Having won control of the House, Republicans are gearing up to pick a leader for the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee. Two of the leading candidates are Texas Representative Joe Barton and Michigan Representative Fred Upton.
Although Barton has reached a Republican party term limit by serving three consecutive terms as the Republican leader of that committee, he is petitioning for a waiver from the rule. Barton caused a national stir earlier in the year by apologizing to BP and claiming the company was the victim of a White House “shake down” when BP was asked to designate a $20 billion recovery fund for the Gulf oil spill.
Momentum for Barton has been growing in Republican circles, as his rival for the committee position, Representative Upton, has been receiving criticism for his support of energy efficiency laws. Specifically, Upton, along with California Democratic Representative Jane Harman, co-sponsored a bill to phase out incandescent bulbs and to require that they be at least three times as efficient as today’s bulbs by 2020, as a part of the Energy Independence and Security Act.
Upton’s support of energy efficiency regulations are in stark contrast to both Barton, as well as Illinois Representative John Shimkus, who is also seeking the committee chair. Shimkus, who is an ardent climate change skeptic, on Wednesday reiterated to Politico his earlier claims that climate change is not a threat to humans since “I do believe in the Bible as the final word of God… and I do believe that God said the Earth would not be destroyed by a flood.” In 2009, Shimkus had made a similar argument in a subcommittee hearing, explaining that carbon dioxide is “plant food… So if we decrease the use of carbon dioxide, are we not taking away plant food from the atmosphere?… So all our good intentions could be for naught. In fact, we could be doing just the opposite of what the people who want to save the world are saying.”
In 2007, Shimkus was also criticized for comparing the war in Iraq to a baseball game between his “beloved” St. Louis Cardinals and the “much despised” Chicago Cubs.
The final candidate for the leadership post is Florida Representative Cliff Stearns, who is an advocate of expanded offshore drilling, as well as drilling the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Stearns has also questions the science behind climate change.
Videos of Representative Shimkus discussing climate change at a subcommittee hearing.