Rep. Barton says mandatory cap on emissions unlikely with new leadership

With key Republicans preparing to step down from leadership positions in the House and Senate, questions remain as to how powerful the GOP will be as the Democrats gain control of Congress. During today's E&ETV Event Coverage, Congressman Joe Barton (R-Texas) discusses why he believes basic policies regarding climate change will not change once the Democrats take over leadership. Barton discusses the need to address climate change in a cost beneficial way and talks about flaws in the "hockey stick" analysis.


Rep. Joe Barton: Thank you. I'm in a double climate change transition mode. I'm going from chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee to ranking member and that's quite a climate change.

And, I just got off the plane from Texas coming back to Washington, and that's a different climate change of an entirely different sort, so I apologize for being a little bit late getting to you this afternoon.

Going to give you a little bit of a different perspective than what you've probably been given so far today. We had a change in the makeup of the Congress several weeks ago when we went from a Republican majority in the House and the Senate to Democrat majorities.

And my guess is, the conventional wisdom is, that because of that the issue that you're here to talk about, the climate change issue, is going to take a significant change. I would be skeptical of that if I were you.

I think the rhetoric is going to change. I think you're certainly going to see, in the Senate, Senator Kerrys, and in the House, the Congressman Markeys and Waxmans, and I think their voices are going to be magnified in support of the more politically correct vision of climate change.

But once you get past the rhetoric, I would be surprised if you see the basic policies change that much. And let me explain why. The Energy Policy Act that we passed two years ago was one of the, if not the only, major bipartisan initiative to pass this Congress.

Most of what this Congress is going to be remembered for has been much more of a partisan nature, but the Energy Policy Act was not. It got almost -- half the Democrats in the House, I think, voted for it, and over a third of the Democrats in the Senate, maybe even half the Democrats in the Senate voted for it, and almost all the Republicans.

And we had numerous sections on environmental issues, air quality issues, climate change. We have an entire title on climate change. I think there's 66 sections of the act that deal in some shape, form or fashion with climate change.

So we did a lot of the nuts and bolts things, on a consensus basis, across the Republican side and the Democratic side of the aisle, to try to make progress on dealing with climate change.

And I don't think that's going to go away because the elections changed. One of the driving forces of the Energy Policy Act were the coal state Democrats, to the rig vouchers, and Mr. -- you know, several of the other -- some of the Democrats from West Virginia there on the Appropriations Committee.

And the same thing in the Senate, Senator Byrd in the Senate and Senator Rockefeller in the Senate, and some of those senators. So we put a lot of money into clean coal technology because of climate change.

The FutureGen project, which is in its decision-making stage, and FutureGen is the concept to take coal that's mined in America, and creates the combustion cycle so that you get more efficiency.

You get more output, more energy, more heat per BTU of coal. And you also get either zero emissions or very minimal emissions in terms of greenhouse gases. So you get an economic benefit by a better combustion cycle.

And you get an environmental benefit by having the greenhouse gases, the CO2, sequestered or used, turned into some product that has got commercial viability on its own.

The final decision of whether to build a prototype plant is going to be made in the next six to eight months. It's either going to be built in Illinois or it's going to be built in Texas. There are four finalists, but two sites are in Illinois and two are in Texas.

That project, by itself, epitomizes what the United States is trying to do in terms of climate change. We acknowledge that it's an issue that needs to be dealt with, but we acknowledge that it needs to be dealt with in a cost beneficial, kind of a commonsense fashion.

And that's not going to change because of the election. We had a series of hearings on the hockey stick theory in the oversight subcommittee last summer. And those hearings proved conclusively that the theory itself is flawed, that the conclusion is not justified by the facts presented and the calculation.

Now that doesn't mean the conclusion is wrong. But it does mean that you can't say based on the facts presented in the original paper on the hockey stick theory that you have this spiking that's caused by man-made emissions in the last 100 to 150 years.

Proved that that conclusion, based on the sets of facts put out in the original paper, was wrong. But the world kind of looked at those hearings and said so what? We're beyond the need to prove it. We've already decided that it's a reality.

The problem is that when you look at the amount of greenhouse gases the world emits on an annual basis, the percentage of those that are emitted or created, caused to be sent into the atmosphere, that are man-made is only about six percent of the total emissions.

So 94 percent is naturally caused. If you're going to try to remedy something by focusing on the six percent solution and leaving the 94 percent alone, you're never going to be successful.

I mean that's the basic fallacy of this whole, in my opinion, this whole climate change movement, is that we're man or we're American -- you know, if we wanted to make something happen, we could make it happen regardless of the physical realities.

Well, the physical realities are such that it may well be that the Earth is getting warmer. The science on climate is pretty weak stuff if you look at what's really provable and not conclusively provable, based on pure fact or a theory that is absolutely certain without question.

The earth is continually changing its climate. It's either getting warmer or it's getting cooler. It's never static. But for us to try to step in and say we have now got to do all of these multiple things to prevent the earth from getting any warmer, in my opinion, is absolute nonsense.

It's not gonna happen. What we can do is things like FutureGen and all the things that we put into the Energy Policy Act, that if it makes any sense at all it's obvious that we would rather have less emissions than more emissions.

What can we do in a practical sense that creates less greenhouse gas emissions without bankrupting our economy and sending it into a depression? And that's, in a nutshell, the policy that was encapsulated on climate change in the Energy Policy Act two years ago.

And that's what I think is going to remain the bedrock policy for the foreseeable future for the United States government regardless of which political party controls the House and the Senate. And regardless of which political party controls the White House.

It was brought out in our hearings on the hockey stick that you could build 50 nuclear power plants to replace 50 coal-fired power plants and you wouldn't change greenhouse gas emission or CO2 emissions two percent in the United States.

And if you really wanted to go back to the Kyoto baseline of 1990, you didn't need to build 50; you needed to build on the magnitude of 500,000 nuclear power plants.

And when you consider a thousand megawatt plant costs you $10 billion, rule of thumb, a hundred megawatts is a billion dollars, it gets pretty expensive. And you still don't get below the Kyoto baseline.

So you folks may be going to a lot of conferences in the next year and having the world beat up on America. If that's the price we have to pay to have an economy that's growing three or four percent a year and still creating jobs and economic opportunity, so be it.

But in my opinion, and I've been in the thick of the fight on climate change since -- I was at Kyoto. I was there with Vice President Gore. He came in, spent an hour, heard the congressional delegation on both sides of the aisle tell him we shouldn't sign the treaty and he promptly signed the treaty and left town.

So I've been involved in this for the last 15 years or so. And what you're going to see evolve, in my opinion, is more emphasis on practical things that really do make a difference on emissions, but do so in a way that our economy continues to grow.

So that is my perspective and we will see how history bears me out in the next several years.

[End of Audio]



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