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Joe Barton, BP Apologist, In '04: Offshore Drilling So Safe, A Gum Wrapper Won't Even Fall Off Platform

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With Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex) stealing the spotlight from the debate over oil spill liability by offering an apology to BP CEO Tony Hayward for the administration's push for a $20 billion escrow fund, a Democrat on the Hill sends over a 2004 remark from the Texas Republican touting the safety and virtues of offshore drilling

"Offshore drilling and production platforms are so technologically advanced that one platform on the surface of the water can handle production from several different wells several miles apart, house a myriad of technologically advanced computer systems, employ scores of personnel, generate electricity, enable people to face and conquer the adversities of living in the middle of the ocean, and do so 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; all without so much as losing a gum wrapper over the side of the platform. It is truly amazing," Barton said, at an opening for a Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality hearing on April 29, 2004.

Barton, of course, was wrong. Though, in fairness, he would expand on his devotion to offshore drilling by encouraging the development of better technologies as oil companies expanded even further offshore.

"Who would have ever imagined that a driller would have to string together 5,000 feet of pipe just to get to the dirt?" he said. "Drilling at such depths will present a whole host of impediments to production that must be resolved through technology. American ingenuity will find the solutions."

But the point the House aide was trying to make -- one that certainly is relevant in light of Barton's apology to Hayward -- is that this is a lawmaker deeply biased in Big Oils' favor. Indeed, good government groups were quick to point out on Thursday morning the $1.4 million in contributions that Barton has received through the course of his career from the oil and gas industry as a whole.

"It's amazing that Rep. Barton would stand up for a multinational corporation that has wrecked the livelihoods of so many people along the Gulf Coast," said David Donnelly, campaign manager for the Campaign for Fair Elections. "Comments like this make all Americans question whether Congress represents them or the special interests funding their campaigns."

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