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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Monday, May 24, 2010

Read the transcript to the Monday show

Guests: Steven Chu, Kent Jones


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

as well.

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.


TONY HAYWARD, BP CEO:  The visit today—


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.


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.


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.


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?


right, Rachel.  In fact, they hope to start trying the top kill technique

Wednesday morning.

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

concerned about.

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

Wednesday morning.

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

of Mexico.

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.



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.


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  Honestly, to this day, if you go to, you get redirected to THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Web site.

We also redirect from, 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.


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.


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.


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



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

Energy Department.

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.


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.


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

mess, regardless.

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

to be.

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

Steven Chu.

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

technological advances?

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.


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.


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.


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.


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



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.




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