Energy Secretary Chu schools TX Representative Barton On Plate Tectonics

by Eric on April 22, 2009

During today’s House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on cap-and-trade legislation, Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX) apparently thought he could stump Secretary of Energy Dr. Steven Chu with a question on the origins of Alaska’s petroleum reserves. After cautioning Chu that he had “only 6 seconds,” Barton stunned Chu the audience with the following “simple” question: “How did all the oil and gas get to Alaska – and under the Artic (sic) Ocean?”

Chu wasted about 5 of his 6 seconds laughing at the absurdity of an ostensibly well-educated 21st century American asking the Secretary of Energy a question that could be answered by a high school student. Chu gamely answered with a reasonably compact discourse on the origins of oil and gas:

“This is — this is a complicated story, but oil and gas is a result of hundreds of millions of years of geology and in that time also the plates have moved around, and so it’s the combination of where the sources of the oil and gas are…”

Chu’s answer wasn’t the correct one for Barton, who must have figured he’d managed to box-in a Nobel Prize winning scientist on the subject of climate change:

“But I mean, wouldn’t it obvious that at one time it was a lot warmer in Alaska and on north pole? It wasn’t a big pipeline that we created in Texas and shipped it up there and put it underground so we can now pump it out and ship it back?”

Chu continued, presumably wondering where Barton was going with this line of questioning

“No, there are–there’s continental plates that have been drifting around throughout the geological ages and–“

Barton was having none of that. With Chu firmly in his sights, he delivered the coup de grace:

“So it just drifted up there?”

To his credit. Dr. Chu didn’t leap over the table or run screaming from the room.

“That’s certainly what happened. And so it’s a result of things like that.”

Yes, Congressman, it just drifted up there. That’s why it’s called continental drift theory. I nominate Rep. Joe Barton for the Ted Stevens “The Internets are a bunch of tubes” Award for idiocy.

Update: Just to be clear, the YouTube video comes from RepJoeBarton himself, so he really does think he put one over on Chu.

Update 2: Barton even twittered his “victory dance:”

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

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