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Gulf Oil Leak Getting Worse?; Interview With Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren

Aired June 8, 2010 - 18:00   ET



Happening now: We have new high-resolution video of the oil leak at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. We're going to show it to one of the nation's top experts, who thinks BP strategy has made the actual flow of oil, at least right now, worse, perhaps far worse. He's standing by.

But what happens to the oil that BP is collecting? BP has just made a major new decision. We will have details.

And the images of oil-drenched wildlife are certainly heartbreaking. CNN's Anderson Cooper gets a closer look at the bird rescue operation.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The amount of oil being captured from the leaking well in the Gulf is increasing every day. The government's point man for the crisis, the Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, says BP has collected 14,800 barrels over the past 24-hour period.

But there are new concerns that the amount of oil escaping from that gusher has actually grown exponentially.

Brian Todd has been looking into this part of the story for us.

Brian, it's causing major concern right now. What are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a prominent expert now says that those estimates that BP gave out several days ago, that the oil flow might temporarily increase by as much as 20 percent when the riser was cut off, well, he says those estimates are way off.

That revelation has put BP on the defensive and gotten some officials here pretty angry.


TODD (voice-over): An expert tapped by the government to estimate flow rate says the operation to cut the riser above the blowout preventer, a move which allowed the containment cap to be placed, actually made the leak much worse. Ira Leifer of the University of Southern California, Santa Barbara, puts it way above BP's estimate of a temporary increase -- quote -- "I don't mean 20 percent. I mean multiple factors."

I asked Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser about that.

BILLY NUNGESSER, PRESIDENT, PLAQUEMINES PARISH, LOUISIANA: They don't want us to know how much is coming out. And so their estimate vs. scientists', there's a lot of uncertainty, and I don't have a lot of faith in the numbers that they're giving us.

TODD (on camera): Why do you think they don't want you to know how much coming out?

NUNGESSER: I don't know. I don't know if it's tied to their liability or if there's some calculation based on the damage to the environment. I don't know how those things are figured. But I know it don't look good for coastal Louisiana.

TODD (voice-over): I called BP about Nungesser's accusations. A spokeswoman wouldn't comment directly on them, but said the company has given the government every piece of information it has on the flow rate.

I also spoke with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal about the latest flow rate estimates.

(on camera): Do you have information that the leak is far worse now than it was before they cut the riser, even more than the 20 percent they estimated?

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: Two things. They haven't told us that, but I have said all along from the beginning of this incident assume for the worst, prepare for the worst, hope for the best. And the reality is, every time they have given us information, it turns out they first told us it was 1,000 barrels. Then it was 5,000 barrels. Then it was 12,000 to 19,000. Then it was 20 percent more.

I wouldn't be surprised at all, based on the amount of oil we're seeing in the water, the amount of oil we're seeing in the wetlands, that the flow rate is actually higher. They haven't told me that. Secondly, I think it would be better to bring in outside experts not only to look at the flow rate, but to look at the dispersants, to look at the technologies they're using.

The more access, the better. I think we need the country's best scientists looking at this. BP doesn't have all the answers, obviously. They have tried many different things. The federal government doesn't have all the answers. So, I, for one, wouldn't be surprised to find out the flow rate is higher.

What I have asked them to do is to tell me -- they tell you every day how much they have burned, how much they have skimmed. And that's great. What I want to know is how much oil is in the water, how long will it continue to come into our coast, how much oil is beneath the water. We have very, very great concerns about that subsea plume. So, it wouldn't surprise me at all, based on independent analysis from these scientists, that the flow rate is actually higher than what they have been saying.

TODD: Do you think it was a mistake for BP and the government to stop giving these briefings together?

JINDAL: I think what is even more important than how they do these briefing, whether they're joint or separate, is, there has to be a steady flow of information. They have got to let the public know. They need to be open and transparent about it.

TODD: Have they given that steady flow?

JINDAL: No. The reality is, look, it's been in drips at first. It seems like every day there's a new revelation about how much oil is coming out, what kinds of dispersants they're using, what kinds of chemicals they are using out there. I think they're better served putting all the information on the table.


TODD: That BP official I spoke with would not comment directly on the remarks from Governor Jindal or Billy Nungesser, again, about their transparency, but she said repeatedly that BP has given every piece of information it possibly can, every piece of information it has on the flow rate, so that technical group that the government has assigned to estimate it.

That''s the group that Professor Leifer is part of -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Did Billy Nungesser, the Plaquemines Parish president, give an estimate how much of his parish has actually been affected by this?

TODD: Yes. He just told us that it has hit about 15 spots in this parish. And that means literally probably hundreds of square miles of coastline, because this parish is massive, Wolf. And as you know it kind of encompasses much of the southern peninsula of Louisiana, so this parish has especially been hit hard by it. You can say it's pretty much ground zero of where the spill has hit so far.

BLITZER: All right, Brian, thanks so much. We will stay on -- close touch with Brian.

Let's hear right now directly from the scientist who says that BP may have actually made the oil leak worse.

Professor Ira Leifer of the university of California, Santa Barbara, is part of the government's team charged with estimating the oil flow rate. He's joining us on the phone.

Dr. Leifer, thanks very much.

Well, just tell our viewers if you believe that the situation now is actually worse than it was before that cut-and-cap procedure took place?


The cutting of the pipe was necessary for trying to put the cap on. The procedure that I am referring to is top kill, which sandblasted the interior of the pipeline, and therefore allowed when this procedure that they have now done which we can see on the video occurred to have a freely flowing basis within the pipeline.

So, that -- that was the particular action on the part of BP, which, if we had been able at that time to come up with numbers -- and we were waiting for data -- one might have avoided doing in the first place.

BLITZER: I'm going to put on the screen, Dr. Leifer, on the left, though, the video that we saw from those feeds coming out before that cut-and-containment situation. And then on the right part of the screen, I want to put up what we're seeing right now. And talk a little bit about the differences, what you're seeing.

LEIFER: The first thing that I would like the listeners to know and the public is that the video which we're analyzing for the report whose numbers will come out some time later this week or next week was from before top kill, not most recently, so it -- a week or a week- and-a-half old.

What you can see there is significant oil that's boiling around and gas, the cap that's attempting to capture some of that oil. And it's very difficult with the cap in place. You can't really compare the two, because the cap deflects the oil and the gas flow.

However, from the earlier videos which we had before the top kill, the flow was significantly less than it currently is in the video that we see either boiling around the cap or from when there was no cap in place.

BLITZER: Because originally the -- your team, that -- the government-sponsored flow estimate team -- these are government -- outside experts who were brought in -- came up with this number 12,000 to 19,000 barrels a day, and then somebody apparently from BP said, if you do the cut procedure, it would increase it by 20 percent.

We know they're capturing some of that, a nice chunk of that, but your concern is what, that the 20,000 or 25,000 barrels a day that could be spewing could really be closer to 100,000 barrels a day?

LEIFER: Well, the concern is that, by BP's own estimates, if their pipe is flowing freely, then their number says 100,000 barrels a day, more or less. And it could be more or it could be less.

BLITZER: Well, let me interrupt you...


BLITZER: ... because we went back and checked. You and I spoke on the phone earlier in the day. Before this explosion occurred, they gave the government an estimate of what would happen if there was an explosion and it was just freely coming up. The actual number that BP put in their own estimate was 160,000 barrels a day.

LEIFER: I think this is a number -- it could be 160,000. I don't think this number is something that we would want to pin a firm second digit on. I think it's an estimate.

And it indicates how bad a freely flowing pipe such as this could do. That doesn't mean it's doing it. It could be doing a lot more, or it could be doing a lot less, depending on many, many factors. BP has provided us with high-quality video to analyze, which was not true yesterday, and things were still on the way.

And so we're looking forward to actually being able to analyze that data and come up with some good numbers.

BLITZER: I'm shocked that they didn't make that high-resolution video available to you and the other outside experts that were brought in by the federal government to assess the flow rate.

Why didn't they make that video available to you when you were actually coming up with these numbers?

LEIFER: I really do not know their motivation. I just do know that it was quite frustrating for us to not be able to get that video in a timely manner, so that we would, in fact, be able to provide good flow numbers to advise the government and BP on what further steps to take.

And I'm very glad that now the situation has changed and they are providing and I certainly hope that they will continue to be forthcoming, as they are apparently now are being.

BLITZER: I'm going to put that new high-resolution video up on the screen now, Dr. Leifer. And I know you visited this area about a year or so ago. Talk a little bit about what we're seeing in this new high-resolution video. This is what's spewing out right now even after that cap has been put on tap of that riser.

LEIFER: So, there's a plume of oil and gas coming out of the cuts there in two different sections, one of which is much darker and, therefore, would be oilier, and, interestingly, there are white little flashes in it, which probably are hydrate crystals forming.

And then, in the background, there's a more brownish plume, which is almost certainly an emulsion. It seems to be coming from a smaller gap in the pipe structure, which is probably creating a lot of turbulence and mixing the oil with water and also the natural gas that's involved. And it's rising straight vertically. There certainly are weak currents in this area. And so this is a very strongly buoyancy-driven flow. It's bubbles that are driving it straight up, bubbles of methane.

BLITZER: Realistically -- and I know you're not a prophet -- but when do you believe we won't see any oil gushing from this riser anymore?

LEIFER: So, I certainly hope that day is very, very soon. However, the technical -- the technical challenges BP faces -- and I certainly hope they keep safety to the fore in this regards -- to drilling relief wells and relieving the pressure and then attempting to get cement down that, is huge.

And it's never been done in water this deep. It took nine months off of Australia or something along that lines, and they blew out one of the drilling rigs. They had a further accident, so safety clearly must be at the forefront of whatever activities are done. But if it follows similar patterns to the past, this could go well into late in the fall.

And I really hope it does not, but then again, we have hurricanes coming, and those are certainly going to interfere with any activities to try to reduce the oil of flow from the well.

BLITZER: And, so, what I hear you saying is those two relief wells that are now being dug and they're supposedly -- well, at least one of them is supposed to be ready to stop it by early August -- there's no guarantee that's going to work.

LEIFER: There's no guarantee. And, certainly, if a Category 4 hurricane or several of them, as are predicted, come through the area this summer, then that schedule is going to clearly be pushed back.

As well, those are other holes into the reservoir. They present a potential danger point at which we could be faced with two leaks, if it's not done very carefully and very -- with the best science and technology available. And then we would have twice the problem, with oil coming out of two different directions. I certainly hope it can be done ahead of schedule, but the challenges are enormous.

BLITZER: I know you're part of this flow estimate team that the federal government has put together, together with Professor Wereley, whom we spoke with earlier.

If the president of the United States, Dr. Leifer, were to call you up tonight and say, Ira, what should we do, what would you say?

LEIFER: I think there's clearly a need for an understanding for monitoring of what's happening on this that's separate and independent of British Petroleum.

And I think that's a key part, so that we can actually provide information, so that decisions made are best. And then the second thing is, right now, we're not there, the scientists. We're not learning. Things are being very difficult to get out.

This -- we will never engineer accidents away, and right now we're not learning, so that for the next accident when it happens, we will be ready. And basically what I'm saying here is, I think I would recommend to the president that we need to develop the equivalent of air bags and seat belts for accidents, so that when something happens, the passenger is safe, in this case the passenger being the ecosystem. BLITZER: Dr. Ira Leifer is a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, part of the government's team investigating this flow.

We will check back with you tomorrow, if that's OK, Dr. Leifer.

LEIFER: We will certainly check back. And I'm pleased that you're covering this story so well.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Dr. Ira Leifer of the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Jack Cafferty's coming up next with "The Cafferty File."

Then much more on the Gulf oil disaster -- BP announcing what it plans to do with the money it will make from the oil that it is salvaging from the Gulf disaster.

And has Israel become a burden to the United States in the wake of that deadly commando raid on the humanitarian ships heading toward Gaza? Tough questions for the Israeli ambassador to the United States. More of our interview, that's coming up later.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty's here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, President Obama wants Americans to know that he's finally very angry about the Gulf oil spill.

He is so worked up that he told NBC that he's met with experts about the spill to learn -- quote -- "whose ass to kick" -- unquote.

Here's the deal. Seven weeks into this crisis, the public's not too pleased with the president's response to America's worst environmental disaster ever. And it seems like this oil spill could swallow the president up right along with thousands of miles of coastline.

A new ABC News/"Washington Post" poll shows 69 percent of those surveyed rate the federal response to the spill negatively. That's worse than the rating for the federal response to Hurricane Katrina. Not good.

A new Gallup poll shows more Americans disapprove of the president's handling of the oil spill. And the president's paltry 40 percent approval rating on the spill trails his overall job rating by seven points.

These poll results come despite the fact that the White House has been working aggressively to address criticism of how they have responded. The president has returned several times to the Gulf. It seems that, each time we hear him speak, he's trying to show more emotion and more passion.

The trouble is, at this point, a lot of it comes across as contrived. Whose ass to kick is not Barack Obama's style. The fact is, this accident in the Gulf may prove to be a serious stumbling block in Mr. Obama's young presidency. It could jeopardize his ability to push through his agenda.

Even some liberals are beginning to desert him.

Here's the question. How does President Obama get out from under the oil spill? Go to Post a comment on my blog.

BLITZER: Not an easy answer, but a great question, Jack. Thanks very much.

I want to show our viewers that high-resolution video that has just been released today. It's on the right-hand part of the screen. It was actually taken, this high-resolution video, in early June, just before that cap and that cutting of the riser cap and the cap was put in place.

But you can see, it's very, very precise, much clearer. And they will have better estimate of what's going on. That -- that flow team is currently reviewing the high-resolution video. Let's get some of more of it, so the experts can really know what's going on.

Thousands of barrels of oil are being captured daily from the leaking oil well in the Gulf. And now we know what BP plans to do with it. That's coming up.

Also, my interview with the Israeli ambassador to the United States. He's answering some tough questions about the deadly commando raid on those humanitarian ships heading to Gaza.


BLITZER: All right, this just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM from Lipscomb County, Texas, the sheriff's officer there now confirming that another Texas pipeline, an explosion and fire has just occurred. Three people are injured. An unknown number of people are unaccounted for. That's all the information we have right now. We don't have any pictures of this yet, no video, but we're watching this Texas pipeline explosion in Lipscomb County.

We will get more information and share it with you.

Much more information coming up on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as well.

But there's other important news we're following, including more now on that raid on the Gaza flotilla. Is it helping to drive a wedge between Israel and the United States?

I spoke about that and a lot more with Israel's ambassador here in Washington, Michael Oren.


BLITZER: I want to read to you from "Haaretz" the other day, the Mossad chief, Meir Dagan.

And I will read the first couple sentences. Mossad chief Meir Dagan said on Tuesday that Israel is progressively becoming a burden on the United States -- quote -- "'Israel is gradually turning from an asset to the United States to a burden,'" said Dagan, speaking before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee."

You know there are some officials here in the Obama administration who believe that what you're doing now is creating a burden to the United States, as opposed to a strategic asset to the United States.

MICHAEL OREN, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: First to Meir Dagan's quote, which was taken out of context. And he was quick to say -- to give you the correct context, he was saying that there were certain people in Washington who thought this. He does not think that Israel's become a liability to the United States...


BLITZER: But there are officials in Washington who believe that Israel's becoming a liability.

OREN: I don't encounter anybody in the Obama administration who remotely thinks that.

There are some people in think tanks running around here in this city who may think that. In the Obama administration, all I do is encounter a tremendous amount of appreciation for the strategic alliance between Israel and the United States, to say nothing of the democratic alliance.

BLITZER: Because General Petraeus was testifying. He seemed to suggest that, as you know, the U.S. military's Central Command.

OREN: And he, too, said he was taken out of context. He said that a solution to the Arab/Israeli conflict would ease the general conflict between the Middle East and the West. And we certainly agree with that. We sign on to the desire for an end to the conflict between ourselves and the Palestinians, the Arab world, the Muslim world.

BLITZER: Here's what the former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Kurtzer wrote in "The Washington Post" over the weekend: "Israel and the United States are seeing the threat environment in the region the ways to deal with the threat environment in increasingly different ways. And for the United States, that means Israel is a problem as an ally heading in a very different direction."

You know Dan Kurtzer.

OREN: I know and I like him and I respect him.

BLITZER: He's no enemy of Israel. He's no opponent of Israel.

OREN: Not at all. Not at all. BLITZER: Is that a factually accurate statement that he makes?

OREN: It's not.

And here's an example we had this week of Israel's interception of this flotilla, the conflict with the 70 paid mercenaries from a radical Islamic organization that encountered our soldiers, beat them. And, during that period -- and I'm telling from the inside -- I was involved in this from 2:00 in the morning last Monday morning -- I never heard a single word of criticism from anybody in this administration.

I never heard a word of rancor. No one came to me saying, why are you approaching it this way, instead of that way? The whole approach was, we see we have a problem. Let's work together to try to better facilitate the blockade, because the last thing anybody wants to happen is to have Hamas access to tens of thousands of rockets.

It's the -- it's a dire threat to Egypt, a dire threat to Israel. It's the end of the peace process.

BLITZER: A lot of people in Israel don't like President Obama, do they?

OREN: I think that President Obama is widely misunderstood in Israel. And I think that, once the president comes to Israel and reaches out to the Israeli people, I think he will prove to be as popular, if not more popular, than any previous president.

BLITZER: When's he coming?

OREN: Yes. You have to ask that to people in his White House, not the Israeli Embassy.

BLITZER: Have they rescheduled Prime Minister Netanyahu's visit to Washington yet?

OREN: We're looking forward to a visit in the near future.

BLITZER: Within weeks?

OREN: In the near future.

BLITZER: All right, Mr. Ambassador, you have got a lot going on. Thanks very much for coming in.

OREN: Thank you.


BLITZER: It's very clear what the oil spill's impact on the surface of the Gulf is, but what's going on really right now under the water?

And could BP end up making a profit on all that leaking oil it's collecting? We are going to tell you what they're doing with it. Plus, John King, he is on the beach in Alabama right now telling us why at least one business owner is pleased with BP's actions.


BLITZER: Let's get back to our top story, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

From above, the oil spill's impact over the waters in the Gulf is all too clear, but what's really going on just below the surface?

Lisa Sylvester is back. She's getting word on a new finding.

What are we learning, Lisa?

SYLVESTER: Well, Wolf, independent scientists have been on a hunt to find the so-called oil plumes -- these clouds of oil underwater in the Gulf. And they have found the presence of oil particles under the surface. But it's still unclear whether they're related to the massive spill from the Deepwater Horizon.


SYLVESTER (voice-over): On the water's surface, a blanket of murky, thick oil. But deep below in the Gulf water, oil particles are also being found.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The actual dimensions of this -- of -- of this plume, if you want to call it, is -- is yet to be determined. And the question also is, is that there's probably more than one limb of these plumes.

SYLVESTER: Scientists with the University of South Florida and NOAA went out on the Gulf for six days, collecting water samples at several sites. The depths ranged from 50 meters to 1,400 meters.

Dr. David Hollinger has been analyzing what they found.

DR. DAVID HOLLINGER: This is oil coming right off the machine right now.

SYLVESTER: BP has repeatedly insisted oil was limited to the surface of the Gulf and has denied the existence of underwater oil plumes.

This from just last week.

BOB DUDLEY, BP MANAGING DIRECTOR: Everyone's out there looking for these plumes.

They haven't found them yet.

SYLVESTER: The oil particles are tiny, not visible to the naked eye. Some suggest they can't even really be called an oil plume. But they have their own molecular fingerprints. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The oil found in surface samples taken 40 nautical miles northeast of the well site were consistent with the BP oil.

SYLVESTER: Subsea samples taken from other sites either did not match oil from the BP well or were inconclusive. The oil that was found was is in low concentrations. But it was found miles from where the oil is gushing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And there is some evidence...

SYLVESTER: The discovery provides some answers but also leads to new questions.

What is the path of the subsea oil?

What is the concentration?

And what does this mean for the fish and other marine life?


SYLVESTER: And different samples from different areas are showing different results. Two different groups did testing here, NOAA and the University of South Florida. And NOAA looked at oil samples at 142 nautical miles. But they did not find any detectable BP oil, which is the furthest point out that they tested.

Researchers, though, with the University of South Florida, testing in other areas, said they did find oil subsurface and that they -- and according to them, they say that that was linked to the Deepwater Horizon -- Wolf.

BLITZER: More disturbing news, indeed.

All right. Thanks, Lisa, very much.

In Alabama right now, authorities are trying to keep oil from coming ashore and minimize the impact if the sticky mess does make land.

CNN's John King is on the beach in Dauphin Island for us -- John, what are officials doing there to try to protect Alabama?

JOHN KING, HOST, "JOHN KING USA": Wolf, a number of steps.

First, let me show you, when families come to the beaches here, this is what they hope to see -- collect some, you know, shells along the beach, maybe for the children. This is what we have here at the moment. You've seen these in other places. We showed you some yesterday in Florida. Some of these tar balls coming ashore.

So what can they do to protect these shores?

If you look out this way, this is the Gulf of Mexico. And you can see offshore a number of natural gas rigs. They are a staple of the Alabama economy -- all natural gas rigs just a few miles offshore.

On this side, Wolf, there's not much protection because of the Gulf. They say if it -- if it washes in here and they've been picking up these tar balls, that's OK.

On the far end of the island, though, and the other side, they've set up an elaborate barrier system -- boxes, essentially, filled with sand. And they'll use a chemical, if the oil comes ashore on the mobile base side -- the mobile base side -- they'll use a chemical to try to stop the oil from reaching these pristine sands.

They also had some sand berms along the island. You'll see a number of cranes working in to put up these berms like this here.

Now, this work was actually going on before the oil spill. This beach was wiped out in Hurricane Katrina -- a whole row of beachfront homes wiped away.

But now, as they take other steps to deal with the oil spill, they also think, Wolf, these sand berms could help them as a second line of defense. You were just talking to Lisa about those plumes. I talked to a researcher here just a short time ago. He says they've taken some samples about nine miles off the shore. They noticed the oxygen level is going down. One of the things they worry about is those underwater plumes could be depleting the oxygen so critical to the fish that spawn in these Gulf waters -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The president and the White House just announcing, John, as you know, that next Monday and Tuesday, the president will be heading back to the Gulf region. He'll be visiting Alabama, where you are right now; also Mississippi and Florida. You were in Florida yesterday.

What's he likely to hear from the workers, who have clearly been disrupted by all of this?

KING: Well, he's going to hear a number of things. Number one, a lot of these governors want him to lift the moratorium on deepwater drilling. And the president today made clear today that moratorium will stay in place.

Let's continue down the beach here. That's one thing you'll hear from some of the governors.

Workers want to know what about jobs?

On this island alone, Wolf, it's a ghost town. Normally, these beachfront houses are all rented. This time of year is the peak season. As you can see, there's nobody on the beaches. There's nobody in these homes. So the president will hear frustration about that, making sure there's a long-term commitment from BP to make up for the losses here.

We talked to one gentleman here today. David Meyer (ph) is his name. He owns two homes here. He manages the rentals on another dozen homes. He says so far, BP has been making good. His rentals were wiped out in June. And he says so far, he's getting his money. But he is worried about the long-term impact.


DAVID MEYER: Well, thankfully, we haven't had so much to -- to -- to clean up and to test that system. BP has been, you know, very good, I think, in terms of making us whole in terms of the rentals. They settled that with us very quickly and for the full amount that we had asked for. So that was very good. We were very impressed by that.

And, also, the work that you see going on here along the shoreline, you know, BP is paying to put the sand in place here to hopefully trap any oil that might come ashore.

And that's been, you know, a multimillion dollar expenditure. So -- and -- and the town's been great. I mean they've been working together. So we're very happy and relieved, you know, that they're -- you know, they're doing what they can.


KING: And so, Wolf, when the president comes here, he'll hear, one, make sure BP keeps its commitment in the long-term; two, the governor here has criticized, from time to time, the federal response. He's even using the Alabama National Guard here on Dauphin Island. So it's -- the governor will be interested to push more federal money, as well.

And number three, what they want to know most of all is, when will BP stop the flow of oil?

Because otherwise they're worried you'll get some of these today, some next week, some the week after that and the long-term tourism here will not rebound. That, Wolf, is their number one concern at the moment. They know this summer is shot. They want this ended, cleaned up and fixed so that next summer, the families are back on these beautiful beaches.

BLITZER: We can only hope that happens.

All right, John, thanks very much.

John is going to have a lot more coming up.

He's live from Alabama tonight.

"JOHN KING USA" -- that starts right at the top of the hour.

Millions of dollars worth of oil are being collected in the Gulf and BP stands to make a lot of money from it.

What's going on?

New information coming in.

And primary day here in the United States -- some tough races. We'll have details.


BLITZER: One day after we reported on the money BP stands to make from the salvaged oil in the Gulf, the company's announcing what it plans to do with that income.

Let's go to CNN's Mary Snow for a follow-up -- Mary.


Well, Wolf, BP says today that it will donate the revenues from the leaking oil it's recovering. It says it's creating a fund to help the wildlife affected by the environmental disaster. And BP's CEO, Tony Hayward, issued a statement saying: "We've already launched the largest environmental response in history and BP is committed to protecting the ecosystems and wildlife on the Gulf Coast."

Now, this money will include profits from oil that's recovered from skimming and the oil that's being retrieved by the containment cap.

And to get a sense of what that might look like, it's estimated over 14,000 barrels of oil were captured in the last 24 hours. You multiply that by the price of crude oil, assuming it would be worth that much -- it might not be -- and the total is just over $1 million for the day.

But BP has to pay out a portion of the profits to a partner and it has to pay nearly 19 percent of profits from that recovered oil to the U.S. government in royalties.

When that's taken into account, David Pettit of the environmental group, the Natural Resources Defense Council, estimates the net revenues will probably amount to about $500,000 a day. And he calls the fund, in his words: "A laugh out loud stupid P.R. stunt." He says that money isn't coming anywhere close to cleaning up the mess. And he points out that BP is already on the hook for cleaning up the spill -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary, thanks very much for that update.

Election day here in the United States. Women are playing crucial roles. We'll update you on what's going on.


BLITZER: Here in the United States, a dozen states are holding primaries and results are only a few hours away.

In California, two wealthy high tech businesswomen are poised to make some breakthroughs.

Jessica Yellin is on the scene for us -- Jessica, first of all, tell us about the former eBay CEO, Meg Whitman.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, she's a self-made billionaire who's used her vast wealth to help propel her to the front of this race. She's some 20 plus points ahead of her nearest competitor. She's been on air nonstop, selling herself as a businessperson reformer who can essentially get in there and shake up this almost bankrupt state. And she's taking on Jerry Brown, who is the likely Democratic nominee and was once governor here, saying he's old, he's a retread and she can do it better.

But she does have some issues in her past, Wolf, and her business record could cause some trouble, especially controversial investments she had with Goldman Sachs and -- get this -- the fact that she failed to vote for almost three decades -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We just showed some pictures of the other Republican candidate, this one for the Senate, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO, Carly Fiorina.

Is she poised to win tonight, as well?

YELLIN: Yes, she is. And she also has made significant contributions to her own campaign. She has focused in these last weeks -- I should say these last days -- less on her Republican opponent than on Barbara Boxer, the Democrat she expects to face beginning tomorrow.

She has campaigned as a true conservative -- her words, not mine -- and saying that she is representing traditional Republican values. Her campaign is focused on national security and spending, saying that Barbara Boxer is too liberal on both of those fronts.

There has been a great sense nationally among Republicans that Boxer is quite vulnerable. But Fiorina's polling is not that strong against Barbara Boxer. So if she should win today, it could be more of an uphill fight than another candidate might have had. But she's still in the game.

I'll tell you one thing, Wolf, if either Whitman or Fiorina wins their race here in California in November, it will be the first female Republican to win a statewide race in California since 1970.

BLITZER: Yes, I want to talk a little bit about more of this. And both of these women, obviously, have a lot of money.

Our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, is here -- so many women are up for election right now.

What's going on?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Particularly Republican women, as we're seeing in this race. It's -- on -- on one hand, Wolf, it's part of the natural progression that we saw starting in the 1990s. Women have won elections down ballot. They're now CEOs of major corporations, they're making political gains. But also, in a year when people are talking about reform, throwing the bums out, women are generally less traditional candidates. They're not seen as kind of folks who cut deals in the back room. So in years when people want change, women tend to do very well.

BLITZER: There's a woman in South Carolina who's running...

BORGER: Well...

BLITZER: -- as well, Nikki Haley.

BORGER: Yes. And -- and that's interesting, because she's in a four way race...

BLITZER: She's a Republican.

BORGER: -- on the Republican ballot for governor. But this is interesting. I called around today, Wolf. She's in the middle of a sex scandal. There are two men who have come out without any proof and said that they had extra-marital affairs with her.

She has denied it completely. Again, they have not come out with proof. Her poll numbers have gone up, Wolf. But we've never seen a person -- a woman in this situation.

We'll have to see whether she wins. She'll be in a runoff. We'll have to see whether this affects her or not.

BLITZER: She had Sarah Palin, another woman endorsing her. That helps.

BORGER: Right. We're used to seeing women stand behind the men when they have sexual indiscretions, not the other way around, when she's the one accused.

BLITZER: And we're going to have coverage throughout the night here on CNN. And later tonight, at midnight, I'll be filling in for Larry live. "LARRY KING" at -- at midnight. We'll have a complete wrap on the electoral votes, all the elections that are happening on this important day here in the United States.

Is that President Obama in a rap video?

CNN's Jeanne Moos is getting ready to take a Moost Unusual look.



BLITZER: We're getting the first pictures now of that gas -- that oil pipeline that exploded in Northern Texas just a little while ago. At least three people are injured, according to a spokeswoman for the Lipscomb County Sheriff's Office. That's the picture of these explosions happening way too frequently.

Jack Cafferty is joining us right now with The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is, how does President Obama get out from under this oil spill?

Mark writes: "The president should be hiring thousands of unemployed Americans to clean up the oil. Pay them 20 bucks an hour, get busy doing what BP keeps promising to do. In fact, Obama should be out on that tanker looking down into it to see how much oil is actually being captured by BP. Why does a common citizen like me have to come up with common sense ideas that this president is obviously afraid to try?"

N. writes: "It's been two months, no end in sight. Eight days to acknowledge a problem, 40 days before he even started acting like it was an issue. Campaign parties and Beatle dinners seemed a priority. The short answer, he can't. He's drowning in it, as he should be."

Sandy writes: "President Obama brushes the oil off himself by doing what he does best -- going out and communicating with the people. He currently has a perception problem. The president's is brilliant, analytical, pragmatic, but he's been low key in his efforts at dealing with the Gulf disaster. He's taking a beating in the polls, primarily because he doesn't tout his work publicly in the current real time news cycle. He must be in constant election mode -- out there, up front and outlining the actions that he's taking."

Otis writes from Connecticut: "As a bona fide cleaner of several recent crises, I have no doubt President Obama and his mature leadership style, which we lauded a few months ago, will get him out from under the oil spill. Going McCain against BP and declaring war on England may make for interesting theater and fuel a fickle electorate's obsession with political minutiae, but it does nothing to mitigate the disaster."

And Manuel writes: "President Obama needs to call in the Navy and all our other military and scientific resources right now and go to Louisiana in person and kick the oil leak's ass, not look for a bureaucrat to kick. We know bureaucrats don't get anything done, so don't waste any more time. The American people are looking for a hands-on, all hands on deck U.S. government response. We want action, not words. After we solve the problem, hand BP the bill, for Pete's sake. Do we really need to debate this?"

If you want to read more, go to my blog at

BLITZER: I think do want to read more.

Jack, thank you.

See you tomorrow.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: We'll switch gears.

And in just a moment, the Internet -- there's a rumor going on that's becoming viral.

Is President Obama actually in a famous rap video?

Jeanne Moos finds out.


BLITZER: Is President Obama in a rap video?

Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's not a place you'd expect to find Barack Obama...


MOOS: -- a fleeting cameo smack in the middle...


MOOS: -- of that classic 1993 rap song.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oop, there it is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, oop, there it is.

MOOS: Don't blink or you'll miss him.


MOOS (on camera): There he is.

(voice-over): It's become the latest Internet parlor game.

Is it or isn't it a smiling, 31-year-old Barack Obama wearing bling and sunglasses?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He looks like Obama.


MOOS (on camera): It looks like him, though, huh?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks exactly like him.

MOOS (voice-over): Comparison photos are all over the Web. It's been dubbed the best Internet rumor ever, leaving the rappers who did the song in stitches.

Now, the president seems comfortable dancing.


MOOS: He knows his way a fist pump. He's said to like rap and occasionally talk street for comedic effect.


MOOS: He's even imitated a Jay-Z gesture.


OBAMA: I don't know, you've just got to kind of let it...

MOOS: And impersonators have played a rapping Obama.


MOOS: What are the chances the real Barack Obama was in a rap video shot in an airplane hangar in Atlanta?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where's Michelle?

MOOS (on camera): Well, actually, now that you mention it...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is he in there?

MOOS (voice-over): Some say that's Michelle Obama. The White House hasn't responded to questions about the video, but the two guys who made it have.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm 99.9 percent sure that is not the president of the United States. Maybe 99.8.

MOOS: Cecil Glenn and Steve Gibson (ph) say there were over a thousand people at that shoot.

(on camera): Do you have anything to say to Barack Obama about him being in your video?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you get time, clear it up. If it's you, let us know.

MOOS (voice-over): Some folks sure don't see Barack Obama in the video.

(on camera): Who?


MOOS: Marc Anthony?


MOOS (voice-over): Paris Hilton?

We're convinced it isn't President Obama.


MOOS: So no need to change the words of the song to...

(MUSIC) MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN...


MOOS: -- New York.


BLITZER: Jeanne Moos -- leave it to her.

This programming note. Later tonight, we'll have extensive coverage, of course, of all the elections happening here in the United States on this day. I'll be back at midnight Eastern, 9:00 p.m. Pacific, for "LARRY KING LIVE." I'll be filling in for Larry.

We'll have all the races in Arkansas, in California, in Nevada. This is an important primary day. The polls will start closing in the next several hours and then the results will be coming in. We'll let you know what's going on, midnight, later tonight -- midnight Eastern, 9:00 p.m. Pacific.

This has been an important day. We've got some pictures we're going to show you.

But right now, I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.