Waxman, Barton spar over lesson of Gulf spill

It just so happened that on the other side of the Capitol, Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) were about to release a sweeping energy and climate bill to cap greenhouse gas emissions and provide more money for renewable energy, and it seemed like Waxman was trying to offer a helping hand.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), the ranking member on the Energy and Commerce Committee, seemed to think so anyway.

Barton is a defender of the oil industry, although he has criticized BP for the spill. “There is nobody on either side of the aisle that doesn’t want to get the facts on the table about what happened down in the Gulf of Mexico,” Barton said at the House subpanel hearing.

But Barton doesn’t believe the spill means that fossil fuels are bad or that they should be abandoned. They have helped build the most powerful economy the world has ever seen, Barton said.

Lawmakers should not use the spill to “fence off the outer continental shelf” from drilling, in the same way Three-Mile Island accident led to years of dormancy in the nuclear power industry. Offshore is the the only area that held “meaningful” domestic resources of oil, Barton said.

The well that is now leaking 5,000 barrels of oil into the Gulf a day probably contains as much oil as 10,000 onshore wells operating in Barton’s home state of Texas, he said.