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Can James Cameron Help Solve Oil Disaster?

Aired June 7, 2010 - 21:00   ET



LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Tonight, James Cameron exclusive. Can his genius help end one of the worst environmental crisis ever caused by man? The "Titanic" director who explored the ocean depths in movies is here. Now, 49 days into a real life disaster.

Plus, T Boone Pickens, a legendary oil man telling us what he'd do about this mess. Next on LARRY KING LIVE.


KING (on-camera): Good evening. We welcome back James Cameron to LARRY KING LIVE. He is, of course, the Oscar winning director, producer, and writer. He made the two most successful films in the history of films financially. He also spent 20 plus years working with top experts in the deep sea submersible and robotics community. Cameron and more than 20 scientists, engineers, and technical experts took part in a brainstorming session on the Gulf oil disaster at the environmental protection agency.

And representatives of the energy department, the coast guard and, National Ocean Graphic and Atmospheric Administration, and EPA were in attendance. Anything come out of it?

JAMES CAMERON, DIRECTOR: A couple things, the 25-page report, and I think, a good sense that this group might be the nucleus of an on going response team that the government might look to because it represented pretty much the who's who in the deep submergence community.

KING: What is your expertise in this situation?

CAMERON: Well, I --

KING: What does James Cameron bring to it?

CAMERON: Yes. It's interesting. People think I'm sort of, you know, a Hollywood grandstander, and you know, I've spent the last 22 years working with a lot of these people in the deep ocean, you know, business designing submersibles, designing robotic vehicles.

KING: For film purposes? CAMERON: No, no, no. Well, for "Titanic," that was my first deep ocean expedition, but I did six after that where we did documentary films of it.

KING: Where it shows some highlights.

CAMERON: You know, a little bit, but it was for exploration. You know, I love the technology. I love the accomplishment of going into deep ocean, bringing back science, bringing back imaging. And, you know, we just built so much in terms of cutting edge vehicle technology and so on over the years that I've gotten to know everybody people that, you know, pilot submersibles, people that pilot deep ROVs that know how to operate the pressures in multiple sub the depth of this well as at. I thought these are very smart people. Why aren't we, you know, using them, engaging them?

KING: I'll get right to the current controversy, but what fascinates you about the submersibles?

CAMERON: Oh, I just love it. I mean, the deep ocean is like going to another planet. You know, every time you dive, you see something certainly you've never seen before. And every once in a while if you're lucky, you see something nobody's ever seen before.

KING: Vice President Humphrey years ago told me, we will learn more from the depths of the ocean than we will from space.

CAMERON: I think that's true in the short term. I also think that we interact with the ocean. We live from the ocean for food. It provides the oxygen that we breathe. It sequesters a lot of carbon dioxide. You know, we need to treat the ocean as good stewards and, clearly, we're not right now.

KING: On its day 49, what's your reaction to this?

CAMERON: Day 49, you know, that's horrific as it is and as much oil as we see pouring out of this thing everyday. We have to understand that is not as bad as it could get. You know, there was a well in the Gulf of Mexico down, you know, in Mexican waters and complete your bay (ph) that gushed for nine months before they got the relief wells down. And there was one just recently in Australia that went for four months before --

KING: This is the worst American?

CAMERON: It's the worst so far, but we definitely haven't seen the worst of it.

KING: You made headlines by saying the early response to these efforts were done by morons who don't know what they're doing. What do you mean?

CAMERON: I got in trouble for that line, but it was a classic case of out of context because what I was saying was -- what I actually said was, like everybody else watching TV, I felt these guys were morons and didn't know what they were doing. And, you know, the other shoe dropping on the story was but then I got into it. And I talked to petroleum engineers, and we started the study group and leading up to our big meeting in D.C. I wanted to steep myself in and the knowledge of this, so I didn't come in like, you know, some bone head.

KING: So, they weren't morons?

CAMERON: No, they're not morons. And the thing that people have to understand is that the guys that cause this and, you know, by whatever means of carelessness are not the ones that are solving it now. There are good engineers out there. And I think they're parallel processing and working very hard. They're working the problem. It's not for want of trying. It's a very, very complex problem to solve. Probably, you know, like most people, I certainly, you know, looked at the images on the TV from the ROVs, and I said, let's just cap this thing.

Let's just get a cap on it. Let's bolt something down. Let's get a big pipe wrench, you know. And that's how we all think. We think of it as a plumbing problem. What we're not thinking about is what's happening thousands of feet down inside this oil well, and you got these very high pressures. Our group calculated, it's 13,000 PSI at the bottom of the well. So, you don't stop the well at the top. You can throttle it, you can control it, and you can get some of the oil out of there, but you can't just stop it. You can't shut it off like a faucet or it will blow out somewhere else.

KING: What have your dealings with BP been like?

CAMERON: I approached BP about four weeks ago and I said, look, I worked for 15 years with these big Russian subs, the near (ph) submersibles, and they have very powerful, you know, manipulator arms and so on. They might be very helpful in your situation. And they said, we have vehicles. We have 15 ROVs on site. We think we're covered in that area. That was actually, in retrospect, a pretty reasonable response because that would have been mixing cultures.

I don't mean that in terms of language, but just in terms of the way things are done, probably wouldn't have helped them. So, I thought, all right, fine. Maybe what we need to do is work with the deep submergence community, talk to government, and see if there's something to be done there that then can be brought to BP on a constructive basis.

KING: And that's where we're at now?

CAMERON: Yes, yes.

KING: How do you rate BP?

CAMERON: Look, I think I haven't handled the media well, you know, personally. I think that in my personal journey on this, I found out how complex this problem is, and it's quite daunting. And if they had been a little more transparent telling people what the problems were and why they couldn't just go out there and shut this thing down overnight, I think they would have been a lot better off, but they were playing a defensive game the whole time.

KING: What was wrong in this society? It never works?

CAMERON: Yes, well, that's true. I mean, you never know really how to play, you know, in the -- the media is going to have their way with this thing one way or the other.

KING: Should they have just let the film (ph) that they control, show all the time like they're doing now?

CAMERON: They should have started with that. I think that would have been really helpful. I think just having somebody come out and say something like what I just said, you know, that you have to deal with it down the hole. Let's say that they induced an underground blowout, and they create a highly pressurized level above where the bottom of the well, then they try to drill a relief well into that, it could blow out the relief well. Now, you got two blowouts.

You see what I mean? So, there are issues here. There are ways to make this worse. And I think the public needs to know that to know why they're proceeding slowly, know why they're proceeding cautiously and not running around with their hair on fire, at least not visibly.

KING: Back with more of James Cameron on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Boon Pickens later. Don't go away.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Say goodbye to the surface world. Everything is a go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're ready for them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're about to start our tandem dissent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: camera looks clear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, here we go, and three, two, one.



KING: James Cameron at work, live pictures at Gulf here today. We done everything you could do?

CAMERON: I don't think so. I think there's more that can be done. That was one of the findings of our group. We think there are some iterations that some things that they have been doing that can be done and they can go father.

KING: I asked the president the other day, what about a hurricane? What would happen? He said a tropical storm would be worse, but you mentioned something during the break that nobody's thinking about, the ship would have to move.

CAMERON: Yes. That cap is only functioning when there's a riser that goes up to the ship and they're siphoning off the oil. If that ship has to move, because it's in the track of a hurricane for safety reasons, for the crew of the ship, they have to pull up that riser back up into the ship which is going to take them some time, maybe 24 hours to get into a mile up into the ship.

KING: If you have a hurricane warning, you got to go.

CAMERON: That's right. And whether it hits you or not, you may have to -- there's going to be some threshold where they're going to have to break off.

KING: What happens when the thing comes off and they leave?

CAMERON: I think we know. We've seen that thing going full throttle, you know, roaring, you know, venting into the sea. It's going to just go back to that for, you know, eight or ten days until they can get back on stage and then get it back down there.

KING: Could it rain oil?

CAMERON: Well, yes, if you got oil coming up to the surface, the hurricane atomizes the surface, picks it up in the wind, and drives it in land. Yes, you'll have traces of oil in your precipitation.

KING: Now, there are experts and Al Gore is an expert in environment, you better be calling him in?

CAMERON: Yes. I mean, I think that the environmental community at large needs to be engaged in a coordinated way, and that was, you know, look, our group was just a little group of people, you know, well placed in the deep submergence community, but speaking for research in general, we got a lot of work to do down stream of this thing to find out what's happening. See, everybody's looking at this from the surface.

They see pictures of the wetlands. They see pictures of the spill from the surface. We need a three dimensional picture of what's happening underwater down in the plank ton that feed the shrimp that we eat or feed the fish that we, you know, this thing will be contaminating the food.

KING: When is your committee report coming?

CAMERON: It's already been issued to the Department of Energy, EPA.

KING: Has the public got it yet?

CAMERON: No, we're waiting for government's response on this to see how much they want to engage us and/or, you know, make some recommendations.

KING: What part does government play? What's BP's role? What's government's role?

CAMERON: Look, I'm not sitting at the eye of the hurricane in their briefing rooms and so on, but you know, coast guard national incident command, coast guard has got the point on this, and we had a commander, Larry Green, was with us in our meeting. He assured us that coast guard is making all the decisions with BP in direct consultation. I think that's fine. I think that's true.

The issue for me is that BP isn't transparent about a lot of the technical information, and they're not transparent about the imaging coming up from the site in the sense that it's BP's cameras that are telling us what's going on. We don't have any independent cameras or vehicles down there.

KING: Do you like the idea of BP taking that ad they've been running on television networks?

CAMERON: Well, I think they know they've got a media campaign that they have to fight. I think it's good for Tony Hayward to come forward and say he's sorry. You know, I hope he's sincere about that. I think this is something that all the oil companies wrestle with. You know, Kim Hatfield, I think is going to be on later. You know, he can talk about the record in the Gulf. It's actually very good. You know this is just a very low probability, very high consequence event like a space shuttle disaster or something like that. It doesn't come along very often, but man, the consequences.

KING: Worst case scenario?

CAMERON: Worst case scenario is delayed getting the relief well in. There's a hurricane that goes through the site, blows the ship off. They have to pull the cap. A lot of oil gushes out for a long time or they break something there at the well site and they create other plumes of oil coming up, vents of oil coming up from the bottom. That's a possibility as well.

KING: How much oil is underwater?

CAMERON: Oh, it's enormous. I mean, who knows what's in this formation alone. It will be millions of barrels. You know, it could run for years, it won't because they actually have success with these relief wells. If they're going -- they're trying to sharp shoot the bore hole with another bore coming in from, you know, kind of half mile back, and they'll hit it eventually, but they may have to drill into it a number of times to do it.

KING: Do we know the goof? Do we know what happened?

CAMERON: Yes, there was a bad cementing job. What they do with these wells are interesting. The way they do it is they drill a big hole first.

KING: That's Halliburton, right? They cement on it

CAMERON: Yes, Halliburton and the guys on the rig. You know, it's not up to -- it wasn't our scope of work and our meeting to, you know, try to figure out who is responsible for what, but we did need to understand what happened, so that we could understand what's happening down in that hole. You've got all these different successively smaller casing sizes going down to 18,000 feet. And at the very last casing, they didn't cement it in properly.

And then the gases and oil were able to shoot up in what they call the annulus which is between the next bigger casing and the smaller one. It goes up in between. It shot right up to the top and blew out. And then you had an explosion at the surface and the blowup preventer didn't work. It took three things happening for this disaster to happen.

KING: James Cameron remains with us, by the way. Tomorrow, Wednesday night, Oliver Stone will be aboard. And Friday night, Kathy Griffin. Two of the people brainstorming with James are here next. How could their know how help end this crisis? We'll find out next.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You get a fantastic perspective on these wreck that's you don't get flying around them in a sub. You really are like a person, you know, like it would have looked to somebody walking the decks at that time. Well, we're officially inside the ship. God, look at the damage. Bang.


KING: Wow. James Cameron remains. Joining us is Dave Gallo. Dr. Gallo is director of special projects, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. That's the -- that's literally the NASA of underwater. It's located near Cape Cod. And in Dallas is. S. Kim Hatfield, president of the Crawley Petroleum Corporation. He is a petroleum engineer with nearly four decades of experience in oil and gas operations both on and offshore.

Our guests were at the June 1st brainstorming session in Washington along with James Cameron. All right. We'll start with you, Dave. What's your reaction to all this?

DAVE GALLO, WOODS HOLE OCEANOGRAPHIC INSTITUTION: To the spill itself? First thing I thought was oh, my God, what have we done? I mean to the life in the Gulf, to the life people living around the Gulf, absolutely incredible. And the thought that we're 50 days into this now, Larry, and that we can drive a robot around Mars, but we can't plug a leak in our own backyard is amazing to me.

KING: Is it to you, Kim?

S. KIM HATFIELD, PRES., CRAWLEY PETROLEUM CORPORATION: Well, it's a situation that's extremely hostile environment. We have a long history of drilling in the Gulf, and actually, a very good history of safety. Since 1985, there have been two blowouts in the Gulf resulting in 300 barrels of oil being leaked. So, this was an extreme situation, very high damage, very low probability much like the challenger space shuttle incident. So, it's terrible, especially the loss of life and the ongoing environmental damage. It's heartbreaking.

KING: We have a LARRY KING LIVE blog question for everybody. The question was posted to LARRY KING LIVE blog quote, "depending on the hydraulic pressure of the jaws being used to work on the pipe, can the pipe be crimped and then welded closed or could it be cramped to further reduce the flow of oil?" -- Dave.

GALLO: If that pipe I think is gone now. If it's the one I think it is, the riser where the crimp was has been cut off recently. So, I don't think the question -

KING: It's not as easy -

GALLO: No, it doesn't really apply. And it's not as easy as that as Jim pointed out earlier. You can make things a lot worse by fiddling with that plumbing.

CAMERON: Everybody is focused on trying to just stop. You know, kind of like it's a faucet. It's not that simple because you can create other problems. Like we think, you know, one of our recommendations is that we actually find a way to throttle it and control it so that we can create back pressure which would allow mud to be driven down into the depth of the well either another top kill or Kim Hatfield had some ideas on that.

KING: Kim's scientists now say they found evidence of a second oil plume working underwater in the Northeastern Gulf. What are the potential implications of that?

HATFIELD: I think that there's a general misunderstanding of thinking that as of a plume coming up from the sea floor and that's not what they're describing. Plume would be oil that is dispersed in the water. You're coming up from 5,000 feet. One of the problems they're having dealing with this is that the oil doesn't come up all in one place.

But many times, you know, you've looked up in the sky and the wind will be blowing from your left and the clouds will be going to the right. That's the situation you have. You have different currents at different levels. And these currents will cause the oil to be moved off and not stay in one body.

KING: Dave, do you have the same thoughts about hurricanes that James has?

GALLO: Yes, sure. I mean, this can go from horrible to really, really bad in no time. Something like a hurricane. These plumes that we just talked about, we don't know, Larry, what's going on at depth in the Gulf, and these clouds of oil could be moving around. They can show up in a year, five years, ten years. We still don't know exactly how much is coming out of the ground and what the composition is and as we just talked about or even where it's going. So, you know, still living in this cloud of darkness in the deep -- from the deep sea. CAMERON: Only one research vessel has been down there and deployed one AUV, took some readings that would indicate that there are these big plumes, but we need to get that three dimensional snapshot of what's happening down there under the surface.

KING: Do our guests think BP has done everything they could do? We'll ask next.


KING: This is our live shot that which we're rather getting uncomfortably used to. Two comments from King's Things on twitter. Let's put the whole BP board of directors into the well. That could stop the spill. And if it's too deep for a guy to go down and repair, then that's further than we need to drill. Are we drilling deeper than we should, Dave?

GALLO: Well, this is an issue, of course, that we've had in this country about our thirst for hydrocarbons. And I think, naturally, as Jim pointed out, we're going to look -- there's a lot of hydrocarbon there in the ocean. So, our inclination is to go out and get it. And once you get down to where this well is, a mile deep, you're really asking for trouble because you start to enter into this unknown world that we really don't know how to work there yet, and here we got caught, you know. In this case, BP got caught. So, should we be? I think the faster we get off that thirst, the better for everybody.

CAMERON: Here-here.

KING: Kim, has BP done all it could do?

HATFIELD: Well, first let me say that I don't know everything that they've done, but when this thing started, there were, say, at least 20 different possible courses of action. And if you knew the perfect -- with perfect certainty the conditions down hole, then you could choose between them. But, these courses of action may be mutually exclusive so that if you try one, it may -- if it works, it's spectacular, but it has a low probability, and if you pursue that, it prevents you from you pursuing five others.

It's extremely frustrating to see what looks like inaction, but it takes a lot of time to prepare some of these attempts. And it is possible to make the situation worse. And the first thing they have to do is make sure that they don't make it worse.

KING: Well, somebody's at fault, James.


KING: Or was this just -- this wasn't Mother Nature, was it?

CAMERON: No. You raised the issue of are we drilling too deep? I think we need to look at our protocols for down the slope, off the top of the continental shelf where they are, a mile down like that, look at our protocols for well control, look at our protocols for drilling. This sort of thing could happen again. There are an awful lot of wells out there.

The blowout preventer failed for reasons we need to understand. So when this thing is all done and this well is cemented in, they need to pull that thing back to the surface and dissect it and figure out what failed? Why didn't that work the way it was supposed to work? Why didn't they disconnect the riser from the blowout preventer when the ship started to burn? There were a lot of things that were supposed to h happen that didn't happen.

KING: Key question, Dave, optimistic or pessimistic?

GALLO: Which part, Larry, about this particular spill?

KING: Yeah?

GALLO: Man oh, man. I know we have the talent and the technology -- we're right on the cusp of having the technology available. We need to turn that loose on the problem. And then I'd have -- right now, I don't know enough about what's going on. I only hear bad things right now, but mostly because we don't know enough about what's going on at the bottom of the Gulf.

KING: Kim, was that conference that you held with James Cameron and the others -- was it successful?

HATFIELD: I think so. It brought a diverse group together. They say that when your only tool is a hammer, then every problem is a nail. And this group brought some different tools to the party.

KING: You worried about hurricanes?

GALLO: Sure. I mean, anything like that that disrupts the normal operation --

KING: Kim is right, the ship would have to leave?

GALLO: Absolutely. These are things that we know about because we work out in the deep sea. And, sure, positively.

KING: Kim, what is your thought if a hurricane hits the area?

HATFIELD: Oh, it would be terrible. The suspension of operations for I'm guessing a minimum of ten days, and during that time the flow would be unrestricted, as the situation stands now. So we -- it would be better to have a more complete solution than what we're dealing with right now.

GALLO: Larry, I was going to say, going forward, we can't do this just on emotion. We're -- you know, we see the horrifying photos of the birds in oil, the beach in oil. We got to have fact, because we want to look now at prevention and mitigation, and what happens the next time this -- you know, do we have long term observations? Do we have baseline environmental studies? Those things have to go in place now. We can't wait again for the next thing to come around.

KING: James, should the head of BP leave, be fired? CAMERON: I don't want to get --

KING: The buck stops where?

CAMERON: It stops with the CEO. They create a culture. I have never met Mr. Hayward. He's going to have to take some responsibility on this. I think it's going to be really incumbent on him to handle this the best and most open way that he can. I think that's going to be best for BP in the long run.

KING: Kim, where do you stand? You are confident we're going to lick this?

HATFIELD: Yes, I am confident we'll lick it. And the thing to point out is saying that, well, we're not going to allow deep water drilling here isn't a solution to this problem. Today, they're drilling deeper than this off the coast of Newfoundland. They're drilling in 10,000 feet of water in Brazil. In some ways, it's fortunate that if you're going to have an accident like this, that it was at this location, because we have better capabilities of dealing with it, better infrastructure.

This is -- this needs to be a learning experience. We need to design better systems and take the learnings of the deep sea community and incorporate it into our designs.

KING: Dave, you favor the moratorium?

GALLO: I think going forward with the wisdom and whatever we learn out of this will add a lot to that. So for the time being, yes, sure.

KING: Thank you all very much. James, thank you for arranging this. Thanks for making it all possible.

CAMERON: My pleasure, as always.

KING: We're going to get more straight talk on this catastrophe from the legendary oil man. Boone Pickens is back and he's next.


KING: Boone Pickens joins us again, back with us. He's the founder of BP Capital. It's not the oil company. It's his initials. He's an advocate for the Pickens Plan for Reducing United States Dependents on Foreign Oil. We welcome him back to LARRY KING LIVE. All right, you forecast this. When they said they were going to try the other thing, you said it wouldn't do it. It's now day 49 of this disaster. How are things looking to you, Boone?

T. BOONE PICKENS, FORMER OIL EXECUTIVE: Well, you know, we were on 38 days when I was with you last time. And I said we would come back 38 days later for sure. But BP's made some progress here. I mean they now are -- got their hands on more oil every day than they did before they got this last procedure in place. So they're get 11,000 barrels a day. And I talked to some of the BP people today, and they think they can improve on the 11,000 barrels. So everything helps. But actually what you're doing is trying to control as much of this oil as you can until you get the relief well down, because I don't want anybody to think that this problem is going to be solved on the procedure that they have in place now. All you're doing is helping yourself until the relief well gets down. That's going to be in August.

KING: Why does -- why August? Why does it take until August?

PICKENS: Because this -- the procedure they're using, there is no way can you shut the oil off. All you can do is try to capture as much of it as you can. The relief well is the only way you're going to kill this well.

KING: Why does it take so long?

PICKENS: The relief well?

KING: Yeah.

PICKENS: Well, the relief well -- you could go back and look at what the vertical well, the one that's blowing out right now, how long it took you. And can you look at the relief well, which is coming in from a horizontal position, and you're going to spend at least that much time on the relief well.

KING: Is there a guarantee that will work?

PICKENS: No. There is not a guarantee. And you might find -- go back to history and if you look at the Ixstoc well, which was a well in Mexico in 1979, I think they had to do three relief wells before they solved the problem. And the well flowed for 290 days. But it was only in 200 feet of water.

KING: All right. When you were on -- go ahead, I'm sorry.

PICKENS: We're going to -- we're all going to get worn out with this before this -- before BP kills it. And it's just going to take time to do it. I just wonder what the evening news is going to be like after 60 days, after 70 days, after 80 days. I mean we're going to all be dizzy with what we see on this well. But one thing about it, if there's a good side to it, everybody is going to understand more about producing oil in deep water.

KING: When you were last with us, you said you didn't like the panic mode about this. Do you still see that?

PICKENS: Oh, yeah. People -- there are even people on today saying they didn't like what BP was doing. BP is doing their best. I know that. And they're not any different than any other company that had the same problem. And if you remember what I said -- and I would like to say it again -- very little was said about the 11 guys that lost their lives. Now that's being recognized more and more, because those families, they're heart broken about that. And it should be mentioned. Those guys were doing their best when it happened. They did not cause this problem.

And so, you know, as we go forward, if you want to investigate, wait until it's fixed. Wait until it's fixed and then go ahead and investigate all you want to. But don't do that while you're trying to work your way out of the problem.

KING: Admiral Thad Allen says --

PICKENS: Hats off to him. Hats off to Admiral Allen.

KING: He said it might be a good idea to require oil companies to drill relief wells in advance rather than waiting for them to start after disaster. What do you think?

PICKENS: Drill a relief well in advance?

KING: Yeah. That's what he said.

PICKENS: Gosh, I'd like to talk to him about that one. Drilling a relief well in advance would be drilling just like drilling the initial hole. So, I mean why drill a relief well? That one can blow out, too. And then there isn't a relief well to the relief well that you drilled before you drilled the vertical well.

I don't know. I don't -- I didn't hear him say it. I don't know what he's talking about.

KING: It's reported here. I didn't hear him say it either. BP says it hopes to replace the cap currently collecting crude from the ruptured well with a bigger device with a better tighter fit. Will this allow oil now being collected to spew out during this changeover?

PICKENS: Will it cause what?

KING: The oil to spew out if you make it bigger?

PICKENS: Oh, I don't --

KING: A bigger device.

PICKENS: No, I don't think that. There are 11,000 barrels a day. And when I talked to BP last week, they were -- they said they were hoping they could get 10,000 out of it. Well they did better than they thought they were going to do at 11,000. Now they say they can even do better than that. Well, do that. But all of that, again, is just going to help us until we can get the relief well down.

KING: And we'll be back with more of Boone Pickens, who knows the territory, right after this.


KING: We're back. Don't forget to check out our blog, You can also be our friend on Facebook, or follow King's Things on Twitter


KING: Our guest is Boone Pickens. Boone, President Obama fielded a lot of flack for his administration's response. He was on us with last Thursday. He was on earlier today on NBC, defended what he's done and how he's done it. Watch.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was down there a month ago. Before most of these talking heads were even paying attention to the Gulf. A month ago, I was meeting with fishermen down there standing in the rain talking about what a potential crisis this could be. And I don't sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar. We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers so I know who's ass to kick.


KING: Getting angrier and angrier, as he was on our program and there this morning. What do you make of his role here, Boone?

PICKENS: Well, I -- I just -- that's not the way I manage. I work with people on the ground. I mean, we're in a predicament here. And, you know, kicking anybody around is -- I don't think that gets you the best results. Nobody wants out of this jam quicker than BP is. And I'm -- and I'm not stumping for BP. I'm just an oil guy that's been in a lot of situations. Fortunately, not one like this.

But I had a blow out up in British Columbia 20 years ago. And we lost three guys on that. It just makes you sick when this happens. Then you've got to go to work and work your way out of it.

But, Larry, what we've got to do -- and the American people understand more and more about our import, say, of oil. And we're importing 13 million barrels of oil a day to the United States. And the closest to us, number two, on imports is China. And they import five million barrels a day. But they have bought a lot of oil.

We are importing way beyond anything we should do. And we have resources in this country that we can use. We've got so much natural gas. We have 7,000 billion barrels of oil equivalent of natural gas, which is bigger than the Saudis. We need to use that and continue to work on our problem, because importing 13 million barrels of oil a day is way, way beyond anything that's sustainable.

KING: That seems so simple. Why don't we use the natural gas we have?

PICKENS: Well, I'll be in Washington working on that tomorrow. And -- but I think it's going to happen. We've got the legislation in place, and I think that we will get legislation this year to give us, America, an energy plan for the first time in 40 years.

KING: We have a question for you on the phone from Morgantown, West Virginia, for Boone Pickens. Go ahead. CALLER: Yes. Originally, BP had said that there was 5,000 barrels a day escaping from that well. But yet now they're saying that they're capturing 11,000 barrels a day. Have they decided exactly how much oil is coming out or escaping from that well?

KING: Boone?

PICKENS: I don't think BP ever said it was 5,000. The 5,000 actually came from our government estimate. But BP has never said how much oil is coming out. I would say that you're looking at 20,000 barrels a day, and you're capturing 11,000.

KING: Are they making money from these 11,000?

PICKENS: Oh, are you serious?

KING: Yeah. Are they capturing it? What are they doing with it? It's just gone away?

PICKENS: Larry, think of the money they're spending there. I mean, you would have to be getting 100,000 barrels -- 100,000 dollars per barrel if you're even going to break even, because they're spending millions and millions of dollars every day there. So no, they're not making any money out of the oil that they're capturing.

KING: But the stock went up.

PICKENS: The stock went up because they now have 11,000 barrels that they have control of and not letting it go out into the Gulf.

KING: And we'll be back with our remaining moments with Boone Pickens on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE right after this.


KING: We're back with Boone Pickens. The president has imposed a six-month moratorium on drilling at 33 deep water sites. What do you think? The governor of Louisiana doesn't like it. What do you think?

PICKENS: I wouldn't do it because six months is not what's going to happen to us. You shut it down for six months, those rigs are going to move out of the Gulf. They'll go someplace else to drill. And when you start up again in six months, you've got to get rigs back. That's going to -- that will take you another six months. It really means that you're shutting down for probably 12 to 24 months is what it will amount to.

KING: We have a call for Boone Pickens. Sioux City, Iowa, hello.

CALLER: Hello. My question is, why weren't the Gulf states better prepared for a disaster like this, being that it wasn't a matter of if it was going to happen, but when it was going to happen? And like the oil booms and all that kind of stuff, why wasn't it in place already prepared for, you know, the disaster? KING: Boone?

PICKENS: Well, I don't know when you say it was going to happen. You know, we've gone a long time without anything like this. In fact, this is the worst of all. And we've been drilling in the Gulf for over 50 years. So, you know, that's hard to say.

You know, I don't know whether you can prepare totally for something like this. We know a lot more now. And this is going to get back to -- you're going to identify the problem, I think, pretty quick once you get it over with, and you're able to investigate. And the blowout preventer is a big part of the problem. And so the Gulf states couldn't do anything about a blowout preventer

Now, I understand what you're saying. All the oil that we've got that we're trying to pick up and get out of there. But we're going to get this fixed. It's going to be a mess. And there's going to be a lot more oil in the Gulf before it's done. But I don't know. I mean, you can second-guess these things. I don't have the answer to that question.

KING: How bad will the economic impact be of this? Will it be substantial? On-going? A long time?

PICKENS: Oh, no question. You know, this is going to be very expensive. And, you know, you're going to get up into the billions. It will be more than the Valdez spill.

KING: BP going to have to pay most of it?

PICKENS: I would suppose, but now it's a legal question. So I'm not a lawyer. But it's going to be expensive for BP.

KING: Boone, it's always good talking to you. Quickly.

PICKENS: I haven't seen BP try to dodge any questions about paying for it. They say they're responsible for it.

KING: No. I agree. Boone Pickens. Always great having you with us, Boone. Thanks again.

PICKENS: Thanks, Larry. I enjoy being here. Thank you.

KING: Well, we had quite a week last week. Thanks to all of you for helping us celebrate LARRY KING LIVE's silver anniversary here at CNN. And thanks to the 59,000 of you who entered our sweepstakes. I'm happy to announce that the grand prize winner selected random is Margaret Dejean of Demon Springs, Louisiana. Margaret's going to come here to watch our show. We'll be taking her and the family for dinner. So start packing.

We'll be on at 9:00 tomorrow night. And then the special midnight show with primary coverage. Right now, Anderson Cooper and "AC 360." Anderson?