Speaking of Texan doomism…

By Phil Plait | April 23, 2009 12:00 pm

… I don’t know what to make of this clip of Texas Congresscritter Joe Barton (who once said that taking action against global warming is "absolute nonsense") asking Secretary of Energy (and Nobel Laureate) Steven Chu about the origin of gas and oil in Alaska.

Is he denying global warming? Is he denying continental drift? Is he denying the multi-billion-year age of the age of the Earth? Is he denying all of them?

One thing he’s certainly denying: his own credibility. Wow. This guy is in the House of Representatives of the United States of America.

Wow.

Josh Rosenau has some more about Chu, too. I think I like this guy. Barton? Not so much.

Hmmm, haven’t used this one in a while, but it sure fits here:

The stupid, it burns

Comments (90)

  1. Clearly Jesus put that oil there. Not sure why he gave so much to the Muslims tho.

    /snark

  2. QUASAR

    So, are we just supposed to report how science is under attack in this religion infested world?

  3. I’m not seeing the stupid here. Now, I’m not saying it wasn’t a dumb question, or poorly timed question (it couldn’t have waited until the glad-handling out in the hall began?), or even that Barton isn’t a maroon. All I could think of was, that’s the sort of question I’d ask if I had the change: how *did* all the oil get up there? Because I didn’t know.

  4. coolstar

    Oh Phil, there are MUCH dumber congresscritters than Barton.

  5. Tim G

    downforeveryoneorjustme says YouTube is down!

  6. Todd W.

    I just liked Dr. Chu’s chuckle.

  7. BJN

    @MarkH. If you asked the question, it would be a sincere gesture on your part to learn something. When Barton asked the question, he already had a notion that Alaska at its current latitude had a tropical climate — and from the way he shook his head after Chu’s reply, it was clear that Barton wasn’t open to learning about plate tectonics or anything else that might shift one’s world view.

    Barton thought he was trying to make a clever point about global warming but was too stupid to understand just how little he understands. But ignorance is no handicap when the people who elect you aren’t any better educated.

  8. It’s seeing people that are this monumentally stupid, dense, ignorant, and downright ‘tarded that makes me consider running for office. But then I realize a couple of key things:

    - That would make me a politician, a creature I abhor and despise in every way.
    - The average voter is a frikkin moron, so I don’t think I could identify with them enough to get their vote… Hence our critters now…

  9. John Powell

    I never did believe in the sincerity of No Child Left Behind – after all those kids are future Republicans!

  10. MikeG

    I saw this yesterday and the part that made my brain burn was the presentation. Believe it or not, this clip was originally posted by Barton himself, but with a splashy intro title that read, “Where Does Oil Come From? Question leaves Energy Secretary puzzled.” He even tweeted that he “baffled the Energy Sec with basic question.” Barton’s youtube page has been scrubbed but Wonkette still has it. Barton is indeed a major denier of man’s role in global warming, so I assume he wanted to get this scientist to play into the theory that it’s nature’s will that Alaska someday return to being a tropical paradise.

  11. John Powell:

    The problem with “No Child Left Behind” is that, in reality, it’s “No Child Gets Ahead”.

  12. I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Chu when I was in high school. He did a talk on his work in optical tweezers (click my name for the wikipedia link). Many years later I actually got to do some optical tweezering when I was an undergrad. Dr. Chu’s a cool guy, a great scientist, and we’re lucky to have him as the Secretary of Energy.

  13. MarkH:

    The particularly dumb part is that this congressman thought that he had a very insightful question and went through the trouble of advertising it on the Internet as having “stumped” the Energy Secretary.

  14. “So they just… drifted up there? (smirk)”

    In next week’s exciting episode, Joe Barton stares at a goldfish for two hours before claiming, “Well, I didn’t see any one little bit of it grow any legs while I’ve been sitting here. (smirk)”

  15. Guysmiley

    The particularly dumb part is that this congressman thought that he had a very insightful question and went through the trouble of advertising it on the Internet as having “stumped” the Energy Secretary.

    Oh he stumped him alright. Stumped as in “how the heck could this man graduate junior high, let alone serve in the United States Congress?”

  16. If a question doesn’t have a simple, short, and easy to understand answer creationists don’t want anything to do with it.

  17. Lawrence

    Given the history of some past members of Congress & the districts them represent, it doesn’t surprise me at all that they can be this stupid.

  18. The Sun is unusually quiet.

    The temperatures this Spring are lagging.

    Temperatures have been steady and declining for a decade.

    Somebody is drinking the psuedo-science of the AGW crowd.

    That’s BAD SCIENCE.

  19. Brian

    Oh I wish they hadn’t cut him off. I so wanted to see how far Representative Barton was planning to go with that line of questioning.

    “So it just drifted up there, you say? Isn’t it easier to believe that God just put it there, so as to make Alaskans rich?”

  20. Todd W.

    @Anacdonda

    The temperatures this Spring are lagging.

    Globally or just locally? Global warming, remember, is about global temperatures, not just local weather.

    Temperatures have been steady and declining for a decade.

    The data would seem to contradict you. Perhaps you have some data to support this claim? Actually, how can temps be both steady and declining at the same time?

  21. Oh no! Anaconda showed up! And this had nothing to do with plasma cosmology! Maybe he’s attracted to the picture?

  22. Rob

    My brain hurts a little more now. You know, I’d really like to be smug about how this guy is the product of a christian fundamentalist upbringing in the American school system, but morons like him are everywhere. Everywhere. And there are far, far too many for my liking. What is fascinating is that people as dumb and grossly ignorant as he, manage to get elected to public office. Which really kind of makes you wonder about us as a viable species.

  23. I like how he said “we didn’t just put a pipeline in there and shipped it in from Texas” as if to indicate that oil can only exist in a warm climate and Alaska is cold now therefore Alaska was once warm. (Thus “refuting” Global Warming.) Also…

    “Isn’t it obvious that, at one time, it was a lot warmer in Alaska and in the North Pole.”

    Alaska, yes. Because Alaska wasn’t always in the spot on the globe that it is today. It was also warmer in Antarctica once because Antarctica wasn’t always on the bottom of the globe. They both drifted around over millions of years.

    I have a feeling that Barton heard Chu’s reply as: “This is a complicated story, but oil and gas is a result of…….blah blah blah….I have no clue…. blah blah blah….”

  24. tacitus

    BA left out the really stupid bit. This is what Barton twote on Twitter:

    I seemed to have baffled the Energy Sec with basic question – Where does oil come from? Check out the video: http://bit.ly/O4m0p #tcot

    If he hadn’t done that, it’s likely nobody would have noticed.

  25. I honestly wonder who birthed someone so stupid.

  26. tacitus

    BA left out the really stupid bit. This is what Barton twote on Twitter:

    I seemed to have baffled the Energy Sec with basic question – Where does oil come from? Check out the video: — link to the video — #tcot

    If he hadn’t done that, it’s likely nobody would have noticed.

  27. Lawyer

    Seriously, how can NASA be based in Backward Houston?

    If you are from Texas you know that this the common thought process for many who reside there… along with pretty much awkward moments between any minority hanging around a non-minority, its still really is backward, in at least my neck of the woods, Houston, TX.

    It really comes as a surprise that NASA’s contractor, United Space Alliance and others based in Houston, can claim to be “scientists” when when they really are just technicians with the same “backward” ideologies that pervade the state of Congressman Mr. Barton, sadly. GIT HER DONE!

  28. Michelle

    …DUDE.

    I can’t say anything else. Just…DUDE.

    I like his face is smug all time long. You know, the smug stare and smirk of a guy thinking “Ha… Look at that ignoramus in front of me. Saying so many silly things so easily disprovable by GOD.”

  29. # Ken B Says:
    The problem with “No Child Left Behind” is that, in reality, it’s “No Child Gets Ahead”.

    Kind of a Harrison Bergeron bill, really

    J/P=?

  30. I know the data, I’m not worried about proving it to anybody, since 1998 temperatures have been steady until the last several years at which point in time there commenced a slight decline in world temperatures.

    The Sun is in minimum — do you dispute that? And it has been for an extended period of time.

    A Rasmussen poll indicates only 34% of Americans are concerned about “man-made global warming.

    AGW crowd, the jokes on you.

    There never was any observation & measurement supporting AGW. CO2 at best has a mild impact on climate — it helps plants grow faster, produces more food for the world.

    Strange that the author of this blog doesn’t get into the nitty gritty of the known science…

  31. bigjohn756

    Barton didn’t baffle Chu. He boggled Chu’s mind with such a stupid, uninformed, idiot question. Notice Chu’s delay and incredulous chuckle before he answered Barton’s inane question.

    Yes, Phil, I expect Barton is denying all three concepts that you list. Remember, Barton is a Texan, elected by Texans who are in general uneducated, bigoted, rednecks and vote as informed by their Biblical upbringing.

  32. Daffy

    “I know the data, I’m not worried about proving it to anybody…”

    That one actually did make me giggle a bit.

  33. Monkey Deathcar

    @Lawyer “It really comes as a surprise that NASA’s contractor, United Space Alliance and others based in Houston, can claim to be “scientists” when when they really are just technicians with the same “backward” ideologies that pervade the state of Congressman Mr. Barton, sadly. GIT HER DONE!”

    I’m sure you tong was firmly planted in your cheek, but knowing many of these people (my brother works for United Space Alliance), they are not “technicians.” Most are engineers with a minimum of a B.S at an accredited school. The then train for two plus years before being certified for their specific job. The people I met that work there are rational. Many are educated outside of Texas, I have only met one person that works for USA/NASA that is originally from Texas. I’m sure there are some that meet your description but I doubt it’s even a majority.

    Carry on.

  34. Did Barton really expect Chu to condense a week long high school geology section into a 30 second sound bite? And where exactly was he trying to go with this line of questioning? How do people this stupid keep getting elected to Congress?

  35. Tim G

    Anaconda has it all figured out.

    (he he)

  36. Cairnos

    “I know the data, I’m not worried about proving it to anybody”

    Teh moon, it is made of cheezes. I have proofs….but I no show u

  37. Todd W.

    @bigjohn756

    Let’s keep the negative stereotypes down.

  38. I can see where he was going with this: If Alaska was much warmer in the past, why worry about Global Warming today?

  39. Todd W.

    @Anaconda

    I know the data, I’m not worried about proving it to anybody, since 1998 temperatures have been steady until the last several years at which point in time there commenced a slight decline in world temperatures.

    You still don’t get it, do you? When you make a claim like this, you should really back it up with evidence. Otherwise, you will do nothing to shed your image of an ignorant fool. But then, from every single past thread on here, you’ve made it clear that you really don’t care that you make a fool of yourself.

  40. IVAN3MAN

    @ John Paradox,

    RE: Harrison Bergeron.

    If it should ever come to that, the role of the United States Handicapper General would be taken by none other than Ann Coulter!

    *Sideshow Bob shudder*

  41. IVAN3MAN

    Hey, Anaconda! Is Ann Coulter your sister?

  42. Randy A.

    In the world view of skeptics and scientists, questioning the conclusions of others (and ourselves) is worthwhile. It’s also fun, since the questioning often leads to new thoughts and new discoveries.

    However, many people, such as “Anaconda” and Rep. Barton, have a very different world view. They derive comfort from knowing some certainties (often religious). These people will hold to their convictions, and refuse to consider alternate views (example: “I know the data, I’m not worried about proving it to anybody…”).

    It seems to me that these differences are part of our personalities. This implies that it would be very difficult for a skeptic to become a religious fundamentalist, or vice-versa.

    In a perfect world this wouldn’t be a problem. For example, I am color blind, so I often ask my wife before I buy shirts. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if people said “I’m deeply religious, so I will stay out of decision making that involves scientific issues.”

    Since the world isn’t perfect, we need a more practical solution. The best one I have is education.

    We need to educate kids. Most schools would love to have a scientist come and talk with the students — perhaps at a career day, or something similar. If you’re shy, you could buy some books about real science, and donate them to the local school or public library. If you’re broke, you can write to convince your state politicians to spend more of your tax dollars on science education.

    We also need to educate the news media and politicians. Clearly, this is an uphill battle (my 2nd grade son knows more geology than Rep. Barton, and my teenage daughter has a better smirk). But both politicians and news media have jobs that depend on keeping the public happy. So we need to let them know that ignorance and stupidity are not acceptable!

    People like “Anaconda” and Rep. Barton will always we with us — like I said, it seems that some people just have rigid personalities. But hopefully we can make the public display of ignorance and dogma embarrassing.

  43. Cairnos

    Michael L says “I can see where he was going with this: If Alaska was much warmer in the past, why worry about Global Warming today?”

    You shortsighted fool, don’t you realise that when alaska is back to being a balmy tropical paradise the heat at the equator will be enough to melt rock! If you need proof look at places like hawaii, all that solidified lava flow shows that in the past the temperature was enough to melt stone. We must start to evacuate everyone between 20N and 20S immediately!

  44. José

    Hey, Anaconda! Is Ann Coulter your sister?

    That would imply that Ann Coulter is a living being. I maintain that she is a robot set to “evil”.

  45. dre

    USA, baby. That’s all I can say. U. S. of motherflippin’ A., that’s where I live. I reckon I’m just glad I’m in bass-ackwards Georgia and not in The Republic of Texas.

  46. José Says:
    Hey, Anaconda! Is Ann Coulter your sister?
    That would imply that Ann Coulter is a living being. I maintain that she is a robot set to “evil”.

    There’s also the speculation(?) [due to Coulter's prominent Adam's Apple] that ‘she’ is not a ‘she’….
    AKA Man Coulter

    J/P=?

  47. Greg in Austin

    bigjohn756 said,

    Yes, Phil, I expect Barton is denying all three concepts that you list. Remember, Barton is a Texan, elected by Texans who are in general uneducated, bigoted, rednecks and vote as informed by their Biblical upbringing.

    Hey, why you come down here to Austin and repeat that? ;) You forgot to add that we all wear boots, big hats and bigger belt buckles, that we ride our horses to and from work, and we hand out six-shooters with every purchase of beer.

    Do not lump all Texans in with this idiot. In fact, show me a state that has NEVER elected an idiot for a politician. Barton didn’t get my vote, and if we could un-elect anyone in mid-term, I’d be the first in line at the polls.

    8)

  48. A short answer is quite possible, but Chu took a moment to realize how very basic Barton’s question actually is, and what strange assumptions Barton was making. If he’d had a minute he could have said:

    “Hundreds of millions of years ago, when Alaska was in a different place on the globe because of continental drift, trillions of microorganisms lived and died there. Geological processes buried their remains deep underground and converted their bodies into simpler hydrocarbons, like oil. That’s why they’re called *fossil* fuels.”

  49. Thanks for posting Phil! I started to digg it, but TPM has it pretty well dugg with about 2900:

    Rep. Joe Barton: I ‘Stumped’ Nobel Prize Winning Scientist

  50. Jack Mitcham

    Just curious, Anaconda… since the sun is at a minimum, and the solar output is currently below average, and the global temperatures are staying pretty much constant despite that… Doesn’t that kind of give evidence supporting AGW?

    The temperatures should be cooling with the sun providing a little less energy, but they’re remaining close to constant instead.

    I really don’t understand what you’re trying to argue here.

  51. Am I the only one who was disappointed with Chu’s answer? I mean, yes Barton is ignorant beyond belief, but Chu had the chance to actually explain things to him (and everyone else in the room and watching on TV) but the answer that he gave would not be very informative to a person who didn’t already know the science.

  52. @ Ryan:

    I’m sure the question caught him off guard. Even the brightest of people can be stymied by a question that dim coming out of left field. As someone else posted above, given a minute or two, without the open microphone and the smirking glare of an obviously hostile politician, I’m sure Chu would have come up with something a little better.

  53. GrimaH

    @Ryan: Chu had 6 seconds to formulate an answer.

  54. Nentuaby

    #

    # John Paradox Says:
    April 23rd, 2009 at 5:58 pm

    José Says:
    Hey, Anaconda! Is Ann Coulter your sister?
    That would imply that Ann Coulter is a living being. I maintain that she is a robot set to “evil”.

    There’s also the speculation(?) [due to Coulter’s prominent Adam’s Apple] that ’she’ is not a ’she’….
    AKA Man Coulter

    J/P=?

    Please don’t go there. People keep bringing up Anne Coulter’s sex thinking they’re being hilarious or, worse, actually somehow discrediting her. It all hinges on the assumption that being biologically male and psychologically female is ridiculous and/or wrong. In other words, even if you’re trying to be funny, you’re reinforcing anti-transexual bigotry. Whether Coulter actually XY doesn’t even factor into it.

  55. Nick

    I have an Idea, instead of passing a law that says that presidential candidates have to provide a birth certificate, why don’t we make a law that says in order to be sworn in as a congresscritter, you have to get at least 1250 on your SAT. And you have to retake it every time you run for re-election.

  56. Anaconda, are you Glenn Beck IRL?

  57. @Nentuaby:
    Please don’t go there. People keep bringing up Anne Coulter’s sex thinking they’re being hilarious or, worse, actually somehow discrediting her. It all hinges on the assumption that being biologically male and psychologically female is ridiculous and/or wrong. In other words, even if you’re trying to be funny, you’re reinforcing anti-transexual bigotry. Whether Coulter actually XY doesn’t even factor into it.

    Trust me, plumbing, DNA or other ‘determinants’ of ‘sexuality/sex’ are of no concern to me, one of the old BBS regulars that I dealt with was transsexual, but also intelligent and capable.
    Coulter, however, is neither intelligent or capable.

    BTW.. excluding the biological definitions, I consider four forms of sexuality:
    Heterosexual exclusive
    Homosexual exclusive
    Bisexual
    Asexual.

    None are completely ‘pure’, so some heteros may ‘experiment’ with a ‘gay’ situation…

    J/P=?

  58. Nentuaby

    Fair enough as far as it goes, John Paradox. If, however, sex and gender issues are of no concern to you- why did you feel that rumours about her sex were a relevant response to a joke about her being an evil robot?

  59. You think the ‘evil robot’ was serious? Why shouldn’t stupid rumors be all tied together?

    J/P=?

  60. José

    You think the ‘evil robot’ was serious? Why shouldn’t stupid rumors be all tied together?

    Hey! I said she is a robot set to “evil”. There’s a huge difference between that and “evil robot”. Now if we can only find out which is the right switch to flip, we may be able to set her to something more benign. Maybe someone should contact her manufacturer and see if they know. Perhaps she’s still under warranty and we can send her back for a functioning replacement model.

  61. George Kopeliadis

    Since Global Warming is nonsense, make him move and live on the Keys…. lol

  62. Zippy the Pinhead

    IT’S A SERIES OF TUBES!!!!

  63. Scott

    For a site that’s supposedly skeptical, I hate seeing this kind of froth over anyone that would question AGW. Bashing creationists, fine. Bashing anti-vax people, fine. Those sciences are relatively old and proven though. AGW is far from it. About the only things we are certain of is that CO2 is increasing, mostly by us, and temperatures have increased in the last century. We have far from a complete understanding of how much of that temp increase is caused by the CO2 and even less about what future CO2 increases will cause. Go read some of the work Steve McIntyre has done at climateaudit.com to see some of the serious flaws with the “science” done by Mann, Steig, etc.

  64. Scott

    Oh, I forgot to leave out, I’m not defending Barton at all. His point is obviously wrong.

  65. While Alaska may not always have been straddling the arctic circle the fact remains we know it was at one time, and many times since, much warmer in the poles then it is today… we also know for a fact that it was much coldeer in the poles (and all over) then it is today- and it doesn’t take a genius to know the temperatures will bounce around for as long as Earth exists. There’s golbal warming, there’s global cooling, what there isn’t is global constant- it’s always changing- deal with it. Yes humans warm the planet… about 0.00001% as much as the Sun warms the planet though. Again this is all fact- I don’t see how people can have such ‘faith’ in Global warming with nothing to back it up except the word of people who say they know what they are talking about when they are never right on anything we can measure.

  66. james wheaton

    I used to pride myself as being respectful of peoples opinions in general. Since this past national election, that has changed. The Republican far-right wing has clearly demonstrated to me that their views, nearly all of them, are completely vaccuous, and more importantly dangerous. Barton is a high ranking member of this illustious group.

    What I saw in Barton in this particular clip is completely reprehensible. He presented his little bomb with almost no time for a decent response (I wonder if that was planned, but it doesn’t matter that much). His question was loaded, or so he thought – he intended to make Chu look bad. Ironically he made himself look (insert any number of strong modifiers here – like “incredibly stupid”), exactly like the stereotypes commonly and of course unfairly attributed to all Texans. His follow-ups were further attempts to make Chu look bad. And his smug looks throughout the questioning showed clearly his anti-intellectual mindset – one that was homegrown in a region of the USA where way way too much of it is around. So not only does that clip show a high degree of ignorance on Barton’s part, it also shows devious behavior. He remids me of a sleazy trial lawyer.

    This man looks to be is a very ignorant and dishonest and conniving government employee, in a position where he can do some damage. Unfortunately he has partners in crime, plenty of them.

    I now look forward to 2010 – it looks like if a few things go right some of these wing nuts will either be gone or be so weak that they are completely irrelevant. We are not quite there yet.

  67. james wheaton

    Greg in Austin says:

    “Do not lump all Texans in with this idiot. In fact, show me a state that has NEVER elected an idiot for a politician.”

    Greg – I feel for you; I live in Tennessee and am not proud of it at all. But so far our politicains have stayed out of trouble relatively speaking.

    Please comment on the wildly disproportionate number of total wing nuts coming from your state (including Joe Barton, Tom Delay, Rick Perry, George Bush, John Cornyn, Ron Paul, Karl Rove). This doesn’t include the seriously deluded half of the TBOE including its chairman Don McLeroy, who would willingly insert their brand of conservative protestantism in the science classroom and science text books.

  68. Greg in Austin

    @james wheaton,

    Tell me about it. Honestly, I haven’t looked at the statistics, but I would hope that the seemingly high number of wingnuts is due to the large population as a whole, and that only the wakkos make the news. There are actually a lot of strong science supporters in Texas (even on the SBOE), you just don’t hear about them.

    Rick Perry is a runner, and at age 58, he ran a half-marathon this year under 1:50, and that’s not too shabby. That’s about the only good thing I have to say about him.

    8)

  69. Daffy

    There has always been in the US the very silly notion that one person’s opinion is as good as anyone else’s, on any subject. Barton is a perfect example of this…he clearly thinks that he is appealing to “Common Sense,” when in fact:

    a) “Sense” is never common, and

    b) it often leads one to erroneous conclusions…especially in maters that require a lot of education to understand in the first place. “Common Sense” is usually no more than lazy thinking. You hear it a LOT on Talk Radio and Fox News (and elsewhere, of course, but they are the worst, IMO). It is the secret of Rush Limbaugh’s entire appeal.

  70. Gonzo

    I honestly wonder who birthed someone so stupid.

    Bess Wynell Buice and Larry Linus Barton.

    LOLTEXANS!!!11!!

  71. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Just curious, Anaconda… since the sun is at a minimum, and the solar output is currently below average, and the global temperatures are staying pretty much constant despite that… Doesn’t that kind of give evidence supporting AGW?

    Since Anaconda is an all round science denialist, he also supports some “Electric Universe” crackpot ideas. I suppose he will insist that solar output is steady despite the observations, depending on (likewise observationally falsified) currents that it will meet on its trajectory through space.

    @ Scott:

    About the only things we are certain of is that CO2 is increasing, mostly by us, and temperatures have increased in the last century.

    I would suggest you learn the relevant science before making erroneous claims on a science blog and look like a fool needlessly.

    The best up to date information here could be the IPCC reports, which regularly assesses the entire science of climatology on this matter. From the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (2007) “The Physical Science Basis”:

    It is extremely unlikely (<5%) that the global pattern of warming during the past half century can be explained without external forcing, and very unlikely that it is due to known natural external causes alone. The warming occurred in both the ocean and the atmosphere and took place at a time when natural external forcing factors would likely have produced cooling.
    Greenhouse gas forcing has very likely caused most of the observed global warming over the last 50 years. This conclusion takes into account observational and forcing uncertainty, and the possibility that the response to solar forcing could be underestimated by climate models. It is also robust to the use of different climate models, different methods for estimating the responses to external forcing and variations in the analysis technique.

    So we know with a certainty approaching beyond reasonable doubt that AGW is a fact. [You have to look up their report to find out what uncertainty the italics represents.]

    Now, it is nutty to dispute already known and validated (here by repetitive measurements) facts. What we need is to start discuss if we want to do something about it (probably), what we can do, and how much money and fertile land (and species!) it will save us to make the effort.

    Or, science forbid, how much money and resources we will loose if we instead continue to paddle around in the slowly heating bucket unconcernedly like the fabled frog.

  72. james wheaton,

    He presented his little bomb with almost no time for a decent response (I wonder if that was planned, but it doesn’t matter that much).

    Representative Barton is a politician. Politicians live by the the minimally informative slogan. Sound bites are better for generating a reflexive response, rather than an intelligent one. Scientists do not do well at sound bites.

    I have one simple question for you in the last 6 seconds. . . .

    I don’t see anything about this that suggests it was not planned. He clearly is aware of the time.

    The linked videos on the seem to be supporting the idea that this is a win for Rep. Barton. The odd thing is that they are wordless, except for one, that seems to be more of a parody, but maybe it is just an example of Poe’s Law.

    IVAN3MAN,

    RE: Harrison Bergeron.
    If it should ever come to that, the role of the United States Handicapper General would be taken by none other than Ann Coulter!

    A true Handicapper General would make her cover up her legs (her one, OK two, good part, OK parts). Once people are not distracted by her legs, and actually listen to what comes out of her mouth, her popularity will take a hit. OTOH, maybe I am just unreasonably optimistic.

  73. Nentuaby

    John Paradox: Don’t be dense. I think the robot comment was a joke at the Queen of Evil’s expense. That would be why I referred to it as “a joke about her being an evil robot,” in case you thought I was speaking an obscure dialect of English where “joke” means “treatise” or something.

  74. Nick

    “Now Dr. Chu, you’re our… you’re our scientist, uh, so I have one simple question for you in the last six seconds.”

    Yeesh… won’t be long before congress just addresses our science officials by yelling “Hey nerd!” Also, it sounds like Mr. Barton was channeling Master Shake for a few seconds.

    Frylock: “I can’t just bring you back from the dead!”
    Shake: “Come on… you’re like a math guy!”
    Frylock: “I don’t think math is going to bring you back to life.”
    Shake: “Well then what the hell is it for!?”

  75. james wheaton

    I am sure many of you saw continuations of the climate change hearings today. Barton continues to impress with slick comments that global warming is affecting everything – even the Dallas Cowboys playoff woes. He is joking of course but in a mocking way. And he implies that

    1 – the Cowboys are probably a much more interesting subject to him than climate change.
    2 – global warming is not important at all

    I will assume this man got his rank in the Energy and Commerce Committee during the days of Republican domination. He appears to be as responsible as anyone else in Washington for the failure of the USA to advance any meaningful clean energy legislation. Hopefully this time he will stand by helplessly as saner minds get something done.

  76. Actually, assuming that Barton is competent as a politician, and that he structures his arguments accordingly, it seems to me possible that he was trying to build up to the abiogenetic theory of petroleum formation, which enjoyed a brief vogue in the 70s and 80s, but is now pretty much limited to the former Soviet Union. (Said theory, in its standard form, agrees with standard science on the origin of coal, but believes that gas and oil are not actually fossil fuels, but a purely geological product. Of course, a young-earth creationist might try to work the trick with coal, too, but it started as a legitimate scientific hypothesis.)

    The key thing here is that, if oil and gas are not formed in the way that we thought, then there could be huge reserves, orders of magnitude more than we believe, in geological zones where we have not been looking. Experiment, however, has failed to discover any.

  77. Sili

    Dear Anaconda,

    April has in fact been exceptionally warm. I’ve been out tanning since before Easter.

    Oh. You don’t live in Denmark? How odd. I was sure Denmark was the centre of the Universe.

  78. StevoR

    @ Anaconda : Also here in South Australia we’ve had a severe drought and heatwaves – in my home town of Adelaide this summer we had our hottest ever heatwave, last summer we had our longest ever.

    Glaciers are melting all around the globe, islands are already sinking (try asking those living on the pacific islands of Palau or Kiribati), climate change is already being measured.

    The global heating spike in 1998 was exceptional because of the strong El Nino effect, and while the years since then have been a smidgin cooler the upward temperature trend remains.

    Despite the quiet sun, despite the Milankovitch cycles and other factors that should be making our climate cooler.

    The Anthropogenic Greenhouse Effect is a reality. Science demonstrates it and the verdict is now in with the Deniers in the same position as the pro-tobacco mob. :-(

    @ Sili : Denmark the centre of the universe? Why yes, it is! So’s Adelaide! So’s everywhere. Everything else – all the other galaxies, galactic clusters and superclusters, etc .. are moving away from us.* So we are the centre of the universe – because there isn’t one! It all depends on your point of view. ;-)

    At least that’s my understanding of the cosmology involved.

    * Well, okay, most of the other galaxy’s anyway; Andromeda’s on its way to merge & the Magellanic Clouds are gravitationally bound satellites of our Milky Way but that’s different! ;-)

  79. Kyle

    I also must protest the assumption that all Texans are ignorant, I’ve done pretty well thank you.

    I did write Rep. Barton and hopefully in a very civil manner doing my best with a non-geologist knowledge to explain where the oil came from. I did point out that it would be really easy for him to get the knowledge he was seeking by asking any petroleum geologist, they could set them straight.

    And Chu really didn’t get a chance to answer the question to its fullest even in its most simple terms, and he was interrupted by Barton more than once.

    I am still awaiting a reply from Rep. Barton, I think I will stop holding my breath, I’m getting dizzy and don’t want to kill any brain cells. I might start thinking like Barton.

  80. actuator

    As to the clip, since I’m not familiar with the congressman I don’t have a clue to his purpose. Those of you who know his politics apparently do. Dr. Chu did come off as much more erudite than his questioner.

    As to AGW, it has not been proved. The models developed by proponents to support it or opponents to deny it are flawed and can not be considered as proof. Why? Any computer model must reflect all (or at least a very high percentage of) the variables that effect the outcome. Scientists are not sure of the all the cycles or variability of cycles that effect the orbit of the sun, the orbit of earth, the heating, cooling, and fluctuations of ocean currents, albedo effects of cosmic rays relative to solar and planetary magnetic fields, Solar maximums and minimums, etc. Need I go on? Yet politicians are being focused by Al “the sky is falling” Gore and others in manner that will expend incredible amounts of money to fix a problem that has not actually been proven to exist.

    Certainly the impact of Human activity on this planet is evident. Does it effect the climate? Probably. To the extent the fearmongers rant on about? Probably not. Do we really want to reduce that atmospheric trace element CO2? Probably not since plant life thrives on it, and we thrive when plants thrive. It seems that Humanity also thrives more when temps are warner, not colder.

    Anaconda’s rant is equally spurious. We just don’t know. Climate scientists need to keep acquiring the data necessary to provide answers to the climate puzzle. The “we’re out of time” hype, is just that. Hype.

  81. actuator

    BTW, successful politics does not require intelligience. It requires the support of constituents. Consider for example Sen. Roth, Dan Quayle, Joe Biden, Maxine Waters, Cynthia McKinney et al. Oh and don’t forget Ms Deer Caught in Headlights from CA either.

  82. actuator, you forgot the Governor of the state that they’re talking about.

  83. On Joe Barton’s website, he has a link to this video and it says that he stumped Dr. Chu. I sent him this email today:

    If you think you stumped Energy Secretary, Dr. Steven Chu, then you are not someone that should be making decisions that involve science because science is way beyond your comprehension level.

  84. Pembertom

    @anaconda: “…a problem that has not actually been proven to exist. ”
    Imagine a gun pointed at your head. Would you say “let’s just pull the trigger, it’s not proven that it’s loaded”???
    Or would you try to put the safety on as long at it is still possible and CHECK THINGS OUT THOROUGHLY before proceeding?

    And I’d rather have intelligence involved in ANY decision-making process, ESPECIALLY at these levels of policy-making.

    >”It seems that Humanity also thrives more when temps are warner, not colder.”
    Don’t you think you’re oversimplifying here?
    Or why do you think we live on EARTH and not Mercury?

  85. John Klug

    Is there one among you who claims to be a geologist and knows that the Alaskan oil drifted to its current location?

    If you look at Wikipedia’s Pangaea animation, you can see that Alaska was always near the north pole. The Canadian geologist Steve McIntyre put Chu vs Baron on page 1 today.

    The point of Barton’s is obvious. The world was much warmer hundreds of millions of years ago (and sea levels were probably also much higher).

    So was Chu clueless, or does he afraid to admit this is true, and spawn more AGW doubters?

    The long term temperature on earth has been declining, and its a good thing, because the earth probably started out as a fireball. This is not really relevant to CO2/Global warming, but Chu’s response reinforces my feeling that most political types are clueless.

    Nonsense came from Boehner, when he tried to associate EPA regulation of CO2 to cancer. Clearly there is more to EPA regulation than just cancer.

    Polosi stated that we should be using natural gas rather than fossil fuels.

    Waxman recently stated that if we don’t do something about global warming the tundra will evaporate.

    They passed the Daylight Savings Time law to save energy, and there is an Indiana study that shows it wastes energy, so I expect them to do the same with well meaning CO2 laws.

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