The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 05/24/10
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. Thank you very much for
And for this week, you are an honorary geek about things other than
OLBERMANN: Thank you.
MADDOW: You‘re welcome.
OLBERMANN: I‘m glad to here be—be here.
MADDOW: The pocket protector on your desk is from me.
OLBERMANN: OK. The pen goes right in there.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for staying with us the first hour
It is in fact “Geek Week.” Whether or not you identify as a geek, we
here at THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW believe there may be a geek inside you
struggling to get out. The part of you that‘s more than you‘d like to
admit may be into fly fishing, into old cars, into cars that are really
high off the ground or really low to the ground, into abstract
expressionism, into music theory, into video games, into figuring out
whether the lyrics to Rush songs are secretly libertarian.
Do you have a blow torch either in the garage or in the kitchen? Do
you have a home telescope? Do you home brew?
There is an inner geek somewhere inside of you—and “Geek Week” is
here for you.
It begins with our visit with the nation‘s highest ranking geek, the
energy secretary, Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Steven Chu, with whom we
will discuss renewable energy, gamma rays and yes, the B.P. oil disaster,
which is where we begin tonight.
Day 35 of the B.P. oil disaster brought us this image today. This is
the CEO of B.P. on Fourchon beach in Louisiana, coming face to face with
the disaster that his company has wrought. As the company‘s undersea well
continues to spew unabated and as that B.P. CEO walked along that beach
today, nearby, workers shoveled oil-stained sand into buckets and then into
thrash bags, giving the distinct impression of trying to bail out the
Titanic with tea cups.
B.P. CEO, Tony Hayward, seemingly shaken by the sight of the oil on
the beach was an intense moment. It was an intense moment, the power of
which was slightly undercut by some random dude in a green shirt who
inexplicably decided to step right in front of the cameras that Tony
Hayward had turned to address at that very intense moment.
We don‘t know who the green shirt guy is. But if you can get through
him, here‘s what happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY HAYWARD, BP CEO: The visit today—
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Green shirt.
HAYWARD: – what is going on along the shore. And I have to say that
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, could you get down?
HAYWARD: – I‘m devastated by what I‘ve seen. It‘s a sight I never
wanted to see. And it‘s clear that our defenses of the shore have been
We continue to fight this battle on three fronts: to eliminate the
leak in the sub sea, to contain the oil on the surface, and to defend the
And as I‘ve said, it‘s clear that the defense of the shoreline at this
point has not been successful and I feel devastated by that, absolutely
And I know that there is an enormous amount of anger and frustration
on the part of the local communities. I share that. This is something I
never wanted to see. And we are going to do everything in our power to
deal with it as fast as we can and return the societies and communities of
the Gulf Coast to normal as quickly as we can.
But what I can tell you is that we are here for the long haul. We‘re
going to clean every drop of oil off the shore. We will remediate any
environmental damage, and we will put the Gulf Coast right and back to
normality as fast as we can.
(END VIDOE CLIP)
MADDOW: We will clean every drop of oil off the shore, we will put it
right back to normality.
Everybody wants that to be possible. Everybody wants the people who
caused this disaster to commit to that kind of every last drop cleanup.
But is that even possible? Is it possible to clean up every drop of
oil from miles and miles of marshland that have already been oil soaked?
So far, 35 days into this disaster, we‘re talking about more than 65 miles
of coastline that have been hit with oil already. And the oil is still
pumping out of the sea bed, hundreds of thousands of gallons every day.
Cleaning oil off a sand beach is one thing. You use shovels or a
front end loader to remove the oiled sand off the beach. Even that is not
considered to be all that effective.
But cleaning oil out of marshland? What exactly is the technical
solution for that? What‘s the miracle cure there? Once oil makes landfall
in coastal wetlands like this, nobody really knows how to clean it all up.
In fact, the brutal truth is that nobody really knows how to do anything
here. It‘s not like there is a solution that‘s not being tried.
We‘ve been drilling offshore since the 1930s. We have been drilling
offshore this deep since the early 1980s. There‘s plenty of U.S. drilling
that‘s way deeper than the site of this disaster in the sense that it is
done in deeper water. The U.S. government has approved drilling in water
that is twice as deep as the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
But in all of that time, with all that experience, drilling under the
sea, nothing in the resultant clarifying flow of crude and money has ever
forced the oil industry or anyone else to come up with a way to quickly fix
problems when they go wrong on the seabed. And big undersea blowouts,
either the blowout preventer thing works, in this case it didn‘t, or you
drill a relief well. That‘s pretty much it.
In 1979, the Ixtoc oil well created a massive oil spill in the Gulf of
Mexico, the largest accidental oil spill in history. That was in 1979.
Just last year, 2009, another offshore rig exploded in the waters off
Australia. And there were many other blowouts in interim years.
But looking at these two as bookends, what did they try in those two
cases? Ixtoc and the Australian case – 30 years apart, what did they try
to deal with those blowouts? Exactly the same stuff they‘re doing now—
putting booms in the water, trying to burn the oil off the surface, using
hay to try to sop it up, lowering things like containment domes. None of
the techniques for ameliorating the impact of the blowout underwater are
space age or new or 21st century in any way. All of this ineffectual stuff
is the same menu of options that hasn‘t worked for decades. Those are the
things B.P. is trying now.
Ultimately what worked in Australia and what worked in Mexico 30 years
ago and really the only thing that‘s known to work in cases like this is
drilling relief wells. Brand-new drilling that punctures the existing well
and relieves the pressure on that well so that the leaking well can be
sealed. Relief drilling is something that B.P. has already started, but as
always, it‘s something that takes months and months to complete.
There is no safe way to drill oil underwater without a pretty good
risk that if a blowout happens, that well will leak for months essentially
uncontrolled—until a relief well can save the day weeks and weeks and
weeks and weeks down the bloody road.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: B.P., in my mind, no longer stands
for British Petroleum. It stands for “beyond patience.” People have been
waiting 34 days for British Petroleum to cap this well and stop the damage
that‘s happening across the Gulf of Mexico.
Excuses don‘t count anymore. You caused this mess, now stop the
damage and clean up the mess. It‘s your responsibility.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It‘s your responsibility. It‘s anyone‘s responsibility.
It‘s a national tragedy. And nobody has any idea how to stop it.
We know how to drill this deep. Nobody has any idea how to drill that
deeply safely. Nobody.
Joining us now live from Venice, Louisiana, is NBC News chief
environmental correspondent, Anne Thompson.
Anne, thank you very much again for joining us.
As far as I understand it there, the next thing B.P. is going to try
is this “top kill” procedure. Is that right?
ANNE THOMPSON, NBC NEWS CHIEF ENVIRONMENTAL CORRESPONDENT: That‘s
right, Rachel. In fact, they hope to start trying the top kill technique
And essentially what this involves is taking heavy drilling mud and
sending it down at a very high pressure through that blowout preventer and
then down into the well. And the pressure and the weight of that drilling
mud should stop the flow of oil—at least in theory—because the
drilling mud is twice as heavy as the water and it‘s heavier than the oil.
If that works, then they follow it with cement.
But again, this has never been tried a mile beneath the surface of the
water. And so, the big risk here today, that B.P.‘s COO, Chief Operating
Officer Doug Suttles, said, is that the fear is that once they start this
and it goes under high pressure, that the mud would go out through the
broken riser instead of into the well. So that‘s what they‘re very
Tomorrow, they will do diagnostic tests on the blowout preventer
because they‘re going to use what are called the choke and kill lines to
send the mud through the blowout preventer into the well. Once those work,
then they hope to have this procedure underway Wednesday morning. And they
should know, they say by Wednesday night, if it has plugged the well.
MADDOW: And just to be clear, is it for sure that they will
definitely try this procedure? Or with the continuing diagnostics that
they‘re doing, is it possible that they‘ll figure out that it‘s more risk
than it‘s worth? That there‘s a chance that it would make it a more out-
of-control leak and so they might not do it?
THOMPSON: Right now, they are very confident that they‘re going to be
able to go ahead with the top kill technique. But before they do, they
have to do a 12-hour diagnostic test of the blowout preventer to make sure
that this won‘t make the situation worse because that is certainly what
they don‘t want to happen.
I mean, even if it doesn‘t plug the well, they don‘t want to make this
catastrophe any bigger, if that‘s even possible. And so, they will do that
12-hour diagnostic test tomorrow. That‘s what I understand. And then if
all goes well with that, then they would do the top kill technique
MADDOW: Anne, I know the last time we talked with you was almost two
weeks ago from Louisiana. What‘s the impact of the spill look like on the
ground there now compared to when we talked with you a couple weeks ago?
THOMPSON: You know, Rachel, two weeks ago when we last talked, to
find oil was difficult. You had to go way out into the Gulf. We really
didn‘t see it here close on the coastline.
Now, I mean, you can go down the Mississippi River and essentially,
when you get to the mouth of the Mississippi, take a left or a right, and
you will find oil. It is in the marshes. We were in Pass a Loutre a
couple of days ago, it is very, very thick in there.
Over the weekend, we took a boat ride out to the leak site. We got
within three miles, and I can tell you, it‘s one of the most depressing
boat trips I have ever taken.
At 12 miles from the coast, you would see dispersant and oil, just
traces of it. Fourteen miles, you‘d start to see those chunks. By 16
miles, we‘re seeing literally huge rivers of oil and dispersant in the Gulf
And at 26 miles, the oil was everywhere. It looked like the Red Sea.
That was very depressing.
Interestingly enough, as you got close to the leak site, instead of
seeing those chunks of oil, the oil turned into a thick heavy sheen that
you could see on the water.
We have also seen over the weekend, I went on a boat trip with
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. He took us over to the Cat Islands.
And I don‘t think I‘ve ever seen anything quite as helpless as seeing
a brown pelican, black with oil, trying to fly away, and just being unable
to do so. And all around his island where he and all these other brown
pelican nests and some other beautiful birds, there‘s just this black ring
of oil that threatens their marsh, threatens their lives. And if that oil
continues to go into the island, the island will disappear, and then where
do those birds go to nest next year?
It‘s really—it‘s a very difficult thing to watch. And can you
imagine, if this goes on for another two or three months, if they can‘t
plug that—plug the leak with the top kill this week, and none of these
other ideas work and the relief well is the only sure thing that they know
and they say at earliest, the relief well would be operating in August.
Can you imagine what this coastline is going to look like come early August
if that well keeps spewing?
MADDOW: Just unbelievable. NBC News chief environmental affairs
correspondent, Anne Thompson, live for us tonight in Venice, Louisiana,
doing some incredible reporting there. Anne, thank you so much for your
time tonight. We really appreciate it.
THOMPSON: Take care, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you.
THOMPSON: Given the situation in the Gulf of Mexico, I have to admit,
I am especially excited about our special guest to kick off “Geek Week” on
this show. He is Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning
physicist, a self-described nerd and the man who President Obama tasked
with putting together a genius squad of out-of-the-box thinking scientists
to go help figure out how to shut down that well.
The secretary‘s next. We will get into energy generally with him, as
well as the specifics of the B.P. disaster.
Please stay with us.
MADDOW: Just in time for “Geek Week,” the Catholic Church gave its
blessing to one of history‘s most important scientific outcasts. Back in
the 16th century, Nicolaus Copernicus had the temerity to write that the
Earth revolves around the sun, not the other way around. And that time, it
was like being the only Al Gore in the world populated entirely by Jim
For founding modern astronomy, Copernicus would be branded a heretic
by the Catholic Church. His body lay in an unmarked grave while the Earth
went around the sun nearly 500 more times.
Until this past weekend when priest in a Polish cathedral gave
Copernicus an actual funeral. They blessed his remains with holy water.
They called him a genius. They laid him to rest in a proper cathedral tomb
embossed with a picture of the solar system.
Just in time for “Geek Week,” Nicolaus Copernicus finally wins.
We‘ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVEN CHU, ENERGY SECRETARY: I‘m not sure I can live up to the high
standards of Harvard commencement speakers. Last year, J.K. Rowling, a
billionaire novelist who started as a classic student graced this podium.
The year before, Bill Gates, the mega-billionaire philanthropist and
computer nerd stood here. Today, sadly, have you me.
CHU: I‘m not a billionaire, but at least I am a nerd.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: At least I am a nerd. And now to kick off “Geek Week,” I
finally get to interview the man who caused this show a year ago to buy
rights to the URL atleastiamanerd.com. Honestly, to this day, if you go to
atleastiamanerd.com, you get redirected to THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Web site.
We also redirect from empathizrightonyourbehind.com, which is a quote
from Michael Steel. But so far, as by that URL hasn‘t been enough to get
Chairman Michael Steele to agree to an interview.
And, you know, if he finally calls us back this week, I‘m not sure if
he would qualify for a “Geek Week” interview anyway. I don‘t know.
But our nation‘s 12th energy secretary, Steven Chu, definitely
qualifies as a geek. Dr. Chu holds undergraduate degrees in math and
physics, as well as a doctorate in physics. He‘s formerly of Bell Labs.
He was a professor of physics in molecular and cell biology. He was head
of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
He and two others were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1997 for
developing methods to cool and trap atoms with lasers. You know, as you
In an era of rife anti-intellectualism, anti-science medievalism,
following an administration in which the president an energy secretary
introducing who distinguished himself previously in the Senate by
introducing a bill too eliminate the Department of Energy, having a new
energy secretary who actually knows Nobel Prize-winning stuff about energy
has been a big change of pace.
What hasn‘t been a big change of pace is Secretary Chu‘s mandate.
President Carter created the Department of Energy and named its first
secretary in 1977. See if this sounds familiar.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY CARTER, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: The energy crisis has not yet
overwhelmed us, but it will if we do not act quickly. We simply must
balance our demand for energy with our rapidly shrinking resources.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We must act quickly to balance our need for energy with the
resources available. Danger will erupt and said danger, immediate action
coming. Urgent, urgent.
Even then, when the Energy Department was being created in the late
‘70s, even then, those pretty words from the president even then were
already old hat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GERALD FORD, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: A massive program must be initiated
to increase energy supply to cut demand and provide new standby emergency
programs, to achieve the independence we want by 1985. Increasing energy
supplies is not enough. We must take additional steps to cut long-term
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Energy independence by 1985, emergency programs cut
consumption, increase supplies. That was Gerald Ford speaking in 1975.
That was even before Carter. That was even before the founding of the
For my entire lifetime, the sure things in life have been death, taxes
and presidents promising that they have very urgent feelings about oil and
energy. I can show you the same clips from Nixon and Reagan and Clinton,
and even from the most pro-oil president imaginable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: Keeping America competitive
requires affordable energy. And here we have a serious problem. America
is addicted to oil.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It sounds great, right? It‘s great politics. It sounds
great for presidents to talk about getting us off oil. They all say it.
Then when it comes to making policy, they tend to do things like
having the head of the oil services company they‘ve named as vice president
convene literally secret meetings with an energy task force made up of oil
companies to write the nation‘s actual energy policies.
Politicians love to talk tough about oil and energy. They also love
to not rock the boat too much. And the boat, such as it is, floats on a
sea of oil.
President Obama does not have a Dick Cheney, and nobody thinks his
energy secretary, Steven Chu, wants to abolish his own department like
Spencer Abraham did under George W. Bush.
But as the Obama administration has tried to implement policies to
goose the renewable energy sector, the last year-and-a-half have provided a
series of nightmarish energy headlines—nightmarish headlines from the
very, very, very, very nonrenewable side of energy. The Upper Big Branch
Massey coal mining disaster in West Virginia, at the beginning of last
month, 29 miners killed at a mine operated by a company known for proud,
chauvinistic flaunting of regulations, and bold political interest in
buying off people who might otherwise oversee them.
A month before that, just a month earlier, the arrest in Yemen after a
shootout of a man reportedly linked to al Qaeda who had managed to get
himself employed at a number of New Jersey nuclear power plants. What
could possibly go wrong?
And now this—the B.P. oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico still out-
of-control, still not yet at the full reach of the disaster that it is
still becoming every day.
Oil, coal, nuclear—all industries that even when used as directed
are fairly disastrous; all industries that we apparently as a nation are as
yet incapable of regulating and overseeing so they can operate safely. By
which I mean at a low level of environmental disaster.
Now, the production of energy isn‘t tiddlywinks. We have something
like 4.6 percent of the world‘s population and we use more than 20 percent
of the world‘s energy. Numbers like that frankly mean it‘s going to be a
But what‘s the plan for making it less of a mess? What‘s the plan for
getting better? For making our energy situation less of a constant
Not just the pretty words about energy independence and being a clean
energy leader like every president says. What‘s this administration
actually doing? They are investing big time, particularly through the
stimulus, in renewables, in wind, solar and geothermal and more. They are
putting in place new fuel efficiency standards for vehicles that are way
better than the old standards.
For the first time, for example, they include big trucks, which seem
smart. They also spent their first year in office approving lots of new
mountain top removal mining permits, which, if I were the kind of person
who uses rape as a metaphor, I would use that metaphor to describe what
mountain top removal does to coal country.
Their dramatically up-scaling investment in nuclear power even as our
old plants leak and the security issues give even laymen like me nightmares
and there‘s nowhere to put the waist, including Yucca Mountain. And
they‘re green-lighting more offshore drilling even now. Green-lighting it
routinely without environmental review; green lighting it with more depths
beyond the Deepwater Horizon, which has proven beyond the shadow of a doubt
that we have no idea how to drill safely at that depth.
Welcome to the brutal world of the most important policy issue in the
world that no one can stand to talk about for very long.
One cause for optimism concerning our next guest? At least he is a
nerd—which does in this case seem like cause for hope.
Joining us now from Yale where he just received an honorary doctor of
science degree today is our energy secretary, Steven Chu.
Dr. Chu, thank you so much for your time.
CHU: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: Let me ask you first. That was a long introduction. Let me
ask you first if you think I‘ve got any of that wrong. Am I being unfair
to describe the administration‘s policies and priorities that way?
CHU: I think a little bit. You did get it right that the Recovery
Act made a huge investment in transitioning to cleaner energy. That was
$80 billion—the single largest investment in a downpayment on a new
energy policy, and that‘s not insignificant. But that I would say is just
the beginning, a downpayment.
MADDOW: I know that you‘ve talked about the fact that the
administration has already taken steps toward doubling the amount of energy
that we get from sources, renewable sources like wind and solar. That‘s
doubling from a very, very, very small number, of course.
By the end of the administration‘s first term, do you have any
estimates, any hopes for what sort of quantitative progress we might have
made on having more renewable sources of energy in our nation‘s overall
CHU: Well, when President Obama took office, the renewable energy
excluding hydro was something on the order of a little bit less than 4
percent. He made a pledge to double the amount of renewables, wind and
solar—primarily wind—in the next three years. We are on track to do
But that‘s really taking wind from 3 percent to 6 percent. It‘s going
to take several doublings in order to get us up to the place where we need
MADDOW: The stimulus funding, the Recovery Act, as you mention, was a
source of a huge influx of renewable energy funding. That is not expected
to be something that‘s a constant source of funding. That was expected to
be a one-time injection into the economy.
Is there a risk that having funded so much renewable energy investment
with that type of funding mechanism, that that‘s going to be a one shot
deal, there isn‘t going to be anything to follow it up?
CHU: Well, we hope it‘s not a one-shot deal. There‘s always that
risk. But on the other hand, what the Obama administration is trying to do
is lay the foundation for a longer-term energy policy.
And you‘re quite right. From presidents beginning Nixon onward, all
said that we are addicted to oil. We have to get off of our great
dependence on energy. This continues—we will do everything—I will do
and the president will do everything in our power in order to put us on a
road to sustainable energy.
There‘s another thing at risk here. There are several things. It‘s
not only using fossil fuel in a much more efficient way and cleaning up our
use of fossil fuel and decreasing our dependency on foreign imports,
there‘s a climate issue at risk here as well.
MADDOW: And I know the climate issue is part of your enthusiasm for
nuclear power, something that potentially has a much, much smaller carbon
impact, but which has the other risks, including production—when used as
directed, as they say—production of dangerous nuclear waste. With Yucca
Mountain seemingly off the table and the plans to open up a lot of new
nuclear power plants, where‘s that waste going to go?
CHU: Well, we think that there are better options. When the Nuclear
Waste Act was passed in the early ‘80s, there were certain constraints on
it. There was a Supreme Court ruling that said that the long-term
geological repositories had to be demonstrated safety for up to 1 million
There are new solutions. There are new technologies. And so, we have
appointed a blue ribbon commission to look at, with a crystal ball, what
would happen 10, 20, 50 years from today. Based on reasonable choices of
what would happen, what would be better strategies in how to deal with the
back end of the fuel cycle, including the final disposition of the waste?
I personal think that we have a long way to go. We are using uranium
you mine uranium out of the ground. You use a very small fraction of
the energy content of that material, less than 1 percent. If we can use 10
percent, 20 percent of the energy content that would be 20 times less
waste. We also think we can decrease a lot of time. So I think this is a
long-term thing. We are working towards much better solutions.
MADDOW: Shouldn‘t we, though, be investing in those technological
solutions, not only for dealing with waste but also as you‘re saying for
maximizing the bang for the buck with the uranium that we‘re mining,
shouldn‘t we be funding research on that before we‘re planning on opening
I mean, the new funding that‘s been announced, the support for those
loans means that we‘ll probably see reactors within the next couple of
CHU: Well, the hope is that we can start the nuclear industry, hope
that after six or seven reactors, eight reactors are built, that the
financial uncertainties would be alleviated.
But the—there‘s time to come up with decisions. The current
storage of waste above ground in dry cast storage could be good for 50,
maybe even 100 years. So we have time to develop a thoughtful plan.
Meanwhile, we should get—we have as base load generation gas, coal
and nuclear. As we bring up renewables like wind and solar as quickly as
we can, we still need some base load power.
MADDOW: And the second half of our visit with Energy Secretary Steven
Chu, the topic is the BP oil disaster. This is a conversation very well
worth sticking around for. We‘ll be right back with that.
MADDOW: More than a month since the BP oil disaster started, no one
knows how to stop the oil leak, how much has already leaked, how much
continues to leak, where the oil is, how to prevent it from reaching the
shore, how to clean it from the shore, or why the Obama administration
keeps giving out environmental waivers for more drilling even after the
president said there would be a temporary moratorium on new drilling.
The BP disaster and the government‘s response to the disaster are the
subject of the second part of my interview today with Energy Secretary
Across the country there‘s—there was concern, I think shock turned
to concern is now turning to real anger. And I sense just anecdotally and
I‘m starting to feel some of it myself, that people are fed up that this
isn‘t fixed and we all know people are trying and that this is a difficult
thing that doesn‘t have an obvious solution, but is there some sense in
which we are at the company‘s mercy here, at BP‘s mercy?
If we did push them out of the way and took over ourselves in terms of
the government taking over, could we have a better chance of getting this
thing shut down?
CHU: It‘s not clear. But first, as soon as this disaster occurred,
President Obama and his administration responded almost immediately in
various aspects, both to mitigate as the oil begins to wash ashore, to line
up resources within the Department of Energy, the president has charged me
to assemble a team of nine people within the Department of Energy, but some
of the brightest people to actually engage with BP.
Come up with newer ideas that perhaps they might not have thought of.
So we‘ve been doing this for now the past three weeks, 3 ½ weeks. We
have people there in Houston. There are daily tag ups, typically an hour
or two a day, I‘ve been down there once, I will be flying down later this
afternoon and spending the next couple of days, helping BP engineers to
think through what are the possibilities.
Are there things they could have overlooked? How can you accelerate
this if plan A doesn‘t work? What about B, C and D? And to having this
pipeline response should something go wrong in the mitigation plans that
are now in place.
MADDOW: I know that about a week ago you floated the idea of trying
to help with the puzzle of trying to shut the wellhead by using high energy
gamma rays to get better imaging of the busted blow out preventer. Is that
something that has been tried? Is imaging that blowout preventer seen as
something that‘s a priority? How would something like that work?
CHU: Well, this was a little over two weeks ago. We didn‘t know the
state of the blowout preventer. We didn‘t know whether the valves had
actually closed. The (canticles) were given. The ROVs went down there and
essentially pushed in the hydraulics to make sure they were closed, but you
still couldn‘t be sure.
And so just as you use x-rays for dental that you have source of
radiation, you have a plate behind it. We could use very high energy gamma
rays. Gamma rays that have high enough energy that they can actually
penetrate through several inches of steel.
So with using that technology, we have found that what the conditions
of those valves are, some of them are closed, some of them—so that was a
great help to know that at least some of the valves have closed and the
locking pins are behind them.
MADDOW: In terms of what is a still being tried and the options that
are still available, we‘ve heard a lot about this attempt to do a sort of
top kill in which they‘re going to try to just clog the leak. Also some
concerns that that might make the leak worse if it doesn‘t work.
Do you have any insight that you can share with us in terms of the
best available options? I‘m worried that the only blowout, deep blowouts
I‘ve ever read about, known about, were all solved with relief wells and
nothing like that, as far as I can tell, will be drilled until August.
CHU: Well, there have been blowout preventer valves that have
prevented massive leaks. They‘re so-called top kill, dynamical kill will
be tried if, as the interpretation is brought on to the BOP, which should
be actually today.
We will be now closely measuring what the pressure is as you go up the
stack on the various valves. With those diagnostics, which we hope to have
today and tonight and probably pull a few all-nighters, we can then
determine what‘s the best strategy going forward.
MADDOW: And that knowing what the pressure would be on the stack
would tell you how risky it would be to try to do the top kill?
CHU: That‘s right. It will give you more insight on the condition of
the valves were, whether you can put enough flow into the blowout
prevention stack so that you can use the force of the mud going down to
overcome the gas, oil and mud coming up.
MADDOW: Mr. Secretary, a couple weeks after the Deepwater Horizon
sank, after the explosion and those 11 workers were killed, you said at
that time that it was not a mistake to have announced expanded offshore
drilling. This far into it with the well still out of control, do you
still feel like that wasn‘t a mistake?
CHU: Well, I‘m not sure whether I said it was not a mistake. I think
there has to be a moratorium on new drilling offshore until we find out
what the issues are, what the dangers are. Retrofit what needs to be
retrofitted and to proceed in a much safer way. So the president has been
quite clear on that.
MADDOW: It would seem to me that the ability to prevent a blowout and
to cap a blown well is a necessary precondition for being able to say that
we know how to drill safely for oil.
It seems like this disaster has proven we clearly can‘t prevent a
blowout or cap a blown well at even 5,000 feet. Even since the deepwater
sank, we‘ve had a handful of—a handful of drilling applications excluded
from environmental permitting that are for even deeper water.
It just seems like we‘ve now proven it‘s not safe to drill this deeply
because we don‘t know how to fix it when things go wrong at this depth.
How could we ever approve this going forward unless there are some major
CHU: Well, I don‘t know the details of what was approved and not
approved, I only know what I read in the papers. But let me just say that
it is very important as we go forward to look at what things we can do to
guarantee that it would be highly unlikely that something like this will
ever happen again.
MADDOW: Mr. Secretary, I would say I‘m worried that you only know
what you read in the papers about what‘s being approved. One of the things
that‘s been frustrating is to hear the Obama administration announce
there‘s a moratorium on going forward with new approvals for offshore
drilling and then to keep reading in the paper over and over again.
That actually even though that‘s been announced publicly, the
approvals have kept chugging along. Is there a situation here in which the
right hand of the government doesn‘t know what the left hand is doing?
I‘ve been worried about the relationship between the government and
BP, I‘m starting to worry about the internal relationship within—among
government agencies in terms of actually knowing what we‘re doing right
CHU: Well, again, I think you and I probably—in the “New York
Times” this morning I read that there was an interpretation of what you
mean by new permits to drilling, that‘s what I read in the “New York
Times.” and personally, I think we should stop all new drilling, whether
it‘s preapproved or whatever until we get to the bottom of this. I think
that will be done. And so, yes, you know, the government is a big
bureaucracy, and I hope that‘s been fixed.
MADDOW: Dr. Steven Chu, U.S. Secretary of Energy, thank you very much
for joining us. I know you‘re incredibly busy, you‘re on your way back
down to the gulf. A lot of people are counting on you to add to the
intellectual power to stop this thing. Thank you, Sir.
CHU: Thank you.
MADDOW: OK, Senate candidate, Dr. Rand Paul‘s appearance on this show
last week continues to reverberate as top Republican leaders variously
throw Dr. Paul and me under the bus. Governor Palin this means you. It‘s
just like Junior High, the more you keep talking about me, the weirder it
is that you won‘t talk to me. We‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: We have some breaking news to report. What looks like a
break through compromise proposal on “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” has been
offered by key members of Congress and apparently accepted by the
administration tonight. Here‘s the context.
Plans by Congress to repeal “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” this year had run
up against advice from Defense Secretary Bob Gates that Congress should
wait to act until the Pentagon completes its lengthy study of how to repeal
the policy. That study‘s not due to be completed until December.
That timeline does not jibe with the president‘s promise to repeal the
ban this year, nor does it jibe with the promise by the speaker of the
House that by the end of this year, quote, “Don‘t Ask Don‘t Tell will be a
memory.” There‘s also the potent imperative of the service member who‘s
are out, who are coming out in increasing numbers and who are making
themselves known in anticipation of the ban ending.
So how can the urgency of the desire for repeal be balanced with the
Pentagon‘s slow walk review? Well, today, after high level meetings in
D.C., Senators Carl Levin, Joe Lieberman and Iraq war veteran and anti
“Don‘t Ask Don‘t Tell” leader Congressman Patrick Murphy announced a
compromise proposal in which Congress would repeal “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell”
possibly as soon as this week they would vote on it.
But the repeal would not take into effect until after the Pentagon‘s
study was complete in December. The senators and the congressmen asked for
the administration‘s view of that proposal. White House Budget Director
Peter Orszag wrote back and said the approach is supported by the White
Congressman Patrick Murphy is our guest on this show tomorrow. This
really could be the week for “Don‘t Ask Don‘t Tell.” Important stuff on
this subject. Congressman Murphy on this show tomorrow. In the meantime,
we‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina endorsed Rand Paul as a
Republican candidate for Senate in Kentucky, despite Paul‘s opponent being
endorsed by most of the rest of the Republican establishment.
I interviewed Dr. Paul last week about his misgivings, about the Civil
Rights Act of 1964, stopping businesses from discriminating on the basis of
race. Senator DeMint responded to the ensuing controversy by declaring
that the real problem in this whole controversy is me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENATOR JIM DEMINT, SOUTH CAROLINA: Rand Paul is a good candidate.
Unfortunately he made a mistake of going on a gotcha station, where they‘re
not interested in what he thinks or what he might be voting on in the
They‘re just trying to find some chink in the armor they can go after.
Rand Paul supports the Civil Rights Act. He has been very clear about
that. He made the mistakes of thinking that Rachel—whatever her name is
– really wanted to understand a particular point that he was making, which
I think was unrelated to the Civil Rights bill.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You know, I spent 20 minutes asking the man the same question
so I did get him to answer it for 20 straight minutes. I am not sure how a
person demonstrates more of a desire to understand something than by asking
the same thing over and over for 20 minutes.
But you know, if you have to blame somebody, right? The other major
Republican figure to endorse Rand Paul against his Republican opponent in
Kentucky was former Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska. She has also decided
that the real cause of the Civil Rights Act controversy isn‘t Dr. Paul‘s
views, it‘s me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR, ALASKA: When Rand Paul anticipated he‘d
be able to engage in a discussion, he being a libertarian leaning
constitutional Conservative, being able to engage in a discussion with a TV
character, a media personality, who perhaps had an agenda in asking the
question and then interpreting his answer the way that she did.
He wanted to talk about evidently some hypotheticals as it applies to
impacts on the Civil Rights Act, as it impacts our constitution. So he was
given the opportunity finally to clarify, and unequivocally, he has stated
that he supports the Civil Rights Act.
Don‘t assume that you can engage in a hypothetical discussion about
constitutional impacts with a reporter or a media personality who has an
agenda, who may be prejudiced before they even get into the interview in
regards to what your answer may be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I understand the political desire to blame the questioner and
not the answerer when the answers prove upsetting, but if you‘re going to
try to make me the story, if you‘re more interested in talking about me
rather than your own candidate, then maybe you should be willing to talk to
me yourself instead of just talking about me.
Come on, ask Dr. Paul if I‘m a fair interviewer. Ask anybody who‘s
been on the show if you will get a fair chance to say your piece without
getting interrupted. Come on, don‘t be afraid. Come on. Come on. Come
MADDOW: Republicans have been very excited this year about trying to
beat Harry Reid. Who they think can beat him isn‘t settled though?
There‘s a crowded field in the Republican primary for which early voting
has already started, but be warned.
This year there is a new rule about what you can and can‘t do at a
Nevada polling place. You know the old rule, no electioneering within 100
feet, no political buttons, no signs at the polling places, but this year
there‘s something new you can‘t do in Nevada. Kent Jones reports.
KENT JONES, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ever since Republican
Senate candidate Sue Lowden made this suggestion to improve our health care
SUE LOWDEN, SENATE CANDIDATE, NEVADA: In the olden days, our
grandparents, they would bring a chicken to the doctor. They would say
I‘ll paint your house.
JONES: It‘s been chicken, chicken, chicken. One comment has
metastasized into an overflowing bucket of snark. Apparently, there‘s been
so much Lowden based (inaudible), but Nevada officials are forbidding
voters to wear a chicken costume to the polls.
the humanity. Washoe County Registrar of Voters Dan Burke said
such a costume would be, quote, “an inappropriate and obvious advocacy
message against Ms. Lowden.”
And yes, the Washoe County Registrar of Voters is named Merk.
Secretary of State Ross Miller was also asked if Nevadans could exercise
their constitutional rights to vote while dressed as a chicken. Mr.
Miller‘s response, quote - “they cannot.” Apparently, we have discovered
the boundaries of the first amendment. It‘s yellow and it clucks.
MADDOW: No chicken suits in the polling places. Well, thank you very
much, Kent. Really appreciate that report.
JONES: No problem. Here to help.
MADDOW: Solidarity, man. That does it for us tonight. We‘ll see you
again tomorrow night on “Geek Week” continues.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>