Profiles in courage: Joe Barton of the US house


I have been meaning for some time to do a few profiles on the impressive gentlemen representing our great nation in the US House of Representatives.

So lets meet house member Joe Barton (R-Texas): Joe Barton was born on September 15, 1949 in Waco, Texas. An avid baseball player growing up, he earned a four-year Gifford-Hill Opportunity Award scholarship to Texas A&M University, where he was the outstanding industrial engineering student for the Class of 1972. After earning a Master’s of Science degree in Industrial Administration from Purdue University, he joined Ennis Business Forms, where he rose to the position of Assistant to the Vice President. In 1981, he was selected for the prestigious White House Fellows Program, and served as an aide to then-Energy Secretary James B. Edwards. He returned to Texas in 1982 as a natural gas decontrol consultant for Atlantic Richfield Oil and Gas Company before being elected to Congress.

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.” – Joe Barton, from a March 10 House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing (thanks to Matthew Delong at the Washington Independent)

“It’s just something to think about.”  – it is indeed

Rep. Joe Barton: Global Warming? No Problem — We’ll Adapt!

By AARON WIENER 3/26/09 1:42 PM

Remember Joe Barton (R-Texas)? The ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee who admitted recently that he’s “probably below average in [his] ability to understand” the nuts and bolts of climate change legislation? Well, he just had some more invaluable insights into global warming. His basic message: No biggie — humans can adapt.

He opened his statement at a congressional hearing yesterday as follows: “Today’s hearing is about adaptation. Adapting is a common natural way for people to adapt to their environment.”

Can’t argue with that. More questionable is his assessment of global warming in the same hearing:

“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.”

If that seems dubious to you, here’s his solid evidence that adaptation has worked in the past: “During the Little Ice Age, both the Vikings and the British adapted to the cold by changing. I suppose that one possible adaptation response of Viking retrenchment and British expansion is that we’re conducting the hearing today in English instead of Norwegian.”

Irrefutable logic. Remember, this guy used to be chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. The future of our planet was basically in his hands.

But I can’t do him justice. Watch the full clip below:


And below is Representative Barton’s recent op-ed on climate change and cap and trade in “The Hill”:

Op-Ed: Capping jobs, trading in misery — wrong answers to global warming

What’s wrong with Congress’s approach to global warming? Nearly everything

For starters, to achieve the Waxman-Markey legislation’s 83 percent baseline reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by the year 2050, we will have to reduce the CO2 output in the United States to the level that we had back in 1910. On a per capita basis, assuming the population is going to average about 1 percent growth a year, the legislation gets us to 1875.

Oddly, George Will said nearly the same thing in his silly WaPost op-ed Thursday: “The U.S. goal is an 80 percent reduction by 2050. But Steven Hayward of the American Enterprise Institute says that would require reducing greenhouse gas emissions to the 1910 level. On a per capita basis, it would mean emissions approximately equal to those in 1875.”

To make good on that back-to-the-future design, the Energy and Commerce Committee worked hard earlier this year. It took 37 hours over four days of methodically rejecting 56 separate Republican efforts to learn the full cost of the bill, to prevent scams in its trading system and even get the federal regulators out of hot tubs.

What the?!

In the end, the 946-page Waxman-Markey global warming bill that we produced was passed on a vote of 33-25. It now stands as the vehicle of choice for making good on the Speaker’s promise to tackle global warming.

I think Republicans have legitimate and serious concerns about this redirection of our energy policy in America, and we shouldn’t be alone. Energy is the bedrock of a free-market economy that has become the most productive and the largest in the world. A third of the world’s GDP is based on the United States economy, and that economy for more than 150 years has been based on a free-market allocation of resources in the energy sector.

The focus of our efforts is on carbon dioxide, however. It’s just .038 percent of the Earth’s atmosphere, and the man-made component is just .01 percent. Nor is CO2 a pollutant in any rational sense of the word. It is a naturally occurring, indispensable part of life, and it correlates directly to growth in jobs and economic opportunity for Americans. We’ve seen a nearly CO2-free society before, but Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge hardly seems like a model for world prosperity and individual happiness.

Now THAT is a low blow!

Secondly, the system of allowances on which the pending legislation relies is flawed right from its basic math to the way in which the allowances were given away to gain political support among the recipients.

For example, the transportation sector today is responsible for 35 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, yet transportation gets a grand total of 2.25 percent of the allowances. Come 2050, when CO2 emissions are supposed to be cut by 83 percent, it seems like the transportation sector will need to be cut drastically. Assuming we don’t develop some sort of emission-free power for airplanes, general aviation is going to have to use fossil fuel or planes won’t fly. It seems to me that it is simply a physical impossibility to get to that 83 percent reduction. On top of that, instead of auctioning the emissions permits, as President Barack Obama promised, we’ve given away 85 percent in order to generate industry support for the legislation.

Next, no matter how you cut it, costs are going up. The CEO of the utility that provides most of the electricity for Iowa says that in Iowa alone, costs are going to go up nearly $400 a year per residential customer.

Yes, approximately $1 a day.  Less than a Latte.

Also, the Energy Information Administration predicts price rises of between 35 cents and $1.28 per gallon for gasoline. If you take a conservative projection of, say, 50 cents a gallon, a family with two working parents could pay about $800 a year more for fuel.

Well, only assuming the family doesn’t change their behavior and use less fuel.

Then there’s the green jobs revolution. They’ve been trying that in Spain, and what their experience tells us is that for every green job created, two conventional jobs are lost. Moreover, the cost of green job creation in Spain is about $1.2 million per job in government subsidies.

Ahhhh, the Spanish paradigm.  Being one of the true technological powerhouses of the planet, if the Spanish can’t do it, nobody can.

Finally, evidence is mounting that the EPA’s pivotal endangerment finding was based on a process that suppressed countervailing opinion from career staff. In an e-mail from a supervisor, one longtime EPA staffer was told bluntly that “the administrator and the administration has decided to move forward on endangerment, and your comments do not help the legal or policy case for this decision …” In fact, his doubts were hazardous to his office, the boss warned.

Nice try, but this “career staffer” whose name is Alan Carlin is an economist with the EPA and as John Broder at the NYT describes:  “Dr. Carlin’s highly skeptical views on global warming, which have been known for more than a decade within the small unit where he works, have been repeatedly challenged by scientists inside and outside the E.P.A.; that he holds a doctorate in economics, not in atmospheric science or climatology; that he has never been assigned to work on climate change; and that his comments on the endangerment finding were a product of rushed and at times shoddy scholarship, as he acknowledged Thursday in an interview.  Dr. Carlin admitted that his report had been poorly sourced and written. He blamed the tight deadline.”

Some say the clock is ticking, and we must act boldly and right now. At the same time, nobody’s quite sure what happens next with the Waxman-Markey bill because the longer it lies exposed to examination, the more it disappoints.

Whatever happens next, I hope Democrats and Republicans can find some way to apply common sense to what we’re doing. We don’t want the cost of energy to bankrupt working people; we want them to drive what they want to drive and go where they need to go, and we want them to keep their jobs. That doesn’t seem too much for the people who inhabit this world to expect of us.

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