Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

News Barton vs Chu on Plate Tectonics

  1. Apr 22, 2009 #1
    Today in the Capitol a very strange confrontation broke out between Rep. Joe Barton of Texas (the ranking Republican on the House Energy & Commerce Committee), and Energy Secretary Stephen Chu:



    A transcript :
    (What the transcript doesn't show you is Chu laughing nervously the entire time, and Barton smiling like a cat about to pounce.)

    Later in the day Barton posted the above video of the incident on Youtube, and bragged "I seemed to have baffled the Energy Sec with basic question -- Where does oil come from? Check out the video" on Twitter.

    Aside from the worry that Barton does not seem to have understood the fairly reasonable 1-minute explanation Chu gave him (he still seems incredulous at the end of the video) what I am curious about is what Barton imagines the answer to his original question is. His suggestion about Alaska being "warmer" implies he had some specific answer in mind, but I'm not sure what.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 22, 2009 #2
    My guess: He is trying to suggest that, if it were warmer in the past, then the current warming is simply due to the same cycle, rather than human caused, and therefore we shouldn't/can't do anything about it.
  4. Apr 22, 2009 #3
    Barton is dumb as a rock.

    Who knows. Taking a look at some of Barton's earlier work, it seems his main purpose is to obfuscate and attack anything to do with climate change:


    Background: oilman, Republican, former chair of House Energy Committee

  5. Apr 22, 2009 #4
    I just feel sorry for Chu. A Nobel-winning AMO physicist, once heading a US national lab, now reduced to listening to idiot congressmen explain their pet crackpot theories.
  6. Apr 23, 2009 #5


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    It would have been great if Chu had responded that Texas and much of the central US used to be underwater, and then asked Barton if that was what he desired.
  7. Apr 23, 2009 #6
    Interesting thought. I think he knew where he was heading when he made his decision to move into politics. I personally feel sorry for the idiot who does not even realize the privilege he has to receive a personal answer from a Nobel prize winner. This is the really sad part I think.
  8. Apr 23, 2009 #7

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2017 Award

    This isn't new. Al Gore was famous for this - as well as asking questions, letting the subject get one or two words out, and then lecturing the poor fellow for the rest of his time about how wrong he was. He was also famous for reading something else when the subject was speaking.
  9. Apr 23, 2009 #8
    I almost feel sorry for the Republican party. They've taken a hard swing towards anti-science lately.
  10. Apr 23, 2009 #9
  11. Apr 23, 2009 #10
    Hey witch hunting ad hominemmers, all I see is that Barton asked a simple question:

    To which the answer may be a lot more complex than plate tectonics:

  12. Apr 23, 2009 #11
    In the past 8 years or so. I was in my teens when Clinton was president, so I wasn't paying that close attention, but I don't remember Republicans at the time being so aggressively anti-science.
  13. Apr 23, 2009 #12

    How about you take other quotes from the article?

    Plus, the article only talks about natural gas, not oil.

    So, the answer really isn't more complicated than plate tectonics for the vast majority of methane and possibly 100% of the oil we know about.
  14. Apr 23, 2009 #13
    • Are you suggesting that Chu is certainly unaware of this specific research, and if so could be reproached with that ? Assuming Chu conducted this research himself, are you suggesting that it would have been appropriate to brought this point in the context of a 45 second answer ?
    • Assuming the point you raise is actually relevant to the resources there North, are you suggesting that plate tectonics plays no role at all, or should not be mentioned at all in those 45 seconds ?
    • In general, are you suggesting that it is appropriate for Barton to challenge Chu in the context ? Would you rather discuss those matters with Barton or with Chu from a scientific point of view ?
    Please state your point clearly. Right now you are just lecturing us on nitpicking details.
  15. Apr 23, 2009 #14

    Ivan Seeking

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    And why did he ask it? Also, that isn't all that he did. He then bragged about stumping a Nobel winner, which he didn't. So he not only asked an irrelevant question, he also lied about the answer.
  16. Apr 23, 2009 #15

    Ivan Seeking

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Oh yes, then he implied that techtonic plate theory is silly - "so it just floated there". Now he can run home and brag about his great intellectual duel with a scientist.
  17. Apr 26, 2009 #16


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    But is this a plausible explanation.

    When one looks are oil and gas well logs, the cores contain rock of sedimentary deposits, not characteristics of the depths of mantle. Sedimentary rocks form at or near the surface.

    But one can go to a reliable source - Schlumberger, which is one company with decades of experience in oil and gas exploration and development.

    The Making of Oil: Birth of a Reservoir
    http://www.seed.slb.com/subcontent.aspx?id=2400 [Broken]
    Only 50-70°C! and at pressure a lot less than 50,000-110,000 atm!

    Evolution of a Reservoir
    http://www.seed.slb.com/subcontent.aspx?id=28500 [Broken]

    So people who do oil and gas exploration seem to support Chu's statement. Or was Chu mislead by the oil and gas industry?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  18. Apr 26, 2009 #17


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    Sounds to me more like wishful thinking. Public policy (drill baby, drill, the party will never be over) in search of some rationalization from improbable science.
  19. Apr 27, 2009 #18


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    If they want to "get" him, they should go after him harder on nuclear power. Nobel prize winner or not, he's in politics because he's got some politician in him.
  20. Apr 27, 2009 #19

    D H

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Chu was lucky Barton's time ran out. Even fools can be right and Nobel prize winners wrong some of the time. This was one of those times. Alaska has been near the Arctic Circle for a long, long time.

    http://www.geog.nau.edu/courses/alew/ggr346/text/maps/continental-drift2.jpg [Broken]

    The Arctic was a whole lot warmer 155 million years ago. In a way, Al Gore et al brought this question on by decrying how we are destroying the planet with global warming. We aren't. If anything, we are making the planet more hospitable to life in general as the biggest effect of global warming will be on the (currently rather inhospitable) Arctic.

    There's one minor problem with our beneficence: We will make the planet a lot less hospitable to human life in doing so. Most people live near the coast. Raising global temperatures to levels such as those found when the Prudhoe Bay field formed would inundate most major cities worldwide.

    The correct response to Barton's question was "so what?"
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  21. Apr 27, 2009 #20
    I hear that argument made seriously by AGW deniers pretty often. "Global warming won't destroy the planet!" I haven't heard anybody make that claim, other than the deniers.

    That is the real point that the deniers seem to be missing. A lot of us "environmentalists" don't give an eff about the environment, we just don't want coastal cities to disappear in the next few centuries.
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Similar Discussions: Barton vs Chu on Plate Tectonics
  1. License Plates (Replies: 1)

  2. Pickle plate (Replies: 12)

  3. Custom Licence Plate (Replies: 5)