Friday, June 4, 2010

Transcript: President Obama on Larry King Live (6-3-10)

Complete transcript. Excerpt below:

KING: I know you're going down to the Gulf again. But there's a question that a lot of us are pondering. After this is over, what about hurricanes, what about oil raining down? Have we thought about what we're going to do when it's over?

OBAMA: Well this is an unprecedented oil spill. We haven't seen anything like this before. That's why the minute that the rig blew up and then sank down to the bottom of the ocean, I called in my entire team. I have to tell you, Larry, the worst case scenario was even worse than what we're seeing now because --

KING: This is worse than what you thought it would be?

OBAMA: No, no, no. What I'm saying is it could have been -- get even worse.


OBAMA: So we realized right away this was going to be a big event, a big problem, and that we had to put everything we had into it. Right away we started mobilizing our Coast Guard, making sure that we are putting pressure on BP to activate their response. Eventually we ended up sending our top scientists -- we not have about 100 of the top scientists from around the world in our national labs -- to look over BP's shoulder in terms of figuring out how they're going to plug the well.

We also knew though that ultimately the only way to relieve the well safely is to drill what are called these relief wells. Now, BP and other oil companies traditionally just drill one. We said, drill two in case one of them doesn't work. But that takes some time. It takes about three months. In the meantime they've been experimenting with a whole bunch of other ways that they can capture the oil. But we've had a big spill and we know that it's going to be a long response, a long cleanup.

My commitment has always been, the last 40-some days, to make sure that we are doing everything we can to mitigate the damage, to help clean up, help recover because this is an area that already got battered during hurricane season. And this is an area that is a concern not only for the economy of the Gulf, but also for an entire way of life.

KING: Have the scientists discussed, what about a hurricane?

OBAMA: I had a Situation Room meeting about a week and a half ago, where we got the report that this could be a more severe than normal hurricane season. I asked, well, how does a potential oil spill interact with a hurricane? It turns out that -- now these are all estimations and probabilities -- it turns out that a big, powerful hurricane, ironically is probably less damaging with respect to the oil spill because it just disperses everything and the oil breaks up and degrades more quickly.

It's those tropical storms and tides that would just wash stuff into the marshes that would really be an ecological disaster. But, look, We've got a couple of tasks right now. Number one, BP has to shut down this well. The only guarantee to shut down is the relief well and that's going to take a couple of months. In the meantime we hope that by cutting the riser, putting a cap on this thing, they can funnel up the oil and that will help.

In the meantime we've still got all these barrels of oil that are sloshing around in the Gulf. They move with the currents, we don't always know where they are. But what we can do is make sure that our response doesn't hold anything back. That we put everything we've got into Louisiana, which has been hardest hit so far, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida.

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