Republicans Attempting Science: A Preview of the Republican-Led Senate

Read time: 3 mins
Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA)

On September 9th, two subcommittees of the Congressional Committee on Science, Space and Technology held a joint hearing where they spent the better part of two hours arguing the benefits of moving crude oil by pipeline.

The Republican committee members grilled the representatives from the Department of Energy and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and repeatedly tried to make the argument that pipelines were the safest mode of transporting oil. 

Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) also mentioned how this administration “honestly believes in the global warming theory” and that was why the administration has not approved the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline.

The repeated focus on pipelines in this hearing was odd because the topic of the hearing was supposed to be the scientific properties of Bakken crude oil.

At the opening of the hearing, the Republican Chairman, Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) led off with these specific instructions to participants.

We are not here today to debate the merits of rail or pipeline transportation or their current or proposed regulation. Those are important issues but today we have a scientific focus — the characteristics and behavior of Bakken petroleum.”

And then her Republican colleagues (and one Democrat from Texas) ignored her instruction and turned the hearing into a sales pitch for crude oil pipelines while ignoring some basic facts that made their efforts even more of an embarrassment for what is supposedly a group focused on science.

For the record: building the Keystone XL pipeline is not going to have any significant impact on the movement of Bakken crude oil by rail.

First, there is the obvious fact that Keystone XL is slated to move mostly Canadian tar sands oil, not Bakken crude.

Second, there is more oil to move than there is capacity as pointed out in a piece in the Globe and Mail this week arguing against the proposed Energy East tar sands export pipeline:

The booms happening in the tar sands and U.S. fracked oil mean the North American oil industry would need every single pipeline and oil-by-rail project currently planned in order to meet its production targets.

But facts don’t stand in the way of the congressional Republicans taking every opportunity to spread the message of their donors. Republicans were the recipients of 84 percent of the more than $18 million donated by the oil and gas industry to Congressional incumbents in the 2014 election.

Unfortunately, this hearing in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives is probably a good indicator of the level of discourse we can expect from the new Republican-controlled Senate.

Congressman Rohrabacher was the last speaker at the hearing and did an excellent job of summing up how Republicans think about science and regulations.

We should be thanking God, rather than sending out an army of regulators to try to find … and using a microscope to find out any excuse to put a roadblock in the way and to try to stop this wonderful gift that we have.”

Why is it that God comes up so often when Republicans are confronted with science? If you haven't seen it yet, head over to DeSmog's Facebook page (Like us while you're there!) and watch this clip of Bill Maher reviewing the climate views of some Republicans in Congress, particularly Rep. James Inhofe (R-OK) who references God in his climate denial talking points regularly: 


Here are the highlights of the September 9 subcommittee hearing referenced at the top of this post:

September 9th Congressional Science Committee Highlights

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