Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 23, 2009

CHU WASN'T THE 'BAFFLED' ONE.... Arrogance is almost always unseemly, but I think there's an important distinction to be made between conceit and misplaced arrogance. The prior is merely unseemly; the latter is humiliating.

Yesterday, at a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Exxon), the committee's ranking member and former chairman, asked Energy Secretary Steven Chu how Alaska got oil and gas. Presumably, he meant geologically. Chu paused briefly, laughed, and tried to explain the science to the confused lawmaker.

Shortly thereafter, Barton tweeted, "I seem to have baffled the Energy Sec with basic question - Where does oil come from?" Indeed, when Barton's office posted the clip to YouTube, they included a message at the start of the video: "Where does oil come from? Question leaves Energy Secretary puzzled."

This is what I meant by "misplaced arrogance." Barton seems awfully pleased with himself for having asked a foolish question and not understanding the answer. Chu paused before answering the question, not because the Nobel Prize winning scientist was "baffled" and "puzzled" by the Republican's inquiry, but because Chu quickly realized he was responding to a lawmaker with the sophistication of a junior high-school student.

This isn't something Barton should be proud of; it's something he should be embarrassed by. Barton's confusion is predictable. It's his smug pride, driven entirely by ignorance, that's annoying.

Steve Benen 9:15 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (87)

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Comments

I believe the appropriate term is "bumptious".

http://mw1.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bumptious

Posted by: Eeyore1351 on April 23, 2009 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

This is just like my Pointy Haired Boss! A foolish comment followed by a self-congratulatory chuckle!

Posted by: JK on April 23, 2009 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

LMAO @ (R-Exxon)

I read an article the other day declaring that our Congress should wear sponsor patches like NASCAR drivers so we'd know who really signs their paycheck.

Posted by: MissMudd on April 23, 2009 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

I'm really not getting this. Did Barton want him to say that God put the oil there? What was the "correct" answer in Barton's mind?

Posted by: Franklin on April 23, 2009 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

I think Barton was trying to make an argument against global warming (it must obviously have been warm up there in the past!) I would also bet he is a new earth creationist, so Chu's mention of millions of years and moving plates would not be a part of his world view.

Posted by: sceptic on April 23, 2009 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

or perhaps the "correct" answer was "the ground." or maybe "our benevolent oil companies."

either way, ignorance like this is something they wear as a badge of honor. i can't wait until charlie pierce's new book "idiot america" comes out next month!

Posted by: mellowjohn on April 23, 2009 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK

Did Barton want him to say that God put the oil there? What was the "correct" answer in Barton's mind?

I believe the correct response is "Sarah Palin put it there and now harvests it to the glory and honor of Alaskans." Some troll actually argued that here not long ago.

Posted by: shortstop on April 23, 2009 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

these are the whimpers foretelling the end of the world.


Posted by: neill on April 23, 2009 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

Obviously he was trying to get Chu to admit that Alaska was once warm, therefore humans don't cause global warming. Why didn't he just say that? "Dr. Chu, clearly if there's oil in the Artic, that means that millions of years ago, Alaska was warm. Doesn't that mean humans don't cause global warming?"

Why didn't he? Because Chu would have ripped him a new one with the proper science to explain it.

Posted by: Dave Munger on April 23, 2009 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

I think Barton is trying to debunk global warming by suggesting Alaska was once warmer and therefore any global warming would be good because it would turn Alaska into a more temperate climate and begin the process of replenishing the oil.

Remember,

1. Global warming isn't real;
2. If global warming is real, it may not be caused by human activity;
3. And whatever the cause, there are positive aspects to global warming;

So, it just doesn't make sense to take any action that would diminish the profitability of the petroleum industry.

And even if the petroleum industry is wrong on points 1-3, the problem is just too big. It can't be addressed, so we shouldn't worry about it. It's sorta like rape.... you know how that quote ends.

Posted by: Carl Nyberg on April 23, 2009 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

MissMudd said:
I read an article the other day declaring that our Congress should wear sponsor patches like NASCAR drivers so we'd know who really signs their paycheck.

I'd take that a step further. Republicans like to complain (actually, I could end this sentence right here).

Anyway, Republicans like to complain that limits on campaign contributions (bribes) is somehow a limit of free speech. So I say, fine, allow each member of Congress to have one donor who can give without limits. But, the congressperson has to put the name or logo of their patron in permanent marker on their foreheads, at it has to be visible whenever they are in public.


Posted by: SteveT on April 23, 2009 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

Chu quickly realized he was responding to a lawmaker with the sophistication of a junior high-school student.

I think that's a charitable characterization. I learned what was called "earth sciences" in the fifth grade, and we learned all about plate tectonics and the shift of continents over time.

So, no, Barton doesn't have the sophistication of a junior high schooler. He barely has the sophistication of a fourth grader.

Posted by: TR on April 23, 2009 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

(with thanks to Bill Cosby)

Next, Barton asks EPA Director "Why is there air?"

Posted by: Robert Earle on April 23, 2009 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, second the suggestion of Ms Mudd - So, we, also, have Blance Lincoln (R-Wal*Mart), John Ensign (R-Casinos), Harry Reid (D-Silver Mining) and Mitch McConnell (R-MMcConnell'sBankAccount), etc.

Posted by: berttheclock on April 23, 2009 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK


It's like these guys take pride in being ignorant.

Mr. Secretary, how do we know the earth is round?

Posted by: Winkandanod on April 23, 2009 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

Er, Blance Lincoln, is a very small d, I suppose.

Posted by: berttheclock on April 23, 2009 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

Dr. Chu is a Nobel Prize winner but couldn't answer this simple question.

It's puzzling, and possibly will have a chilling effect on the Obama administration's credibility and that of the global warming theorists.

Posted by: MatthewRQuarreler on April 23, 2009 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

"Barton's confusion is predictable. It's his smug pride, driven entirely by ignorance, that's annoying."

Does this mean he's a front runner for the GOP ticket come 2012?

Posted by: oh my on April 23, 2009 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

Frankly, to me the fascinating thing about this, and the other numerous examples of astonishing repuglican stoopidity is that, within their echo chamber, Barton will be congratulated for his wisdom and for slamming that pointy headed liberal. And since they won't venture outside of their bubble, they will have no exposure to anyone who mentions how stupid he appeared.

They are, quite literally, creating their own reality. And they are doing it about as effectively as the Bush admin did.

Strange times.

Posted by: wvng on April 23, 2009 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

"Dr. Chu, clearly if there's oil in the Artic, that means that millions of years ago, Alaska was warm."

But then, Chu would have to explain plate tectonics and continental drift while everyone *knows* America and Alaska are in exactly the same place God put them 5000 years ago.

Psssshaw!

Posted by: MissMudd on April 23, 2009 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

The Republicans seem recently -- the last 18 years -- to have increasingly been operating on the same level as 8th graders on the playground. All breaking-voice-testerone-fantasy-self-indulgence. NO maturity. And they should be treated like 8th graders until they decide to grow up.

Posted by: Greg Worley on April 23, 2009 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

Chu wasn't even baffled anyway, he just chuckled for a little while first. But yes, it was warmer over the Earth during some periods of time. However, the climate changes for many reasons, and CO2 absorption of IR is only one of them. There are cycles of gyration of the Earth's axis, changes in the orbit, in the sun, even perhaps interstellar dust, etc. Conservatives seem to have lots of trouble with any "subtle" concept such as multiple causation. This is my tiresome experience, not prejudice.

Posted by: Neil B ♫ on April 23, 2009 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

No one says it better than the Prez
"You know, Its like they take pride in being ignorant. Defines the Rebublican Party The party of NO! and STUPID!

Posted by: John R on April 23, 2009 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

Ahhh, so he's trying to show that Alaska was once much warmer. That's true, of course. When the Earth was formed, the whole thing was actually quite hot, and it took billions of years to cool. So presumably Barton thinks, even KNOWS, things were better back then. So we should warm up the planet as fast as possible to recreate those good times.

Posted by: Franklin on April 23, 2009 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

After watching the clip again, I really think Barton (R- Texas Exxon) actually is surprised by Chu's correct answer. I think Barton really believes the oil just sank in the ground "in place" from a garden of eden period of Earth. That an oil man would be so ignorant about geology is astounding.

Then again, it plays to the base's notion of a 10,000 yr old Earth. Besides, as they say, "you can't educate someone when their livelihood depends on them not knowing it."

Posted by: wtf on April 23, 2009 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

The oil was created when all the dinosaurs were wiped out in the Flood and they were smushed together and made all gooey.

And if Global Warming is real, I'm sure there will be great opportunities for right-thinking people to profit from it!

Posted by: Conservatroll on April 23, 2009 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

This is a gratuitous cheap shot: every junior high student knows where oil comes from.

Posted by: mars on April 23, 2009 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

Chu was wrong.

Correct answer: "Jesus made the oil, while riding on a dinosaur."

Posted by: Billy on April 23, 2009 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK

There is another tenet of wingnuttery that oil isn't the product of slow decay and pressure but that it is produced inorganically constantly. So there is endless oil and you can go buy your 600 HP Denali and run it on $0.25 if the blankity-blank Saudis and tree-huggers would get out of the way of John Galt.

CNBC even features lunatics pushing this snake oil.

"Smith and co-author Jerome Corsi contend in "Black Gold Stranglehold" that oil is not a product of decaying dinosaurs and prehistoric forests, but that oil is constantly being produced by the earth, far below the planet's surface, and that it is brought to attainable depths by the centrifugal forces of the earth's rotation"

http://www.commongroundcommonsense.org/forums/lofiversion/index.php/t41439.html

Posted by: OKDem on April 23, 2009 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

I read somewhere yesterday that Barton has an engineering degree. If that's the case, he had to pass basic science and physics courses, so it's not a case of him being ignorant of the facts. Rather, he is denying what he knows to be true to play to the rubes in his constituency.

Posted by: Jersey Tomato on April 23, 2009 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

No need to worry about what is going to happen to human civilization over the next hundred years. A billion years from now everything will be all right.

Posted by: Virginia on April 23, 2009 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

This, to my mind, the best part--the way Barton introduces his question:

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...

If I were Chu? "Mr. Barton, six seconds isn't much in comparison with a lifetime of ignorance."

Posted by: RSA on April 23, 2009 at 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

John Wayne never gets enough credit for dumping all of those cans of Flying A Pegasus oil cans during "North to Alaska".

Posted by: berttheclock on April 23, 2009 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

I look forward to seeing Barton's reaction when his question reading the origin of babies is answered. Will he tweet: Eewwww! Only time will tell.

Posted by: Peter G on April 23, 2009 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

Well, someone needs to Twitter the question right back at Barton and see what he says...with the stipulation that his answer can't be longer than what he could say in 6 seconds.

Posted by: Varecia on April 23, 2009 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

Source beds for North Slope oil did accumulate during warmer times, but source rock for hydrocarbons in general does not require deposition in a warm climate, just a surplus of organics that get buried faster than they can get eaten and/or decompose. That can happen as easily near the poles as in the tropics.

Posted by: N.Wells on April 23, 2009 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

We grow them big and dumb down here. Then we elect them. It leads me to despair.

Posted by: Coop on April 23, 2009 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

Barton was trying get Chu to admit that Alaska was once warmer. It was --- the entire Arctic region was once warmer.

Imagine the look on Barton's face if Chu replied, "Why yes, Congressman. Alaska was once much warmer. At that time, your congressional district was under 100 feet of water, much of the Midwest was ocean floor."

Posted by: dm on April 23, 2009 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

Chu and Barton are both wrong--the oil got there via the Ted Stevens Intertubes.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on April 23, 2009 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK
Ahhh, so he's trying to show that Alaska was once much warmer. That's true, of course. When the Earth was formed, the whole thing was actually quite hot, and it took billions of years to cool.

No, the climate in Alaska during the Carboniferous period (~300 million years ago) had nothing to do with how fast the earth cooled. Check Wikipedia for "Ice age" and you'll see that there was a major glaciation beginning about 800 million years ago that "may have produced a Snowball Earth in which permanent ice covered the entire globe". There's even some evidence for an ice age occurring more than 2 billion years ago.

Posted by: nonc on April 23, 2009 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

Chu's only confusion that I see in the video is his uncertainty about how simplistic to make his explanation, and whether he could use words of more than one syllable. It amazes me that Barton is boasting about a clip that shows he knows less about geology than my dinosaur-loving grade school nephews.

Only in the GOPs alternate reality could that have been a 'gotcha' question.

Posted by: biggerbox on April 23, 2009 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

... I think there's an important distinction to be made between conceit and misplaced arrogance."

Oh, c'mon. Barton was able to pass the IQ test low enough to make a career for himself as a fighter jockstrap in the Hair Farce - they're all "arrogant assholes" (except for the few who know what they're doing - the rest prove that flying airplanes isn't that hard, since Republican fratboys can do it).

Posted by: TCinLA on April 23, 2009 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

It was a bizarre interchange all around. I actually doubt that Dr. Chu knows much about the origin of North Slope crude in detail: its not his area of expertise. But the initial question was something like "How did all the oil and gas get to Alaska and under the Arctic Ocean?" I interpreted Chu's initial response as recognizing that the question was so poorly formed he couldn't tell what information Barton was trying to elicit. There is relatively little production (by any measure) from the Arctic ocean (Prudhoe Bay is an onshore field). Secondly he seemed to be asking how the oil and gas were transported to their current locations from exotic locales, which didn't make sense. So Dr. Chu ends up giving a disordered Geology 101 explanation that is a mash-up of petroleum generation and plate tectonics.

What Barton is actually getting at is a hobby horse of anthropogenic climate-change deniers. Namely that at times in the geological past the Earth has had higher mean annual surface temperatures and the Earth's atmosphere has had much high carbon dioxide concentrations. The idea is that the Earth has experienced much greater changes in climate than what humans are capable of driving over the next few hundred years. That's correct as far as it goes. The problem was that no humans were alive and trying to deal with those climate changes in the past. Moreover those worlds would not have been pleasant places to deposit our modern 21st century society. It would behoove the Obama administration to develop some training courses for their cabinet secretaries to recognize and defuse GOP asshattery. The Bachmans and Bartons represent the core of the modern GOP. There will be much, much more of this before the GOP becomes a serious political party again.

Posted by: rk on April 23, 2009 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

Jersey Tomato, As an engineer working in Texas it is quite common to find young earther among my fellow engineers. They have a ability to only use the science necessary to perform their jobs without causing them any religious doubts.

Posted by: Bill K on April 23, 2009 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

Plate tectonics is for geology what evolution is for biology. It's a bedrock principle of the modern science -- and totally unacceptable to creationists.

Posted by: idlemind on April 23, 2009 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

Barton seems to be trying a "gotcha" - as in "see the Arctic used to be warmer". But Dr. Chu rightly recognized there are several issues raised by the question. First, the conditions under which the oil was formed (probably following a global or regionally warmer period in the Carboniferous); second the fact that the oil ends up in rocks that are not necessarily the same in which it was formed (reservoirs); and third -- the point that Barton's staff probably never heard of when they cooked up the question -- the fact that the rocks currently under the Arctic regions were not at those latitudes when the oil was formed. So Chu is correct that that the oil-bearing rocks migrated there from elsewhere -- a point that Barton greets with incredulity and a shake of the head. But it's elementary geology at this point.

Posted by: walden on April 23, 2009 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

Chu was baffled. Barton's question was soooo STUPID, Chu wrestled with his response.

Posted by: tec619 on April 23, 2009 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

The world at large seems strangely unfamiliar with the parallel universe occupied by Barton, Jeb Hensarling, and most of Texas legislators. Here, if you ask an intellectual a stupid and dishonest question then cannot understand his reply, you laugh heartily and pound the table, point at him and say, "Gotcha!!!"

It's a Texas thing, you wouldn't understand.

Posted by: Capt Kirk on April 23, 2009 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

What's best about this video is that Barton is obviously amused that Chu believes the continents move around. "So it just drifted up there?" No wonder these people don't believe in volcano monitoring.

Posted by: Mike on April 23, 2009 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

It's easy to mock Barton but we live in a representative democracy-Barton represents his district and was elected by it. Is he representative of his district? That is for his district's voters to decide.

Posted by: Max Moehs on April 23, 2009 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

"I think Barton is trying to debunk global warming by suggesting Alaska was once warmer and therefore any global warming would be good because it would turn Alaska into a more temperate climate and begin the process of replenishing the oil."

Too bad we won't be around to take advantage of it.

Posted by: OhNoNotAgain on April 23, 2009 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

I read about this last night on another blog. Apparently after Barton posted this "gotcha" video on his website he was bombarded with so many responses mocking him that his staff completely pulled the comments section. ::snort::

Posted by: Oregonian on April 23, 2009 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

The correct answer is that it was put there by Jesus for Americans to find.

Seriously, though, I think rk has it right. 1. Chu's not a geologist, and 2. I don't think he got that it was a veiled question about global warming, so he answered as best he could. I think he laughed at first because he thought Barton was asking whether or not it was possible for oil formed in Texas to somehow end up in the Arctic and suggested that, yes, through plate tectonics and continental drift, it is possible for deposits to shift around.

Barton came off looking like he scoffs at the idea of plate tectonics -- which maybe he does. He seems like a particularly stupid congressman.

Posted by: jonas on April 23, 2009 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

Chu was essentially asked to condense millions of years of geological history into "the last six seconds", and I think he found the idea funny.

I do think that Chu was evasive with the question, perhaps because he was more worried about words that would go into his mouth rather than those coming out of it.

The Truth is that the Arctic was at one time warm. A recently found baby mammoth fossil makes that clear, since it was extraordinarily well preserved because it drowned in a mud-brine (you can read all about it in May 2009 edition of National Geographic).

Posted by: Ugly Moe on April 23, 2009 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

The Truth is that the Arctic was at one time warm. A recently found baby mammoth fossil makes that clear, since it was extraordinarily well preserved because it drowned in a mud-brine (you can read all about it in May 2009 edition of National Geographic).

Uh, mammoths were not warm-climate animals. They're ice age animals. I'm not surprised at all that they would find their bones in the Arctic since they probably started migrating up there as the Ice Age came to an end.

We just found a nearly complete mammoth skeleton here in Los Angeles, but we did not have our nice warm climate when mammoths (and sabertooth tigers, and dire wolves) lived here.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on April 23, 2009 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

HaHa

The comments to the vid are dissabled.

Guess they could not take the ridicule.

.

Posted by: agave on April 23, 2009 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

Incidentally, National Geographic will be running their show about the baby mammoth this Sunday at 9 pm Eastern/Pacific. If you go to their website and click on the mammoth ad, you can have them send you a reminder. I hadn't heard about this discovery (we've been kind of wrapped up in our own mammoth here in LA) so I'm going to try and watch this weekend.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on April 23, 2009 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

I love the abiotic oil nuts. See, it is *possible* that oil forms abiotically, or even that there are multiple paths for oil formation. Given Corsi's involvement in promoting it, I suspect it's complete snake oil--but I'm no judge of the science.

For practical purposes, though, what matters is the *rate* of oil formation. If it forms at a rate of even a million barrels of oil a day, that ain't going to do us much good.

Posted by: mwg on April 23, 2009 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

So basically, Republicans spent Earth Day wallowing in their ignorance and being as anti-green as possible.

I'm going to start calling them magentites.

Posted by: doubtful on April 23, 2009 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

Ugly Moe--
I was reading that Nat. Geo. article last night and it really is fascinating. One small nit (very, very small): It was found in Siberia, which is kinda sorta "the Artic" but not sure if it technically qualifies.

Again, just a very, very, very small nit. :-)

Posted by: Mark D on April 23, 2009 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

Of course he thinks got the best of Steven Chu because Chu is relying on science and geological evidence when EVERYONE KNOWS that the little baby Jesus put all that oil under Alaska.

Posted by: Broadway Carl on April 23, 2009 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

We just found a nearly complete mammoth skeleton here in Los Angeles, but we did not have our nice warm climate when mammoths (and sabertooth tigers, and dire wolves) lived here.

La Brea Tar Pits: perhaps the coolest museum evah, and I live in a city packed with cool museums.

Posted by: shortstop on April 23, 2009 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

Even before we get to the puerility of the question, Barton makes a stupid assumption that, unfortunately, seems to be all too common: that just because Chu's a "scientist," he must know everything about all kinds of science. Never mind that this actual area of research is physics, not geology, and atomic/polymer physics in particular, so most (if not all) of what he knows about geology comes from grade school.

Posted by: Anne on April 23, 2009 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

Can anyone else appreciate the sweet irony of Steve Benen analyzing the nuances of arrogance?

Posted by: RH Potfry on April 23, 2009 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

I may have made some false assumptions, and I am sure I wasn't very clear with my earlier post.

Can mud exist without warm temperatures?

Doesn't an elephant, even a woolly one, need green things to eat year-round?

Posted by: Ugly Moe on April 23, 2009 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

Can anyone else appreciate the sweet irony of Steve Benen analyzing the nuances of arrogance?

Probably not. Steve's got his weak points like any other blogger, but arrogance decidedly ain't one of them. Your thinking so provides a large window into your mind, though.

Posted by: shortstop on April 23, 2009 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

What Franklin said: What was the "correct" answer that was so obvious?

I'm as puzzled as a Nobel winning physicist!


To ugly Moe:
Define "Arctic"
http://www.pond5.com/stock-footage/128542/pangea-earth-s-continents-separate.html

Note the text.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on April 23, 2009 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

Can mud exist without warm temperatures?

Different mixtures freeze at different temperatures. The oceans in arctic regions are often colder than water's normal freezing temperature (32 F/0 C) because of the salt content. So you can still have mud when it's well below freezing -- spend a winter in Chicago sometime and you'll know it up close and personal. ;-)

Doesn't an elephant, even a woolly one, need green things to eat year-round?

Not necessarily -- zoo and circus elephants are often fed straw and other dried foodstuffs, so mammoths could probably eat dry/dead plants, too.

Also keep in mind that "arctic" does not mean "plant-free" any more than "desert" does. The tundra in Russia has a ton of plant life, especially in the spring. Alaska has plenty of agriculture, though obviously their growing season is much shorter than it is here in California. You really have to get up to the poles to get to cold places without plant life.

(Ahem. Not that I'm a science geek or anything.)

Posted by: Mnemosyne on April 23, 2009 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

So, did the hydrocarbons form elsewhere and migrate tectonically, as Chu so confidently asserted, or were they formed in place, or was it a combination of those factors? This discussion forum hasn't answered that question, the more's the pity. Surely, there is a geologist somewhere who knows the answer to that question. How come the definitive answer isn't forthcoming?
====================================

Posted by: kim on April 23, 2009 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

Barton looks like he's around my age (63). If he's that old or older, he wouldn't have learned about plate tectonics in high school, as that science was in its infancy back in the late 50s or early 60s. I first learned about it when I took Geology 101 in college, in 65-66. In the later part of the 70s and early 80s I learned more about it through extensive discussions with my ex-husband and his dad, both of whom were interested in plate tectonics and read a lot about it, though it was not their primary fields (physics and economics, respectively).

I'm not defending Barton; I think he's appallingly ignorant. And if he's an oilman, even if the type of engineering he originally studied didn't require taking any geology, one would expect him to be familiar with tectonics as part of his profession. Also he should be familiar with the fact that climate has changed in the past as a result of plate tectonic shifting and many other factors, but also that these changes mostly occurred in geologic time scales, not in a few or dozen or a hundred years.

Posted by: Wolfdaughter on April 23, 2009 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

In defense of Chu's seeming cluelessness... The Chinese do not believe that storks bring oil; it's strictly a Texas "thing".

Posted by: exlibra on April 23, 2009 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

Chu was only baffled that such a stupid question came from a sitting member of Congress.

I am sure the conversation going on in his head was all about trying to figure out how this moron got elected.

Posted by: ET on April 23, 2009 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

Wow. I suppose if Dr. Chu had appended, "you fucking idiot" to the end of his answer, they would have considered it rude? Too bad, because Barton deserves it.

Posted by: Sean Michael on April 23, 2009 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK

Why was Barton smiling? He's too stupid to know when he's being made to look like a fool by his own dialogue.

Chu could have had a big laugh had he said...,"Oh, I don't know. It was probably evolution."

What ever it was it was definitely over Barton's head eh.

"Mr. Chu, How did all that snow and ice get up there in Alaska? It wasn't just Sarah Palin puttin it there was it, it had to come from somewhere?" Time for Barton's 'hotsy totsy' now and a nice blanket.

Republicans...intelligence challenged.

Posted by: bjobotts on April 23, 2009 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

Alright, my preliminary research indicates that North Slope hydrocarbons are from a variety of sources and that there has been some tectonic movement, but that the bulk of the stores were formed in a climate warmer than today. That would make Barton more correct that Chu, who confidently asserted as fact something that is only partially correct.

The bottom line, though, is that the bulk of comments here have been informed mainly by pre-existing prejudices. Looks like a cohort designed for the ministrations of false religious prophets. You should be suckers for CO2=AGW paradigm, failing so badly, lately.
==================================

Posted by: kim on April 23, 2009 at 7:10 PM | PERMALINK

Alright, my preliminary research indicates that North Slope hydrocarbons are from a variety of sources and that there has been some tectonic movement, but that the bulk of the stores were formed in a climate warmer than today.

And, of course, by "warmer climate" you mean the days when Alaska was part of the ocean floor, right? Or by "warmer climate" do you mean "volcanic activity underneath the tectonic plates moving around under that ocean that used to cover Alaska"?

Of course, that information is from the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, and what do those egghead geologists know about geology anyway?

Posted by: Mnemosyne on April 23, 2009 at 7:56 PM | PERMALINK

So what are you trying to say, Mnemosyne? Are you disputing that the stores were formed when the climate was warmer? What do you have to say to my main point, that the original poster and most of the commenters were talking from plain ignorance? And that Chu was predominantly wrong?
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Posted by: kim on April 23, 2009 at 8:31 PM | PERMALINK

Omigod, Mnemosyne, your link demonstrates that Chu was wrong. Thanks. Hah, hah, hah, laughs hysterically.
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Posted by: kim on April 23, 2009 at 8:46 PM | PERMALINK

The embarrassment is worse than you have mentioned. Here in Texas every eighth grader takes a course in Earth Science in which they learn about such things as plate tectonics. That Barton (and I blush to admit that at one point he was the representative for College Station) is less informed than the average Texas eighth grader is about par for our Republican politicians and even some of the Democrats. It's people like him that used to drive Molly right into the bar. There is just no excuse for the total ignorance and stupidity, but somehow they seem to proliferate. Exhibit A: Gov. Goodhair.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on April 23, 2009 at 10:18 PM | PERMALINK

Are you disputing that the stores were formed when the climate was warmer?

I'm pointing out that according to that link, when the stores were formed there were no animals living on land. That was, you may be surprised to hear, quite a few years ago.

Claiming that "the climate was warmer" before there were land animals so therefore there is no such thing as anthropogenic global warming is like arguing that since the Earth was a giant gaseous ball of molten rock several hundred million years ago, there's no such thing as anthropogenic global warming. You're taking two completely unrelated facts and trying to jam them together to fit your ideology.

You may as well argue that dogs were domesticated because cows eat grass. It would make exactly as much sense.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on April 23, 2009 at 10:44 PM | PERMALINK

Mnemosyne, it's hard to understand what you are talking about, but are you aware, from your own link, that it was seaborne algae that formed those hydrocarbons? I think you are vastly confused because all your talk about 'land animals' is not germane.
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Posted by: kim on April 23, 2009 at 10:55 PM | PERMALINK

Barton is going to have to try harder if he's going to catch up to Rep. Michele Bachmann.

All aboard the crazy train!

Posted by: MarkH on April 23, 2009 at 11:05 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, I see, Mnemosyne; it is a matter of reading comprehension. Your link does not say that 'when the stores were formed there were no animals living on land'. Please reread.

And your link also shows that it was tectonic forces that covered the sea, not that they moved the area where the sea was. That's why Chu was wrong in this particular case.

The blogosphere is wonderfully self-correcting. Let's see if Steve Benen's little territory within that great domain is capable of such a feat.
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Posted by: kim on April 23, 2009 at 11:05 PM | PERMALINK

Mnemosyne, it's hard to understand what you are talking about, but are you aware, from your own link, that it was seaborne algae that formed those hydrocarbons? I think you are vastly confused because all your talk about 'land animals' is not germane.

Just so I can make sure we're on the same page, you are aware that if it's called "seaborne algae," it's a plant that lives in the ocean and not an animal that lives on land, right? Because "sea" is right in the name to give you a hint there, sparky.

And your link also shows that it was tectonic forces that covered the sea, not that they moved the area where the sea was. That's why Chu was wrong in this particular case.

"Tectonic forces" means "giant slabs of rock, both molten and otherwise." The Pacific plate (ie giant slab of rock) pushed on top of the North American plate (another giant slab of rock). In other words, the Pacific plate moved onto the North American plate. From another location. Which is why we talk about it moving from one place to another.

Let me make it simple for you: one giant slab of rock moved on top of another, trapping the Alaska sea and its plants and animals between the two slabs. The ground that you see in Alaska today is not the ground that was there before the giant slabs of rock started moving around. So talking about what the climate of that sea was before one giant slab of rock shifted upward several thousand miles to cover another giant slab of rock is pointless because -- surprise! -- having a giant slab of rock cover up a sea tends to make talking about the climate of that sea a moot point. Because whatever the sea's climate was, it is now covered by a giant slab of rock and it doesn't have a climate at all anymore.

Is that simple enough for you, or should I find you some information meant for 3rd graders instead of university students?

Posted by: Mnemosyne on April 24, 2009 at 1:18 AM | PERMALINK

And, yes, I skipped over many details in my explanation above, but since you didn't seem to get that "tectonic forces" meant "really big rocks," I thought I should simplify it for you a bit. You know, the same way Dr. Chu tried to simplify things for Rep. Burton once he realized that Rep. Barton actually had no clue how oil had formed in Alaska.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on April 24, 2009 at 1:23 AM | PERMALINK

Steve's got his weak points like any other blogger, but arrogance decidedly ain't one of them. Your thinking so provides a large window into your mind, though.

Apparently you wouldn't know arrogance if it stood up in your soup.

Posted by: RH Potfry on April 24, 2009 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

To: toowearyforoutrage

By "arctic" I mean someplace within the arctic circle, or north of 70 degrees North.

The mammoth I referred to was found on the Yamal Peninsula in Russia, which is designated as tundra on my globe.

I still have a hard time picturing an elephant digging through feet of snow to scratch out enough grasses to survive, especially with feet as big as dinner plates, but maybe they did. I do not pretend to be an expert and these are only the questions that arise to me.

Posted by: Ugly Moe on April 24, 2009 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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