Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

September 18, 2009

JOE BARTON, ENVIRONMENTAL VISIONARY.... Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), who apparently considers himself a Senate-caliber lawmaker, is generally recognized as the House's most pro-pollution member. Barton not only rejects practically all scientific evidence related to the environment, he also leads the way in creative rationalizing of ridiculous ideas.

Kate Sheppard reported today on some recent Barton comments about climate change and wind power.

"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."

Something to think about, indeed.

Barton is, of course, the same lawmaker who recently suggested that humans will "adapt" to climate change because we can "get shade."

And as Matthew DeLong reminds us, Barton was, up until a couple of years ago, the lawmaker House Republicans made the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Update: A sharp reader emails, "I had doubts Barton could possibly be as stupid as that quote made him look, so I checked the hearing transcript and sure enough, he is that stupid."

If you have any doubts, here's the hearing transcript.

Steve Benen 4:40 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (35)

Bookmark and Share

Wow. Just, wow...

Posted by: Matt in KC on September 18, 2009 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, until I saw the reference to "Mr. Chairman," I assumed Barton was quoted having said this at some townhall meeting or perhaps his local tavern after having a few too many, and that he was just kind of riffing in a folksy kind of way. But these were like official words, like something he's had time to think about...and he said them anyway?

I suppose next we're going to be treated to a lesson on how rain is God's urine which is why we don't need to worry about our water supply running out: God just has to drink more angel beer to make more.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on September 18, 2009 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think Texas needs to change textbooks if this is what they're already producing with the textbooks they have.

Posted by: VaLiberal on September 18, 2009 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

Wow as well. Wind farms will 'slow down the wind'? Wind moves heat around? Where do these guys get stuff like this? Seriously? Even the 'scientists' who argue against global warming don't say stuff this stupid.

Posted by: thorin-1 on September 18, 2009 at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK

The truly dangerous thing about Barton and others who would profess the same temperment is just how blind he and those others are to their own intellectual limitations. What jibberish he spewed on the House floor. I'd think he'd have enough sense to check with someone who specializes in such atmospheric principles as why wind occurs to really find out some useable information. Instead, the wind comes from God!

I am a member of the Christian faithful, but come on Joe, if God controls the wind, then what happens to us when he decides to break it? -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on September 18, 2009 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

Y'all may laugh, but... Imagine, just for a minute, how bad it would be if we were to suck *all* the wind out of the entire world, through them turbines. Coal, oil... God is always making more, no trouble, every time he poops. But, wind?

Posted by: exlibra on September 18, 2009 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking of wind, here's one of nature's mysteries: given the vaccuum inside Joe Barton's head, every time he opens his mouth the air should rush in from outside...and yet the wind is actually coming out of him. How does that happen?

Posted by: Tom Hilton on September 18, 2009 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

Mmmm, Barton's actually got a point (almost). As fans of Kim Stanley Robinson (no climate-change denier, he) and his Red/Blue/Green Mars trilogy may recall, earlier Mars colonists in the first book in the series attempted to deploy 100s of thousands of windmills (hooked to heat generators) around the surface of Mars, in an effort to (a) slow down the violent winds on the planet's surface, while (b) at the same time, heating the planet's surface.

It, uh, didn't really work in the book, either. But still, Barton's got a point there -- plastering the plains of Texas with power-generating windmills is destined to fail, unless somehow, someway, Texas can come up with an endless supply of hot air. Oh wait...

Posted by: pilgrim on September 18, 2009 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

Well, now, if ol' Joe would just stand still for a bit, we could harness all that hot air, and wouldn't need no coal fired ter-bines.

But seriously, folks, this is the pride of pure Texas home skoolin'. . .

Posted by: DAY on September 18, 2009 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

That 'R' after his name stands for 'Retarded'.

Barton and Michelle Bachmann ought to breed and create their own special race of superior-brained rocks.

Posted by: cld on September 18, 2009 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

What level of reasoning and knowledge! It is as if no scientists and teacher would ever have graced the earth.

And that Barton fellow is a member of the House of Representatives, not to speak the former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee?

What is the GOP caucus? A freak show by design? Is there nothing that will ever cause them to feel embarrassed?

Posted by: SRW1 on September 18, 2009 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

Would one of these science-handicapped idiots get their god to just give us some energy already, and if not, doesn't that mean their god doesn't want us to have energy ?

Shaking my head... I was trying to reason like christian, now my head hurts.

Posted by: ScottW on September 18, 2009 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

yeah.. all those sailing ships we used to have used up to much of the wind, thats why we have warming now...

Posted by: jefft452 on September 18, 2009 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

I have no idea what he talking about, but it sounds a bit like he thinks that using wind generation slows the wind leading to hotter hot areas and cooler cool areas.

perhaps I am giving him too much credit for even having those thoughts. But wait, the temperature differential causes wind in the first place so the greater differential would create more wind. So wait the system stays in balance and wind energy is really nothing more that capture of solar energy.

Well the man really is an energy expert...

Posted by: George on September 18, 2009 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't he also the one who said oil comes from trees?

Posted by: eric on September 18, 2009 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

Joe Barton's orbit in the Universe of Crazy is even farther out than Michelle Bachmann's. He really ought to be committed or auctioned off to a circus freak show.

Posted by: electrolite on September 18, 2009 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

One small step for stupid,one giant step toward idiocracy.

Posted by: Gandalf on September 18, 2009 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

I have no idea what he talking about, but it sounds a bit like he thinks that using wind generation slows the wind leading to hotter hot areas and cooler cool areas.

George - I don't think he's talking about mixing hot air with cold. I suspect that he thinks wind actually cools the planet down, the way you cool down your food by blowing on it. As if the hot air just goes away once it gets blown on. I'm interested in knowing where he thinks it blows to. Perhaps he thinks that's what heats up Hell.

I honestly would enjoy taking a science class taught by Barton, just as long as we had someone like Bill Nye to do the rebuttal afterwards. But then again, I'm worried that after sitting for an hour straight with my mouth wide open and my eyes bugging out in disbelief that I might stay that way.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on September 18, 2009 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

Barton is a well know as a shill for "energy interests". Seems Joe is smart enough to get compensated for his shilling:

"Barton Family Foundation
The Barton Family Foundation was established to support charities within the congressman's district. His daughter-in-law, Amy Barton, is the Foundation's Executive Director. Major energy corporations, such as the Chicago-based nuclear engergy producer, Exelon Corporation, make major gifts to the Foundation. In June 2008, at a time when Barton had introduced legislation to assist corporations with the recycling of spent nuclear fuel, the corporation donated $25,000 to the Foundation. Exelon has also donated $80,000 to Barton's campaign funds. Exelon also gave $400,000 to the local Boys and Girls Club.[29]"

Posted by: robert on September 18, 2009 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

That's part of why 80% or more scientists are Democrats, and the Republican Party is the natural home of YEC fundies etc. They love populist dumbbells, they loved Bush "because he's dumb like them" as Mummy used to say, etc. It is intrinsic to the stupidity of their base. See comments at legendary thread, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/5389278/Obamas-green-guru-calls-for-white-roofs.html. The stupidity of the rightards blithely and confidently declaiming against top physicist Steven Chu, US Energy Secty, is stunning. Typical comments:

"Every time I see the words "Nobel prize winning" in front of anyone's name these days, I just think "politician"...let's say this "man-made global warming" fairy-tale had any roots in reality...how could reflecting heat back into the atmosphere off of terrestrial surfaces help at all?...according to the AGW crowd, the heat would still be trapped by "greenhouse gases", or "global warming pixies", or whatever else they dreamed up to tax us about."

"This is utter nonsense from an utter moron. As indicated in the article, white colored objects actually reflect heat back into space, therby increasing "global warming". I'm now waiting for all the environmental whackos to identify themselves by painting their roofs white."

"The more these clowns can come up with idiotic ideas the sooner this SCAM will end. REFLECT BACK INTO SPACE????? The heat being reflected off the roof of your house (approx. 15-20 feet up) is NOT...repeat NOT getting out into space but rather right back into the enviroment. IODIOCY!"

"I thought we wanted to cool the earth not reflect the "hot" back into the atmosphere to kae the air warmer... Lets just build a giant "radiant barrier" dome over the major metroplex areas that way we are all forced to "recycle" the methane and Co2 gasses....ROTFLMFAO!!!"

"Are you kidding? White reflects light and heat. Paint all the roofs white, and you bounce all the heat back up, making it even warmer. Paint them black to absorb the heat."

Posted by: N e i l B on September 18, 2009 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking of the walking embarrassment known as Joe Barton, who among us can forget the time he asked -- apparently in all seriousness -- a flabbergasted Energy Secretary Steven Chu how all that oil got itself under Alaska. A wingnut classic.

Posted by: electrolite on September 18, 2009 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

Smokey Joe Barton: I mean, it does make some sense.

Ahhh, the perception of a blisteringly fevered mind.

Posted by: ckelly on September 18, 2009 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

Did Bob Dylan know Joe Barton?

Idiot wind, blowing like a circle around my skull,
From the grand coulee dam to the capitol.
Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your teeth,
Youre an idiot, babe.
Its a wonder that you still know how to breathe.

Posted by: rea on September 18, 2009 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

Okay--I think next election someone needs to run a TV ad in his district with his quote here (or better yet footage, if available)--with the byline--yes, Joe Barton is this stupid--Texas deserves better--or some similarly incendiary remark.

The dems really have nothing to lose--he's otherwise politically safe and by calling him out so blatantly you ensure that it will get national exposure--and force Barton to defend his comments--getting more exposure for this fool can only help dems. It would serve both as a reminder that the R's are still filled with a bunch of crazies and at the same time give whoever runs against him a shot in an otherwise republican safe district.

Posted by: john d'oh on September 18, 2009 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

This man is an elected representative in the state of Texas. Yes, people heard him speak and debate other candidate on the issues imprtant to Texans and decided to elect him. If he's a dim-witted moron, what are his constituents?

I say let Texas secede.

Posted by: Banana-Eating Jungle Monkey on September 18, 2009 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, there is a grain of truth in the assertion that large scale wind farms will affect air flow patterns by introducing turbulence, as discussed in this research:


The universe never gives you anything for free.

A friend and former colleague of mine once somewhat whimsically characterized the three laws of thermodynamics as

1) You can't win.

2) You can't even break even.

3) You must play.

Posted by: Steve on September 18, 2009 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

This story is from April, not today.
Still, an unbelievable bit of asshattery.

Posted by: Speed on September 18, 2009 at 7:25 PM | PERMALINK

...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.

Posted by: tamu on September 18, 2009 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK

I guess that explains why those bitter cold Alberta Clippers come down out of Canada every winter and slam us hear in Chicago.

Posted by: markg8 on September 18, 2009 at 8:14 PM | PERMALINK

Awesome! Baron's Law of Thermodynamics. He's a shoo-in for a Nobel Prize in Physics.

I wonder how that thar Texan feels about Oklahoma, where the wind comes rushing down the plain.

Posted by: josef on September 18, 2009 at 8:39 PM | PERMALINK

"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."

Inside every Republican chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee there's an eight-year-old who didn't pay any attention in his third grade science class.

Posted by: RSA on September 18, 2009 at 9:47 PM | PERMALINK

I lived in Joe Barton's district when he was first elected. He is the dumbest person I have ever seen in public office.

Posted by: bigwisc on September 19, 2009 at 1:05 AM | PERMALINK

Fox News should have a science program hosted by Joe Barton...weeelll, the hot air does have to find some place to go.

But I think Joe Barton has confused the Great Wall of U.S./Mexico with rows upon rows of power-generating wind turbines...with the idea being (in Barton's head) that both would prove to be impenetrable, blocking in one case immigrants trying to cross the U.S./Mexico border and in the other, wind turbines blocking the air from getting past.

The Great Wall of U.S./Mexico is working just as well as the Great Wall of China did, or the Marginot Line. Illegal immigrants and invaders kept out. Apparently, at least to Joe Barton, wind turbines would do something similar, but blocking air from getting past instead.

Of course, Joe Barton is a shill for the oil companies, especially those based in Texas, which don't want any alternative energy sources to arise that might cut into their petro-profits, but I don't believe I've heard lamer reasoning since the last time Glenn Beck either spoke or called together his teabagging cult following to march on Washington (an "uprising" that Beck didn't even attend). Lame. Lame. Lame.

Posted by: The Oracle on September 19, 2009 at 1:08 AM | PERMALINK

Barton is both pro-pollution and pro-cancer. Texas has very high rates of petrochemical-related carcinomas.

Posted by: bob h on September 19, 2009 at 7:41 AM | PERMALINK

A few clicks and the problem becomes apparent: While there are no education statistics for the Sixth District, its largest county reports that 62 percent of K-12 students are home schooled and the public high school graduation rate is 45 percent. Barton is in a secure location.

Posted by: Bob Johnson on September 19, 2009 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK



Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM

buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly