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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Obama Defends Handling of Gulf Oil Spill

Aired May 27, 2010 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: My thanks to both of those gentlemen. That's it for now. Thank you so much for being with us.

"LARRY KING LIVE" starts now. He's going to be taking you through these developments as well. Here now, Larry King.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LARRY KING, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, President Obama defends his handling of the most catastrophic oil spill in U.S. history, but admits a major mistake.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Where I was wrong was in my belief that the oil companies had their act together when it came to worst-case scenarios.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Meantime, what's going on with that critical top kill effort to plug up the Gulf gusher? We'll have all the latest.

And then legendary oilman T. Boone Pickens joins us. How does he rate the president's response to this disaster, and what would he do if he were running it?

It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Good evening, let's get right to the latest with CNN's Ed Lavandera, who is in New Orleans tonight.

OK, Ed, what's the latest on top kill?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the top kill process is continuing. B.P. executives say it will take another 24 to 48 hours to really determine whether or not they will be successful in killing this well. But it's been a rather interesting day on that front, and a lot of confusion as to exactly what was happening. A lot of high- ranking officials kind of left everyone with the impression, today, that that drilling mud was continuing to be piped into the oil well. And if you've been noticing live pictures from below the surface of the water in the Gulf of Mexico, the color of what's been coming out of those pipes has changed dramatically, much more brown. What we're being told now is that a lot of that is the drilling mud that had been sent in there and now coming back up.

But they had suspended pumping mud into the oil well, even though other people were saying that it was continuing to happen -- some high-ranking officials. B.P. executives say that was always part of the plan, that they needed to stop and take some pressure tests and do some analysis to make sure everything was working correctly. But a B.P. executive late tonight also told CNN's John King that they need to do a better job of communicating exactly what they're doing.

KING: So, Ed, this was not a one-day thing?

LAVANDERA: No, it's going to take -- it's going to take a while. It's a very difficult process, Larry. And as you've heard us mention time and time again, this is really a very intense moment. So, that's why a lot of the cautiousness.

But we're looking at probably another 24 to 48 hours before we know for sure.

KING: Thanks, Ed. Ed Lavandera in New Orleans.

Today's presidential news conference was Mr. Obama's first since the oil rig explosion that triggered this disaster 38 days ago. He defended his administration's handling of the crisis and sought to underscore his own priority involvement.

Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: My job is to get this fixed. And in case anybody wonders -- in any of your reporting in case you're wondering who's responsible, I take responsibility. It is my job to make sure that everything is done to shut this down.

That doesn't mean it's going to be easy. It doesn't mean it's going to happen right away or the way I'd like it to happen. It doesn't mean that we're not going to make mistakes. But there shouldn't be any confusion here: The federal government is fully engaged.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Let's go to Ed Henry, our CNN senior White House correspondent, also on the scene in New Orleans.

How much pressure is the White House feeling on this?

ED HENRY, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Larry, intense pressure. In fact, I'm told that over the last 24 to 48 hours, people inside the White House have gotten very nervous about rumblings they're hearing from Democrats on Capitol Hill that if this latest procedure doesn't work, there's really going to be a groundswell of criticism from fellow Democrats saying they -- the president should have been much more hands-on earlier and that the government is going to have to take on a much larger role.

I think that's in part why the president was so aggressive in the sound you played to say, look, I take responsibility, we're all over this.

Now, never mind that that's a bit of a contradiction from just a few days ago when White House aides were insisting to us again and again that the government was not in control, that B.P. was in control and the government was just the overseer.

But I think the bottom line is, right now, the White House is not looking for consistency, necessarily. They're look to project an image of command and control -- that the commander-in-chief is now in control of this regardless of B.P.'s financial responsibility. And that's why the president is coming back to this region tomorrow for a second time. They realize that this has become a huge political liability and he's got to get ahead of it finally, Larry.

KING: And, Ed, you're there a day ahead of him. What's expected tomorrow?

HENRY: Tomorrow, he is going to get an up close look on Grand Isle beach of the utter devastation, wildlife, to the beach, et cetera. The he's going to get a top-level briefing from the Coast Guard, other federal officials, but also the governors from the region, some of them will be here as well.

Then we expect the president to make a statement. Again, this is all about him trying to project that image that he's in control. They've had hard time convincing the American people of that. So, he gets another crack at it here on the scene. And so, that's what he's going it be doing tomorrow, making that statement in the middle of the day to try to project that he's finally in control.

KING: That was Ed Henry.

Let's stay in New Orleans and go to Rob Marciano, CNN news and weather anchor. He's been out on the Gulf, experienced the mess firsthand.

Anything getting better?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Oh, not from this angle, that's for sure. You know, yesterday, we were out in the Gulf. We realized how expansive that oil slick is and how much of that oil on top of the surface of the Gulf will be killing animals in that Gulf -- most of whom won't be accounted for because they'll just sink to the bottom.

So, we got curious about the numbers of the birds and the marine animals that could be accounted for inland and even there there's a bit of a lack of transparency from the JIC.

But here are some of the numbers: Birds that have been -- have died since the spill, 437. Turtles, 212. Dolphins, 24.

Now, most of those can't directly be attributed to the oil spill, but a lot of those animals have been taken -- some of their tissues have been taken for samples and sent off for testing. But we're still waiting for those tests to come back. So, nobody is really saying when that's going to happen. It does take some time, but typically, we should see something by now and so far we haven't seen much.

So, the lack of transparency, Larry, even on the wildlife front, has been a rather frustrating for residents here and environmental groups, alike, for sure.

KING: Rob, earlier the reports are this will be a busy hurricane season -- busier than usual. What will that mean for this region?

MARCIANO: Well, clearly if we get a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico, one that pushes the oil on shore, that's not necessarily a good thing. Oil is a complicated thing when it comes to hurricanes. It makes it more difficult for a hurricane to develop right over an oil spill because you need that water to evaporate. But what it does in the Gulf, it actually will heat up that water faster because the oil is black and brown, it makes it hotter, and it doesn't allow for evaporation, it also doesn't allow it to cool. So, the water in the Gulf will get warmer.

But the key here, Larry, is what's going on in the Atlantic. Water temperatures in the Atlantic right now are warmer than they've ever been. So, that's one of the key reasons why we think there's going to be a very, very active hurricane season -- could be on par with 2005. I don't necessarily want to say that, but that could be a fact.

And the folks here across southeast Louisiana know well -- too well what happened in 2005. They don't need another Hurricane Katrina, certainly now with all that oil out there in the Gulf.

KING: Thanks, Ed Lavandera, Ed Henry, and Rob Marciano.

James Carville and former Shell Oil president, John Hofmeister, are back and they're going to weigh in on what the president had to say. And I think they'll disagree with each other -- next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Joining us now is James Carville, CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist, and a New Orleans resident, who recently went out for a firsthand look at the impact of the oil spill. And also returning, John Hofmeister, former president of Shell Oil, founder and CEO of Citizens for Affordable Energy and author of the book, "Why We Hate the Oil Companies."

John, I wanted to ask you, this 16 hour -- oh, let's first get to the president. What he said today. He insisted that he's fully engaged taking full responsibility for shutting the leak down. Listen to that, and then I'll ask John a question.

Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The day that the rig collapsed and fell to the bottom of the ocean, I had my team in the Oval Office that first day. Those who think that we were either slow on our response or lacked urgency don't know the facts. This has been our highest priority since this crisis occurred. Personally, I'm briefed every day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: John, I wanted to ask you. This 16-hour stop-down in the top kill procedure, is that normal?

JOHN HOFMEISTER, FOUNDER, CITIZENS FOR AFFORDABLE ENERGY: Well, it's hard to tell, and I don't have access to the direct insider view on this. But they could be wanting to run some tests to let it settle for a bit to see if any good is taking place. So they need a quiet time to run the tests and to see what's happening. Beyond that, I don't know what might be behind it, Larry.

KING: James, the president's visit to the area tomorrow, is that morale building, is it P.R.? It doesn't stop the oil from leaking, does it?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, no, but -- it's both. I'm sure that he's coming down here, to boost (ph) morale. People want the president to be here. They want him to see.

I think that the president needs to go on these marshlands and needs to see, you know, what's really going on. My great fear is -- you know, when I was in the Marine Corps, they told us they had green spray paint and told us to go spray the grass. And we said, well, why are we doing this? They said, because the commandant is coming. We just go and put the green paint on the grass, so that the commandant didn't know they had brown grass at Camp Pendleton.

He goes -- he's going to go to Grand Isle, and they got to have people in hazmat suits and there's going to be all kinds of activity. And he's got to go where, you know, B.P. knows he's coming. It's going to be some kind of Potemkin village down there.

I'm just afraid -- Grand Isle has been hit hard. Don't get me wrong. That place has got just wonderful people. I spent a lot of time there.

But they get the drift that he's coming, and I hope it's not too staged and that he really spends time with people.

KING: John, is this now the government's job?

HOFMEISTER: Well, I think it's always been the government's job because the way the laws of the sea, the water quality, the protection of marshland, wetlands and so forth -- it's always been the government's job overall. I think B.P., as the operator, has a primary duty and responsibility to do the execution of stopping the flow and supporting the resource requirements of the cleanup.

But the government has a responsibility -- frankly, I went through practice rounds when I was president with the Coast Guard and with the other agencies, practicing for spills just like this.

KING: James, you've been very outspoken --

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: I wish this man would be the president of -- I wish he'd be the president of B.P. because the guy they got there, I got to tell you, he's sitting there talking about this is a minor spill and the chairman of B.P. talking about they're equal to the United States government. So, it would have been a lot better off if this gentleman would have been the president of B.P.

I don't have problem with oil companies. They're part of our culture here. My brother-in-law worked for Exxon.

But I got to tell you -- this is one unimpressive operation. And I hope that other companies realize, you know, what they're doing, and now, we're going to have to stop this drilling in the Gulf and that's going to hurt the supply here.

KING: John, James has been very rough -- John, is this a mistake or a crime?

HOFMEISTER: Well, I think this is a combination of horrible human judgment gone bad. We don't know exactly all the causes yet. There is a right of -- there is a right of due process in the way in which this should be investigated.

But I think the president's decision to stop all drilling was unnecessary. They just inspected all the rigs since the blowout. All the rigs passed inspection. I think it's a panicky decision to shut all drilling down, to label every oil company as though it was the Deepwater Horizon.

I just think that is a mistake and it sends the wrong signal and it sends pink slips to thousands of people who through no fault of their own are doing their job according to government regulations. That is, to me, an extreme decision.

KING: James?

CARVILLE: Larry, you asked -- you asked the single best question in this whole thing. Is it a crime? That is -- and I talked to Professor Hawke (ph) at Tulane Law School, and he believes that they have a significant chance that there were criminal action took place. That's what we need to do.

They need to -- if this president, as I said, he needs to be in charge of this. They need to impanel a ground jury and I mean pronto. And Attorney General Holder, and a fellow by the name of Coles (ph), and I'm told he's a very, very good lawyer -- he now heads the criminal division. We need to see that. And I -- look, again, there's no doubt right now, this country needs the oil out there. And the faster that we find out what happened here and the faster that justice is done, the quicker that we can resume this stuff. And, you know, I don't, you know, think we ought to paint with other people what B.P. did, but this is a terrible, terrible thing that has happened in the Gulf of Mexico. This is a disaster of the first magnitude.

KING: We'll be back with more. T. Boone Pickens still to come.

By the way, next week is our 25th anniversary week at CNN. We've lined up some special guests like Lady Gaga and Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. And two other announcements which we'll give to you early next week of major guests that are coming on during the week. That will be announced early next week.

Back with more after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: John Hofmeister, this would have to be just an impression. Does the president appear angry enough to you?

HOFMEISTER: I think the president is befuddled by how many issues he has to deal with simultaneously. And I think he's trying to pick the course that will give the best impression overall. I think he's willing to offend some of his constituents in order to honor other constituents, which is, "A," it's a political process.

I've written a book of how to get politics out of energy. But it's going to be very difficult to do that because there's so much involved here. We've got to have more oil. Tomorrow, we need 20 million barrels of oil just to get through the day. We've got to keep drilling over the medium term and the long-term. That's what this deep water drilling is all about.

To take a six-minute holiday on that drilling is going to cost consumers at some point along the way and it's going to really raise serious questions about: is a contract a contract? The rigs are under contract for half a million dollars a day, some of them. Who's going to get paid for what?

So, I think there are many implications here. The president's trying to find the needle in the haystack of how to get this thing put together, but I'd much rather see him exercise his command -- if he's going to do a command and control, we ought to get supertankers out there cleaning up the mess instead of letting it wash onshore. I think there are --

KING: All right. James? Sorry. James, do you think the idea of stopping offshore drilling is a bad one?

CARVILLE: Well, you know, I mean, the president -- right now people don't have confidence in it. We don't have confidence in the regulatory process. The MMS was completely bought off. They were out there taking dope on rigs that were being taken by oil companies to football games and God knows whatnot.

So, when you have a collapse of public confidence in a regulatory process and then you have a collapse of public confidence in the ability of oil companies to operate this, as we see with B.P., you know, it's no wonder that the guy feels the pressure to take a break. But we have to have confidence in our regulatory process because I agree we need the oil. I'm not -- I'm not a denier of that.

But the way that, you know, when we have this kind of self- regulation, when you have lax regulators, this kind of thing happens and this is a bad thing for the country. It could cost the price of gas to go up. It's not -- it's not impossible.

HOFMEISTER: I think there are different opinions on whether the regulation was as lax as some people are making it out to be. I can speak from personal experience of regulation that was very tough every day.

CARVILLE: Right. Well, we need to talk to the inspector general in the inspector general report of 2007 and, you know, they need to talk about how these people were taking trips and how oil companies were taking them to football games and that kind of thing.

KING: John, you ran -- you ran Shell Oil. Is there a -- is there a marriage between government and oil?

HOFMEISTER: I never -- if there was, it was a marriage built on, you know, harsh relationships, because I found the government was continuously doing its job. There may have been isolated incidences where individuals went off the reservation, did what they should not have done.

0My experience was being looked at rigorously, looked at continuously, and having to meet the specifications of everything we were doing, which was why we taught our staff to live in a compliance culture and do what they were expected to do and not to treat the government officials as friends, as relatives. They were government officials out there to do their job.

KING: James, doesn't that make you feel a little better?

CARVILLE: Well, it makes me feel better about -- it makes me feel -- about Shell when he was CEO. But there are other operators besides Shell. And, obviously, that culture did not permeate what happened out there. Obviously, the inspector general -- and this was some horrific stuff that they found in here. And that when you -- when you have -- we found out from the banks -- a myth of sort of self-regulation.

And that's just -- that's his point. It's one good. And the CEO -- he should go give seminars to these people about building this sort of culture of compliance.

You know, Walmart, you can't -- you can't even take a cup of coffee from a supplier. That's to be a wall of separation between regulators and people out there regulating. KING: Right. James, thank you.

CARVILLE: I applaud this gentleman for doing it. You bet.

KING: We'll be calling on you again. That's John Hofmeister and James Carville.

The legendary oilman, T. Boone Pickens, is right here. He's going to tell us how he thinks the president's handling this disaster and whether the United States should stop offshore drilling -- all next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Joining us now -- what an appropriate guest for all this -- T. Boone Pickens, the legendary oil man, founder and chairman of B.P. Capital Management. He advocates the Pickens Plan for reducing United States dependence on foreign oil.

Let's get it straight. The B.P. Capital Management is not the B.P. out there in the Gulf?

T. BOONE PICKENS, ADVOCATES REDUCING DEPENDENCE ON FOREIGN OIL: No.

KING: It's your initials, right?

PICKENS: That's my initials, yes.

KING: You've operated in the Gulf. You're in the oil business all your life. What do you make of this?

PICKENS: Oh, 100-year storm is what's happened to them, and I don't know how you prepare for that. Somehow, I don't like the attitude of a lot of people that we panic now. It's not time to panic. Get it fixed.

And we know what the problem is. That's obvious. We lost control of the well.

But don't try to place the blame at this point. I mean, we've tried to get MMS. MMS people are people like you and I are, and you -- you know, you try to -- Transocean, at one point, could have been responsible. They lost 11 guys on that rig. They had an eight-year record of no injuries on that Transocean horizon rig. Those are real professionals working on the floor of that rig.

And then you go to B.P. B.P. is the ultimate -- they are the owner of the well --

KING: But the buck stops with them, doesn't it?

PICKENS: It absolutely does. I mean, the operator is running the job. It doesn't mean Transocean -- they can question them on different decisions that they make. And they do. I mean, there are discussions back and forth between the contractor and the operator. KING: You think we're rushing to judgment?

PICKENS: Oh, I absolutely do. I think -- quit calling these people in. Can you imagine -- say I'm down there with responsibilities to get this fixed, and I'm notified that I have to come in for a hearing. Crazy. You don't pull those people out on that. And so you've got three hearings going on today, two in Washington and one in Louisiana. And leave it alone until we get finished and get it fixed. Then figure out what happened to you.

KING: How about the stopping of offshore drilling?

PICKENS: Oh, shouldn't do it.

KING: Shouldn't stop?

PICKENS: No, he shouldn't stop the offshore drilling. What it's going to do, it's -- we get 1,700,000 barrels a day out of the Gulf; a million four is in the deep water, 300,000 on the shelf. They're not going to shut that down. That's going to go ahead and be produced. But the drilling activity is going to stop.

And you've got wells out there that are -- I know Chevron had one 25,000 feet, and they've got to shut down. Man, that's just not smart to shut a rig -- a well that's drilling, you know, everything's going fine.

KING: The Pickens plan is against all of this, right?

PICKENS: No. No. Listen, I'm all American. I'm for any energy source in America. What I want to get off of is OPEC oil. I am convinced we're paying for both sides of the war. And that is a very, very dangerous supply of oil to the United States. That's what I -- I want to get off that. I don't want to shut down anything in America. And it's -- I'm so focused on this that -- it has to be fixed for this country.

KING: How's the president handling this?

PICKENS: Well, it's -- I don't know. I mean, for him to say that all the decisions are made -- are being made down in Washington, or his staff or something, they're not -- those people don't know anything about this problem. I can certainly see him putting somebody on it 24 hours to watch what's going on, and he continue to be monitored on it, you know, every day by the hour, if he wants to. But this is not close to being over. So we've been at it 38 days, and I think very well you could be here 38 days from now.

KING: What about the top kill project?

PICKENS: Well, a top kill is a long shot.

KING: It is?

PICKENS: Oh, sure it is. I mean, a top kill at 5,000 feet of water, I mean, it's -- I mean, it wasn't even tied into a kill line on the blowout preventer, and they're pumping mud into that. They can't even circulate on that. You can't -- you need to be circulating in the hole and you're just going down --

KING: you don't think it's going to work?

PICKENS: Probably not. And now you're getting ready to do the shot in there that --

KING: Yes.

PICKENS: -- kill shot or whatever it is. And that's -- odds of that working are very low.

KING: Our guest is T. Boone Pickens, a living legend. We'll be right back with him. It's time now for another top moment in LARRY KING LIVE history. Tonight, President Obama may be defending his administration against critics over the oil spill. But just 16 months ago he united the country with his historic inauguration. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin again the work of remaking America.

KING: The most extraordinary inaugural in the history of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: there's a love affair going on with the country and Barack.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think it was a time of celebration. It was a moment where Americans feel coming together.

KING: Black president, largest crowds ever assembled in that city, cold, clear days. And you knew life was changing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm so happy that the world gets to see that this is truly what America is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You say, wow, this is one that you'll never forget.

KING: I lived in Washington for 20 years, and I never saw a city that up.

You ever think you'd see a black president?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Certainly not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's really a historic moment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I did not believe that this would happen in my lifetime.

KING: You knew you were part of history. They'll be talking about that moment as long as history's written. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Pick your top five moments at CNN.com/LarryKing. We'll count them down starting Monday. Vote as many time as you like. Voting ends Sunday May 31st. While you're there, don't forget to enter the sweeps stakes for a chance to come meet me in L.A., see the show. We'll even have dinner. We'll be right back with T. Boone Pickens.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: There is a key question for T. Boone Pickens and we might as well ask it. How long is this going to go on?

PICKENS: I would -- I'd bet you we'll be here talking 38 days from now. We've been at it 38, and we got a long way to go on this, unless we get lucky. You can get lucky and the top shot worked and the, you know, something -- you got to get lucky to do it, because odds are against you on everything you're doing except one thing. That's the relief well. The relief well is the answer. And they're drilling as fast as they can to get down to the bottom so they can kill the oil.

KING: What's the end result of all that?

PICKENS: The end result? The relief well will be the solution, and they'll kill the well and cement it and we'll still be cleaning up the mess. The well will be cemented, plugged.

KING: We have a call for you from Nevada. Hello.

CALLER: How you doing?

KING: Hi, go ahead.

CALLER: I have a question for Mr. Pickens.

KING: Yeah.

CALLER: They call it a 100-year storm. I'm just wondering how long they've been doing that kind of deep oil in the oceans and then also -- I only see one BOP valve that they call for safety. Do you think they should have a redundant system, like two valves in case one fails?

PICKENS: OK, two safety valves, any redundant system is good. I'm not sure the one that's available to them is that good, but they should have had it. Two, they've been drilling probably in these 5,000 feet of water probably been ten years. And the -- when I said that 100-year storm, I really was not focused on the 5,000 feet of water. That you had probably -- I'm going to speculate a little bit here, but you had a bad cement job on the --

KING: Originally.

PICKENS: That was on the casing that was set. And that was -- and that was -- that cement was pumped in and up behind the casing. You assumed you had a good cement job and you didn't have. The cement slurry was contaminated probably when it was pumped past the producing formation. You leaked gas into it.

KING: Go ahead.

PICKENS: So you had 14 pound mud in the hole and that was plenty to make the well -- the well was dead at that point, and so you -- you get to feeling that you're OK on the cement job.

KING: We've learned that BP has been fined a lot, been held criminally responsible a lot. You're in the oil business. How good a company are they?

PICKENS: BP's, you know, they're a big major oil company. I know they've had some fines, but what that does is just makes you more sensitive to safety. And I'm sure that maybe they had some problems, but I can tell you they have beefed up and they have as good a safety system as any other company operating in deep water.

KING: They're not getting a bum rap here, are they?

PICKENS: They're not getting a bum rap. Again, I think you're going to look closely to determine if they -- if they -- after they cemented the well, their other things -- they could run a cement bond log. I'm not sure they did that. That would have given them more information. Then they -- the blowout preventers are going to be a real issue before it's over with.

KING: Mr. Carville is calling for criminal investigations.

PICKENS: Oh, it's not any criminal here. What would you -- how would you --

KING: Malfeasance?

PICKENS: Oh, listen, this rig, it went eight years without an accident on the rig. They had a safety record that was as good as in the business. Transocean has consistently worked for British Petroleum. So that unit there, BP and Transocean, had a very, very good record.

You know, I mean, Larry, let's liken it to an airplane accident. We have 300 passengers on an airliner, and two very qualified pilots. And the airplane crashes and 300 people are killed. We don't shut down the airlines because of that. What we do is try to figure out how it happened. And there are -- there is no question. You have -- you have accidents where it was pilot error.

We didn't go in and try to -- I mean, we're human beings, and we make mistakes. There's no question. We're not perfect. And so, you know, you can have accidents and it not be, you know, something that --

KING: Deliberate?

PICKENS: Yeah.

KING: We'll be back with more on T. Boone Pickens on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: By the way, tomorrow we have "American Idol" winner Lee Dewyze, runner-up Crystal Bowersox, and the top eight finalists all here in our studio. You can send your questions for them. Go to my Facebook page, Tweet them to me, or go to our blog, CNN.com/LarryKing.

(NEWS BREAK)

KING: Anderson, T. Boone has the answer to the question. He says they ran out of mud?

PICKENS: That's what I suspect. They ran -- that could very well have been the case.

KING: What about the impact of this disaster on your idea for alternative energy? Doesn't it increase your concept?

PICKENS: You know --

KING: Focus more on it?

PICKENS: I'm not going to ever -- you'll never hear me try to capitalize on somebody else's problem, that it makes my idea a better idea. I'm not going to say that. I've already said I'm all American, and I'm -- listen, I was in that business for years and years. I know what those guys are doing. I know what they're up against. And I'm pulling for them 100 percent.

But what I'm trying to do is get on our own resources. But those guys are creating oil or gas that are certainly American resources. That's good. That helps our country. We have so much natural gas in this country. We have four thousand trillion. That's equivalent to 700 billion barrels of oil. That's three times more than the Saudis have. All we have to --

KING: Natural gas?

PICKENS: Pardon me.

KING: Natural gas?

PICKENS: Yes, it's 30 percent cleaner. It's cheaper. It's incredible to have a resource like this. We will go down in history if we don't take advantage of what we have, use it and get off of the OPEC oil. We'll go down in history as the dumbest crowd that ever showed up.

KING: Didn't you meet with the president, and didn't he agree with you?

PICKENS: Well, no, not exactly. I have met with the president. And he asked a lot of questions. This was in August of 2008. He then said -- you remember -- now, wait a minute. He had already said it. He said it at the -- at the convention when he accepted the nomination. We will not import any oil from the Mideast in ten years. He then, Schieffer -- Bob Schieffer, in the fourth debate, asked the two candidates, what are you going to do about foreign imports of oil? And he then said exactly the same thing. We will not import any oil from the Mideast in ten years.

Now, the only way you can -- he can ever fulfill that is he has to get on our own resource. And we only have one resource that will replace the foreign oil in the abundance that we have to do it. And it's five million barrels a day. We import 13 million barrels a day to the United States, more than anybody in the world. And almost 70 percent of all the oil we use -- 21 million barrels is what we use -- we are importing. And of the 13 million, five of it comes from OPEC.

KING: What does your company do now?

PICKENS: I'm a hedge fund operator, BP Capital.

KING: Hedge fund?

PICKENS: Yes.

KING: You're not in the oil business directly?

PICKENS: Oh, I'm always in it a little bit, but I don't drill wells to the level that I did at one time.

KING: Are you pessimistic about what's going to happen here?

PICKENS: Here?

KING: Yeah.

PICKENS: Well, I'm sad about it. I'm sad about the 11 guys that lost their life. I'm sad that they did not get the same recognition as the miners did in West Virginia.

KING: Why do you think that is?

PICKENS: I don't know. I don't understand it. But it's like they were forgotten.

KING: That's because -- well, yeah, I was going to say they're gone, but the miners are gone, too.

PICKENS: They're gone, but their families are still there. And the president, vice president, went down to West Virginia and participated in the funeral for those 29 miners. And I never saw where anybody hardly even mentioned the 11 guys on the Transocean rig. And I see those as equal, the miners and the workers on the rig. They're both hardworking people that are out there every day. They have families.

KING: Maybe it's because this is still going on. PICKENS: Pardon me?

KING: This problem is still going on.

PICKENS: Yes, it is. And you think maybe that's the reason that they weren't recognized? I don't know. I just wish that -- but anyway, as we go forward -- yeah, I'm sad about what's happened. Am I pessimistic about it? I'm realistic about what's going on. I've been around a long time, you know. And I've seen a lot of things. And so you've got to be realistic and don't panic. It isn't time to panic.

KING: Thank you, T. Boone. T. Boone Pickens, there's only one of him. Only one of her, too. Her is Paula Deen. She's going to tell us how she's cooking up a storm to help people affected by the oil spill. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Joining us now Paula Deen, the celebrity chef, best selling cookbook author, a lot to cover in a short period of time. You and chef John Besh are doing a special shrimp and grits event this weekend as part of the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience. Is that involved with helping this situation?

PAULA DEEN, CHEF: I don't know that I heard you, Larry. But yes, I'm tag teaming with John Besh and Aaron Sanchez and John Currents Saturday in the Superdome. And we're going to help raise money for the Louisiana wildlife and fishermen.

So I'm real excited. I leave tomorrow to go over there and help them. We are teaming up with the food and wine. This all came about very quickly through a friend of mine, Lisa Angelo, with Harrah's, whom I'm partners with in the restaurant business. So Lisa gave me a call and asked if I could come. And, of course, I'm most excited, because I think the Gulf Coast, Larry, is truly one of America's treasures. And New Orleans has had like a double whammy. And it's just tragic. And we're talking about fishermen that have -- generations of these fishermen and now life is kind of slipping away for them.

KING: Should we be concerned about ordering fish in restaurants?

DEEN: No, no. We're completely safe in ordering seafood. And you're fine. My brother and I have a vested interest in the seafood because we're the owners of Uncle Bubba's Oyster House. So we're going to have to be very selective. But they would never endanger us or our customers by sending us bad seafood.

But here's the kicker, Larry: 80 percent of the oysters that are caught are caught in the Gulf of Mexico. So it's just important that we do everything we can to stop this spill. And like I said, we've just got to help these fishermen survive this tragedy that's going on.

KING: Paula's also hosting -- involved in a 300 dollars a plate fund-raising dinner with Chef John Besh. That's going to take place in August. The proceeds will go to the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation.

DEEN: Yes.

KING: Chef Besh says that a whole way of life is at stake because of this. Do you agree?

DEEN: It absolutely is. Like I said, we're talking about generations of fishermen. It's been passed down from one father to another. And life can be deeply interrupted for these families. And we just have to help them hang on.

KING: Now, you understand it well. You're from low country Georgia, right? So you know about wetlands.

DEEN: Yes. I'm from Savannah, Georgia. Yes, I'm sitting on Wilmington River right now as we speak. And so like I said, I do have a vested interest. My husband's a harbor pilot. He has been on the water since he was 16 years old, earning his living on that water.

KING: Paula, we're out of time. We'll have you back soon. Thanks again, Paula.

DEEN: Thank you, Larry. Thank you, dear.

KING: Paula Deen, super lady. We've got a huge show tomorrow night. The "American Idols" are here, Lee, Crystal and all of the finalists. All of them will be here tomorrow night. Here right now from New Orleans is our own Anderson Cooper and "AC 360." Anderson?