Rep Joe Barton, R-TX, tells energyNOW! it's safe to resume oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, despite the Presidential Oil Spill Commission's conclusion that "systemic" industry failures led to the April 20, 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and the largest U.S. offshore oil spill.
Barton and Rep Jay Inslee, D-WA, joined Susan McGinnis on this week's edition of "The Mix." Both are members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
A chapter from the commission's report released on Jan. 5 says officials at BP, Halliburton and Transocean ignored critical warning signs and failed to take precautions that might have delayed the completion of the well, but also might have averted the disaster. The panel says without significant reforms, it could happen again.
But Barton told Susan McGinnis he takes issue with the report's conclusion of systemic problems and believes it's safe to restart drilling. He believes the industry "had gotten a little lax," because he says it had gone more than 40 years in the Gulf without such an accident. But now, he says industry officials have learned the disaster's lessons. "We can safely resume drilling," he said.
Barton says with oil prices approaching $100 per barrel, and 80 percent of new U.S. production coming from the deep Gulf, he believes the government should review existing permits for drilling in progress before the moratorium that followed the spill, and if they "pass muster," they should be allowed to resume work.
But Inslee says not so fast. Inslee likened the offshore oil industry to a car that had been in a fatal collision, and been diagnosed by a mechanic with systemic problems that need work. "Americans, I don't think, would drive that car again," he said.
Most disturbing, Inslee says, is that the commission identified "multiple layers" of erroneous decision-making that constitute "multiple system failures." He said those will take longer to address, and they must be addressed.
Barton and Inslee also sparred over whether the Environmental Protection Agency's latest regulations on air quality will kill "hundreds of thousands of jobs," as Barton says, or create them, as Inslee maintains.
Inslee spokes out against what he plans to call the "Dirty Air Bill" -- his term for plans to keep EPA from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. He says that authority by the EPA is what will spur investment that will create clean energy jobs in the solar, wind and nuclear industries and in advanced technology to sequester coal emissions.
Barton, however, believes that EPA regulations will hurt the economy and kill jobs. "I will to use my position as chairman emeritus of the Energy and Commerce Committee to bring some common sense to EPA regulations."