U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, ranking member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, made the following statement at an Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing entitled, “Inquiry into the Deepwater Horizon Gulf Coast Oil Spill”:
“There is nobody on either side of the aisle in this subcommittee or the full committee that doesn’t want to get the facts on the table about what happened down in the Gulf of Mexico approximately a month ago – why it happened and what can be done to prevent it from happening in the future and remediate any damages, both human and environmental. The 11 people that lost their lives is the primary tragedy. The fact that 5,000 barrels of oil a day are spilling out of the well and coming to the surface and beginning to wash up on some of the beaches in Louisiana and Alabama is a problem, but it is a problem that can be remediated.
“I want to focus on some of the things that Chairman Waxman said right at the end of his statement when he made the comment about taking on the oil industry, as if this was some sort of an adversarial situation between the people and the industry. Nothing could be further from the truth. The United States of America is the greatest nation in the world because we’re based on the premise of freedom for every individual in this country. That freedom is enunciated in the Declaration of Independence. Our founding fathers had the foresight and the wisdom, along with our political leadership for the last 200 years, to say the best way to protect our freedoms is to provide maximum economic opportunity through a free-market, capitalistic system.
“We’re one of the few nations in the world that has let the private sector develop our natural resource base. That has given us the most-productive economy, the largest economy. The United States economy by itself is approximately a third of the total world’s gross product. That is not a consequence of government. It is a consequence of free men and women exercising free choices to maximize their opportunity and in so doing, creating economic opportunity for everybody in the world.
“We’re in a situation now where, if we’re going to have additional domestic energy production in a way that maintains our existing lifestyle, it is going to be because we develop our natural resource base, both on and offshore. I have absolutely no problem with the alternative energy sources, whether they be solar, wind, ethanol, hydro, you name it. But there’s a reason that we’re an oil-based economy. It’s because that barrel of oil, refined into all the products that flow from it, have a tremendous, tremendous productivity potential. You can take a gallon of gasoline and you can power a 4,000-pound car with four adults in it at 60 miles an hour in air-conditioned comfort down the highway, all the way from New York City to Los Angeles, Calif.
“We do not want, on either side of the aisle, to have to import more and more foreign oil. Whether we like it or not, the only real place to find significant, additional oil deposits in meaningful quantities is in the Outer Continental Shelf.
“Now we’ve had an accident. It is not an act of God. The amount of pressure, the amount of gas and oil that came up that bore hole is something that was foreseeable. It is something that could have been and should have been contained. The blowout prevention equipment that was on that rig had a design capacity that should have controlled that explosion. It didn’t. The facts that we have uncovered in this investigation through the documents that have been provided show that there was, in all probability, shoddy maintenance. There were mislabeled components – the diagrams didn’t depict the actual equipment – but that was not an act of God, like a hurricane, earthquake or volcano that man can’t control.
“Through the efforts of this subcommittee, the full committee and some of the other committees, we’ll get to the bottom of it. We’ll find out the facts and we’ll take corrective measures to prevent that from happening in the future, whether it’s legislation, regulation or through best practices changes by the industry. But what we should not do, Mr. Chairman, is make a decision to fence off the Outer Continental Shelf and treat this as the equivalent of the Three Mile Island accident for nuclear power and set back domestic oil and gas production in the Outer Continental Shelf for the next 20 or 30 years. That would not only be a mistake, in my opinion, it would be a disservice to the American people.
“So I don’t want to ‘take on’ the industry. I want to work with the industry, I want to work with the Congress, I want to find out what the problem was, I want to solve that problem, and I want to move forward. I don’t want the United States of America to continue to import 12 to 14 million barrels of oil a day.
“That one well in the Gulf, though British Petroleum has not been explicit, that one well probably has the potential to produce 50,000 barrels of oil a day. To put that in perspective, there are 200,000 oil wells producing onshore in Texas, producing a million barrels of oil. That’s five barrels a day per well in Texas. This one well – this one well – is equivalent to 10,000 oil wells in Texas. That one well in full production is one or two percent of the production capacity existing in the Gulf of Mexico today. Mr. Chairman, we can’t fence that off. We can correct the problem. We can prevent the problem. We can try to change the technology but do not use this hearing, use this accident, as an excuse to take away from the American people probably the biggest domestic energy resource we have yet to develop on the North American continent.
“With that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back.”