oil drilling for a reason. And then drill, baby drill came along. And for all the wrong kind of cynical reasons, to say that we will get ourselves off foreign oil, when we only have 5 percent of the world's oil underneath us and we use 20 percent. You will never drill your way out of dependency on foreign oil.

KING: All right. Captain Colburn, what's your read on all of this?

And you -- you were -- you were involved in the Exxon Valdez disaster.

You saw all of that firsthand, right?

KEITH COLBURN, CAPTAIN ON DISCOVERY'S "DEADLIEST CATCH": Yes, well, you know, working as a fisherman up in Alaska, the, you know, Exxon Valdez disaster actually impacted all fishermen in the State of Alaska. You know, public perception at the time was that all of our fisheries were tainted. And, you know, I just want, you know, the American consumer to know that even though this spill has occurred, it is a catastrophe and it is growing by the day, you know, to still get out there and support a lot of these guys that are fishing in areas that are unaffected.

But, you know, with that being said, you know, the previous spokesman there hit it right. You know, the Arctic is covered in ice in the winter and the Gulf is not. So to try to drill and explore up in the Arctic poses many more risks than drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

KING: All right, Philippe, the hurricane season is a couple of weeks away.

What are the possible implications -- and some are forecasting a big hurricane year, if that happens?

COUSTEAU: Well, you know, this is enough of a disaster as it stands right now. If a hurricane comes and brings that oil potentially into -- further into the wetlands and marshes -- 40 percent of the wetlands in the lower 48 states in this country exist on the coast of Louisiana.

And I want to take issue with what John said earlier with respect to this only being an environmental disaster. It's a great deal more than that. It's also an economic disaster. I saw it in the looks on the faces of the fishermen and the scientists and the people that make their living along the coast, the tears in their eyes over the last few weeks, terrified that their way of life, that the economy here in Louisiana and along the Gulf, other Gulf states will be tremendously affected.

I've been talking daily with scientists from Ocean Conservancy, and we're not only concerned about the ecological disaster, but the financial disaster. If a Katrina comes along, it's only going to make it a lot, a lot worse. I do want to say that just over a year ago, Ted, if you remember, we were testifying on this issue on the Hill, and warning people that this could happen. And indeed, it's here. It has. And if we continue to drill and drill in the Arctic, it's going to be potentially a lot worse.

KING: Speaking of that, Ted, what is the government's role in this? What is the responsibility of the administration?

DANSON: Well, I'm a one-note here tonight, which is do not open up offshore oil drilling. Reinstate the moratorium or just plain old say no more offshore oil drilling, period. I mean that is the role that they need to perform right now. Clearly everything James Carville said is accurate as far as what the president should be doing and what the administration should be doing and how you investigate all of that.

But on top of that, you know, you have the biggest, most horrible example of what happens when something goes wrong. Accidents do happen, period. So stop this, because it's not doing what they say. You're not creating more jobs. In a time when jobs are so important, you create three times the amount of jobs by putting in wind power and solar, three times the amount of jobs. So to say we need to drill on our offshore to create jobs is wrong. And it's not going to change the price at the pump, maybe a penny or two, because BP does not sell all of its oil to us. It's a world market.

KING: Keith, I know you've been talking to fishermen in the Gulf. What are they telling you?

COLBURN: Well, actually one of my crewmen was down in Biloxi here just this last weekend. He said that the fleet is tied up. And they're terrified. One of the things that happened with the Valdez Spill is that initially fishermen were able to supplement their incomes because they worked during the course of the cleanup and the spill phase, in the first year that the Valdez went on the rocks. So they didn't lose revenue in year one.

But the years after that were devastating to them. You know, and Philippe was correct. This isn't just about the fishermen and the fisheries. This is about the entire -- not only the ecosystem, but everything that the Gulf represents, you know. Right now, two weeks ago, we were told that the worst case scenario was 18 million gallons. And that would eclipse the Valdez spill by about seven million gallons.

Today, we're hearing that 18 million gallons is the best case scenario. Eleven million gallons covered 1,300 miles of coastline in Alaska in a basically -- in Prince William Sound, which was enclosed. The possibility of this spill expanding and slowly covering the entire Gulf and Florida is not just a mythical potential. It is a reality. And it could have lasting affects that could last generations for a lot of the fishermen well beyond this generation into the next.

KING: They're going to try top kill tomorrow. Bill Nye, the Science Guy, is going to tell us what this is and whether he thinks it will work. The panel remains. Don't go with us. Don't leave us.


KING: What you see now is a live shot of the oil spill. Look at that. Joining us now -- the panel remains -- is Bill Nye, the Science Guy, scientist, engineer, inventor, Emmy winning television personality.

OK, the top kill maneuver, they're going to try that tomorrow. Without being too scientifically technical, what is top kill?

BILL NYE, THE SCIENCE GUY: So the idea is to shut the thing off from the top instead of the bottom. So there is this material called drilling mud. And drilling mud is an old industry term, but it's actually very sophisticated material. It's -- instead of running like oil, or maple syrup, the faster you try to move it, the more its tendency to stop flowing.

If you remember those commercials for antifreeze, where they would punch holes in the radiator -- this material is called dilatant. So the idea is to pump this from the bottom up. So you have this blowout preventer, BOP, and they cut some lines and they polish some flanges, all with remotely operated vehicles, like a video game, and they attach these lines and they're going to run drilling mud --

KING: From the top?

NYE: From top side, up backwards through the blowout preventer. And the weight of it and this locking up the molecules, sort of a molecular Judo, should fight the pressure of the oil and plug it long enough to pour cement on top and shut the thing off.

KING: Why isn't it called under kill?

NYE: Well, you're the top of the well. If we were out in West Texas, it's on top of the well.

KING: Do you think it will work?

NYE: I think it will work.

KING: You do?

NYE: Yeah. Now the unanticipated thing that happened with the dome was this formation of clathrates, these methane, natural gas and water ice, very sophisticated -- complicated molecules. They didn't anticipate that and it plugged up the flow. There could be something like that with these cold temperatures and very deep depths and very high pressure, 6,800 psi. You would need at least 400 tons of force to stop this thing, at least. And that should be possible. But stuff goes wrong when the forces are that high.

KING: Philippe, I know you're an oceanographer, you're not in the science general field. Do you think it's going to work tomorrow?

COUSTEAU: Well, the CEO of BP put it at a 60 to 70 percent chance that it will be successful. You know, I think that -- I certainly hope it will be successful. But I think one of the challenges we have to remember and we have to keep holding people's feet to the fire is even if they do shut the oil off tomorrow, there is -- you know, at the very minimum, six million gallons. We pretty much established that is probably too low. Well over 10 million, and possibly 18 million or more gallons of oil that have already gone into the Gulf of Mexico.

This is best case scenario we stop the oil tomorrow. But even if we do, this is a catastrophe that is unparalleled in this country. And we need to keep our eye on it because it's going to continue having an affect for decades.

KING: Ted, do you think it's going to work?

DANSON: I certainly hope so. And once again, I just have to say I hear people say of course we need to drill; I'm not against drilling in the ocean. I am. It is absolutely wrong to be there. For 26 years, we stopped any new ocean drilling.

And the world is leaving us behind, Larry. They are already into wind power and they're creating -- China is going full bore on creating the equipment to do this. And we will be left behind, you know.

KING: Captain Keith, do you think top kill will work?

COLBURN: Well, we can only hope that it's going to work. You know, I'm a little disappointed that, you know, the big cement box, and now we're working on top kill, are the options that we're using to try to plug this. In 1990, after the Oil Protection Act was enacted, there was supposed to be safeguards put in place, not only for prevention, but also for spill response. And I think what we're seeing over 20 years later is that obviously we're not putting enough money into basically capping these wells. And we're putting all our money into tapping these wells. And that needs to end.

KING: Do you agree, Bill?

NYE: What I would say is it is lack of regulation. Yes, these blowout preventers, these very high-powered rams, two valves to close the flow, shut it off. One of them is so strong -- how strong is it -- it's so strong you can cut through the hard steel of the drill string, of the line of rods that would drive the drill bit and other stuff down the casing. But those things didn't have enough energy, both in the batteries and in these sort of very large pressure tanks, kind of like scuba tanks, by long tradition called accumulators. There is not high enough pressure.

KING: Philippe, did your father and grandfather -- did they ever offer thoughts on offshore drilling?

COUSTEAU: You know, offshore drilling -- my father passed away about 30 years ago. My grandfather in the late 90s, in 1997. And we weren't drilling this deep back then. Most of the time, certainly this deep, we didn't have that technology.

I think, though, that the issue here is that we shouldn't be here in the first place. If the oil companies were spending as much money to prepare for disasters as opposed to lobbying against being required to prepare for disasters, this probably wouldn't have happened. And I think that -- I know the oil industry brings thousands and thousands of jobs here to the Gulf of Mexico. And now it's being proven that it's destroying thousands and thousands of jobs.

And I agree with Ted wholeheartedly. The solution is not to continue drilling for oil. The solution is to begin to invest in renewable sources of energy providing more jobs, cleaner air, a healthier country and a stronger economy for this country.

KING: What do you do, Ted, while you're investing, though, with the demand in this country for oil and car use? What do you do?

DANSON: All I'm saying is no more new oil rigs in the ocean. I'm not saying, you know, pick up the 35,000 that are in the Gulf. I'm just saying no more. What you do is invest in the future. You create more jobs. Other countries are doing it. Just no more. Why -- we don't want to be here from two months now having the same conversation and going shoot, why didn't we think of that, no more ocean drilling.

KING: Keith, you agree?

COLBURN: I do agree with both Ted and Philippe. But ultimately we're not going to just turn the corner one day and start relying on wind power. You know, we're still going to be harvesting or basically drilling for oil. And I think ultimately right now what we need to have is better oversight. We also need to have a lot more finance dedicated towards spill prevention. And that would be the first logical step.

KING: Well said. We'll be right back with more. Don't go away. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Bill Nye, will we know fairly early if Top Kill is working?

NYE: I think so. You'll know if it works. If it's not working, it may take a long time, because what could happen, this drilling fluid, this mud could still allow some flow. In other words, it won't lock up its molecules as effectively as everybody hopes, and it's still flowing at some fraction that it's already doing. But if it works, it will --

KING: Philippe, the people working there, you've talked to them, been around them, what are they going through?

COUSTEAU: Larry, I have to tell you, I've seen grown men break down, scientists, fishermen. It's not just people that directly work on the Gulf. I think that's important to remember. I was in mobile, Alabama, a week or so ago, visiting with some folks. You know, the small mom and pop shops, the grocery stores, the bait and tackle shops. It's going all the way up the economy, the restaurants along the coast. This is having a massive impact on tens of thousands of people, if not hundreds of thousands of people along the Gulf Coast.

And they are terrified. There is a lot of talk. I heard it again today and fear. Something like Katrina hit this state very, very hard. But it was a limited amount of time and people could get around to fixing it. There is a lot of fear that this is going to be worse than Katrina.

KING: It's time now to take -- we'll be right back with the panel. It's time now to take a look at another top moment in LARRY KING LIVE history. It's hard to believe this happened almost one year ago, the death of pop superstar Michael Jackson. Watch.


KING: That ranks with the shock of Presley. Young people dying don't make sense. Icons don't die. They can die in their 80s. Not that young.


KING: The tapes of the rehearsal, I mean, he looks so alive and with it. We've learned a lot about what a nice person he was, how kind he was to people.

This is one small part of this whole picture.

GERMAINE JACKSON, BROTHER OF MICHAEL JACKSON: Yes. We're mourning because this is the most incredible human being there will ever be.

KING: I had no idea what it was like, how gorgeous it is, beautiful rolling hills. Germaine is interesting of the Jackson brothers. He's the most outward. They end to be shy and inward. Germaine is not inward.

G. JACKSON: I saw him laying in the room. He was lifeless, breathless. Why did you go? Why did you leave? I wish it was me there instead of him.

KING: I was very sad. Then I went to the memorial service. That was an incredible day. The coffin was right there in front of us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Daddy has been the best father you can ever imagine.

KING: It was special. It was a tribute.


KING: You can pick your top five moments at We're counting down beginning next Monday, May 31st, our silver anniversary week at CNN. You can vote however many times you want. Voting ends Sunday, May 30th. And enter the sweepstakes for a chance to come here, meet me, watch the show, we'll even have dinner.

Next week is going to be huge, Lady Gaga, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, a major surprise. Just a few of the big names for a anniversary week, starting Monday. We'll be right back.



KING: Let's take a call. Philadelphia, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry. my concern is that I think BP is contaminating the Gulf on two levels. One is the oil, but the other is dispersants that they're pouring in. And the EPA asked them to lessen the amount or switch, and they openly defied them and have not done that. And they're using a chemical that is actually banned in Britain, and cannot be used as a dispersant.

I'm wondering by BP has been allowed to defy the government's wish that this dispersant -- in my opinion, it's a second form of poisoning of the Gulf.

KING: Let's go around the panel. Philippe, why?

COUSTEAU: I think that's a very good question. I've spoken with folks from the EPA, who also expressed frustration. I know that Lisa Jackson, the administrator, is terrible concerned about this issue and that they're doing everything they can to try and make this right. Again, I think the real question needs to be how are we in this position in the first place? Even if we do cap this spill tomorrow, this nightmare has only just begun.

I see it. I spend a lot of time with young people. And I see it on their face, the persecution. History will not judge us for what we've done, but what we learn from it, Larry. If it's any indication, I think history will judge us harshly.

KING: Bill, is the caller right?

NYE: Yeah, apparently. I think it came from -- if I may, I'm speculating -- a Groupthink at BP. They said it was 5,000 barrels a day. A very reasonable calculation showed it to be 70,000 barrels a day. If I may that small, the dispersant might have been OK. But at the volumes they're using to try to counteract this oil spill that is much, much bigger than they first acknowledged, you end up with the lesser of two evils actually being pretty bad.

KING: Ted, can you say you're pessimistic about these things?

DANSON: I'm always hopeful. I'm hopeful that we learn. I'm hopeful that we correct our mistakes. But once oil hits water, it's a lose-lose. You're not going to clean this up to anybody's satisfaction, impossible.

KING: Captain Colburn, what's your attitude? Optimistic, pessimistic, what?

COLBURN: First answer to the caller's question. On the wizard, it's an industrial fishing boat. It's illegal for us to use dispersants. We have damage control kits, but we are not allowed to use dispersants because they are so toxic. One can only hope top kill is going to work, but at the end of the day, even if that does work, we can't lose track of the fact there's already a massive spill out there and containment is the priority as well as also capping this thing.

I brought along a little souvenir, Larry. This is from a year ago. Basically, these are rocks collected right outside of where the spill in Valdez was. This is 20 years later. As you can tell, they're still completely covered in oil. They're nasty. And they were 6 inches below the water line. The spill needs to be contained. And if it's not contained, all that marsh land is just going to be, as Philippe said earlier, just toxic soup and the Gulf may never recover.

KING: We only have 30 seconds. Where are you, Bill, optimistic, pessimistic?

NYE: I'm in between. These engineers are doing the right thing. They're being kept in isolation, I think, so people don't disturb them. They had to work very hard to modify this old gizmo to run it backwards, to try to seal the well. If there's another unanticipated thing -- my big problem is this industry is huge and not regulated enough. This is the first of this kind of problem.

KING: We thank our panel, Philippe Cousteau, Ted Danson, Captain Keith Colburn and Bill Nye.

The disaster now unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico began with the deaths of 11 men and the fiery collapse of a drilling rig on April 20th. Those men, fathers, sons, husbands, brothers were remembered earlier today at an emotional ceremony at Jackson, Mississippi. An engraved ship's bell was rung 11 times to mark each man's death. Banners with their images decorating the complex where the gathering was held. Despite an intense search effort, none of the men's bodies have been recovered.

Today's somber event was organized by Transocean, owner of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that exploded 36 days ago.

Anderson Cooper and "AC 360" starts right now.