Joe Barton

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"Smokey" Joe Linus Barton (1949–) was the Republican Representative from Texas's sixth district and one of the top dogs in the Congressional global warming denial brigade. In his last years of Congress, he joined the Teabaggers' caucus as well. Barton was elected in 1984 and filled the seat vacated by Phil Gramm. The man is so deep in the pocket of oil interests that he wouldn't come out in the wash and he's been doing his darnedest to unload government cash into the hands of his campaign contributors. Oh, and Barton's a chickenhawk too, of course.[1]

Energy policy[edit]

Barton, as head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee was one of the chief architects of Dubya's Energy Policy Act of 2005.[2] Naturally, the bill included a massive giveaway to Texas oil companies and the "Halliburton Loophole," inserted at the request of Dick Cheney, which exempted oil and gas companies using fracking methods from regulatory oversight from the EPA.[3]

Deepwater Horizon spill[edit]

In the wake of the BP oil spill, Barton made a declaration that was rejected even by BP spokes-clown Tony Hayward:

But I’m ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday. I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown.

Barton continued his "apology tour" by walking back the statement and apologizing for his apology. Some journalists noted that Anadarko Petroleum just happened to be one of his major campaign contributors, and that company just happened to be working with BP on the Deepwater Horizon rig at the time of the spill.[4]

Involvement in Wegman Report[edit]

Barton was responsible for commissioning the Wegman Report, which was an attempt to "challenge" the scientific consensus on global warming. The report was later found to be mostly plagiarized. Edward Wegman, the statistician who produced it, is currently under investigation by his university, George Mason.[5]

Observations on climate science and policy[edit]

He is known for making numerous astute observations about climate science and environmental policy. Some of his greatest hits:

On "Adaptation"[edit]

Adapting is a common natural way for people to adapt to their environment. I believe the earth’s climate is changing, but I think it’s changing for natural variation reasons and I think mankind has been adapting to climate as long as man has walked the earth...I think that it’s inevitable that humanity will adapt to global warming. I also believe the longer we postpone finding ways to do it successfully, the more expensive and unpalatable the adjustment will become. Adaptation to shifts in temperature is not that difficult. What will be difficult is the adaptation to rampant unemployment — enormous, spontaneous and avoidable changes to our economy — if we adopt such a reckless policy as cap-and-tax or cap-and-trade.[6][7]

On wind power[edit]

Wind is God’s way of balancing heat. Wind is the way you shift heat from areas where it’s hotter to areas where it’s cooler. That’s what wind is. Wouldn’t it be ironic if in the interest of global warming we mandated massive switches to energy, which is a finite resource, which slows the winds down, which causes the temperature to go up? Now, I’m not saying that’s going to happen, Mr. Chairman, but that is definitely something on the massive scale. I mean, it does make some sense. You stop something, you can’t transfer that heat, and the heat goes up. It’s just something to think about.[8]

On the EPA's decision to regulate CO2 emissions[edit]

Being denied by the EPA on our endangerment petition is like arguing with an umpire in baseball. The umpire never changes his own call so we shouldn’t be surprised the EPA refused to admit its mistake. If the EPA keeps making such damaging decisions, I’m worried it will tip our economy into a permanent recession.[9]

Dialogue with Steven Chu[edit]

Barton engaged in an enlightening dialogue with Secretary of Energy Steven Chu during a 2009 hearing:

BARTON: Dr. Chu, I don’t want to leave you out. You’re our scientist. I have one simple question for you in the last six seconds. How did all the oil and gas get to Alaska and under the Arctic Ocean? CHU: (Laughs.) This is a complicated story but oil and gas is the result of hundreds of millions of years of geology and in that time also the plates have moved around. And so, it’s a combination of where the sources of the oil and gas …

BARTON: Isn’t it obvious that at one time it was a lot warmer in Alaska and on the North Pole? It wasn’t a big pipeline that we’ve created in Texas and shipped it up there and put it under ground so we can now pump it up and ship it back?

CHU: No, there are continental plates that have been drifting around throughout the geological ages.

BARTON: So it just drifted up there.

CHU: Uh…. That’s certainly what happened. It’s a result of things like that.

Barton's subsequent response on Twitter:

Participating n climate change hearing. I asked energy secretary where oil in alaska came from. answer puzzles-from continental plate shift[10]

And then a little later:

I seemed to have baffled the Energy Sec with basic question - Where does oil come from?[11]