House Republicans Try to Hijack Obama’s Constitutional Authority on Keystone XL

Barton oil

The word responsible can mean being the cause or explanation of some occurrence or action, or answering for one’s conduct and obligations. This week in the House of Representatives, responsibility took on both meanings of the word, and for Republicans who promote personal responsibility as the driving force for many of their policy priorities; they certainly took the concept to new levels of absurdity. One of the Republican Party’s primary responsibilities is legislating according to the whims and wishes of the fossil fuel industry, and they have been good stewards in creating laws and killing regulations to ensure oil companies are allowed to control energy policy in this country regardless the devastation they wreak on the environment, population’s health, and creatures inhabiting the nation’s territories.

On Wednesday, House Republicans took another step to relieve President Obama of his constitutional responsibility to approve a permit authorizing construction of Canada’s Keystone XL pipeline that carries tar and chemicals from Canada across America’s agricultural heartland to Gulf Coast refineries on its way to Europe and South America. Republicans are tired of waiting for the President to approve a gift to the Koch brothers, John Boehner, TransCanada, and the oil industry and held a House Subcommittee on Energy and Power meeting to tout the environmentally friendly pipeline’s benefits and assign responsibility for global climate change. One of the oil industry’s leading spokesman and member of the House, Texas Republican Joe Barton, took the lead in explaining, with stunning clarity of purpose, that burning hydrocarbons has nothing to do with dangerously high levels of CO2 in the atmosphere that nearly every scientist on this planet believe is responsible for the rapidly changing climate.

Barton claimed that man’s development and burning of fossil fuels is not responsible for global climate change, and for empirical data to back up his claim, he harkened back 6,000 years for irrefutable proof that just because the climate changes, it is not man’s doing. Barton cited the Old Testament story about Noah, his ark, and a flood that resulted from a 40-day and 40-night nonstop rainstorm that covered the entire planet in water that, according to Barton, epitomizes what global climate change really is. Baron reasoned that “the Great Flood is an example of climate change and that certainly wasn’t because mankind had overdeveloped hydrocarbon energy,” and if one regards an angry deity flooding the planet climate change, Barton may have a valid point. However, according to the Genesis story, man did cause the biblical climate-changing deluge that Barton’s god created to drown every man, woman, child, and beast on Earth because man’s sinful ways drove him to exterminate all but a few loyal servants and a sampling of Earth’s creatures in his 40-day, climate-changing, rain and mass drowning.

Barton has a stellar reputation of absolving the fossil fuel industry of any responsibility for devastating ecosystems and placing the blame on anything and anyone except the oil industry. Shortly after the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, Barton offered a supplicatory apology to then-BP chairman Tony Hayward and said he was full of shame that President Obama held the oil company responsible for cleanup and restoration costs associated with the worst man-made ecological disaster in America’s history. Barton said he was chagrined the White House reached a deal requiring BP to reserve $20 billion to remove oil from the drilling platform explosion and subsequent oil leak and repair the damage to Gulf Coast beaches and inland waterways. Barton said, “I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown, in this case, a $20 billion shakedown. I apologize. I do not want to live in a country where any citizen or corporation that does something that is legitimately wrong is subject to some sort of political pressure that, again in my words, amounts to a shakedown. So I apologize.” According to Barton’s bible, when a person “does something that is legitimately wrong,” god holds them responsible and applies theocratic pressure that reasonable human beings would consider an “everlasting existential shakedown,” so his reasoning fails the test of logical continuity.

Barton spent some time praising the virtues of the Keystone pipeline and its chemical-laden tar, and referred to the Koch brothers’ and oil industry’s report to the State Department that Keystone was environmentally friendly. However, with all the oil spills over the past month, one has to consider, using Barton’s logic, whether or not god caused pipelines to rupture, trains to crash, and oil processors to spill tar and chemicals into waterways and soil, and is god responsible for carcinogens used in tar sand extraction that add climate destroying CO2 to the atmosphere 99% of the planet’s scientists agree is responsible for global climate change. Besides responsibility for pumping CO2 into the atmosphere, Barton should explain that if the oil industry is not responsible for destroying air, water, and soil with no less than 6 oil spills in the past thirty days, why god is rupturing tar and chemical-laden pipes, crashing freight trains, spilling tar and chemicals, or breaking pipes at refineries and releasing cancer-causing benzene and hydrogen-sulfide into the environment.

There were thirteen oil spills, ten between America and Canada, over the past month, and in Arkansas, Exxon held the Federal Aviation Administration (FFA) responsible for establishing a no-fly zone over their tar and chemical spill area, and local law enforcement responsible for arresting concerned Americans on the ground attempting to observe the disaster area and cleanup efforts. The party that espouses personal responsibility for working-class Americans never holds the oil industry responsible for destroying the environment or contributing to global climate change, but they are being well-paid for their efforts.

It is possible that Barton seriously believes god’s wrath and 40-day deluge proves global climate change in the 21st century has nothing to do with burning fossil fuels, but if that is the case, he must also believe god is responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, the BP oil spill, Exxon tar and chemical spill, and any number of spills occurring across the continent. No doubt he is ashamed that thinking Americans believe responsibility for climate change and oil spills lies with the industry dumping tar and chemicals into waterways, agricultural land, and neighborhoods in Arkansas and Louisiana. Americans should be ashamed an oil industry spokesman in the House of Representatives speaks for a cabal attempting to take the President’s responsibility for approving a national-border crossing pipeline for themselves, and absolving the oil industry of responsibility for past, current, and future climate change and tar spills TransCanada assures Americans will occur after the Kochs, TransCanada, and Boehner approves the KeystoneXL pipeline. As the global climate warms, Republicans will doubtless will hold climate scientists responsible for being right when they warned if Keystone is built, it is “game over for the planet’s environment” because the oil industry is never responsible for anything, especially when a 6,000 year old mythological flood is the basis for empirical data that burning hydrocarbons is not causing climate change.

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