Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas is excited that the state of Utah's Division of Oil, Gas, and Mining is hosting a contest for Earth Day asking kids to make a poster highlighting the importance of drilling. "The best thing about the Earth," Stockman tweeted, "is if you poke holes in it oil and gas come out." This was a provocation that Twitter couldn't resist.
It is a bit strange to use the occasion of Earth Day as a moment to talk up oil and gas drilling. To Stockman's point, fossil fuels and raw minerals are part of the Earth, it's true. But environmentalists tend to consider the extraction of those things to be a net negative for the environment, much less burning them. The spirit of Earth Day isn't that people stand around and clap at the planet, of course — it was founded to draw attention to environmental degradation. As Stockman and the Division of Oil, Gas, and Mining are very well aware. Could you use the word "troll" in this scenario? If you wish.
Twitter, as it does, quickly took the bait.
The best thing about the Earth is exploiting it until it and we are all dead.— Cord Jefferson (@cordjefferson) March 21, 2013
I would say best thing is ramen, but just me MT @stevestockmantx: best thing about the Earth is if you poke holes in it oil and gas come out— Igor Bobic (@igorbobic) March 21, 2013
"The best thing about the Earth is all the plagues and floods and hurricanes that it sends to kill us!" said no congressman ever.— Sonny Bunch (@SonnyBunch) March 21, 2013
The best thing about Earth is that it's constantly bathed in near-limitless energy flows from the sun and wind.— David Roberts (@drgrist) March 21, 2013
Earth sucks, we don't even have any unobtainium here— Jim Newell (@jim_newell) March 21, 2013
The best thing about the Earth is that it looks increasingly likely that it will be incapable of supporting human society in the near future— Alex Pareene (@pareene) March 21, 2013
The second best thing about Earth is gaffes.— Brian Beutler (@brianbeutler) March 21, 2013
To Beutler's point, Stockman's follow-up tweets suggest that this was hardly a gaffe.
Funny thing about liberals hating oil and gas - they're expressing it on computers made from petrochemicals. Why do liberals hate science?— Rep. Steve Stockman (@SteveStockmanTX) March 21, 2013
There is reportedly $1 trillion in oil off the coast of California. But liberal hatred of science and human progress keeps them bankrupt— Rep. Steve Stockman (@SteveStockmanTX) March 21, 2013
Energy-rich oil propelled civilization into the 21st Century. But liberals want to turn back the clock to inefficient Bronze Age wind power.— Rep. Steve Stockman (@SteveStockmanTX) March 21, 2013
Natural gas and oil give us cheap, clean energy and life-saving plastics, petrochemicals. Environmentalists want to turn back human progress— Rep. Steve Stockman (@SteveStockmanTX) March 21, 2013
An observer could certainly take issue with some of the points made here by Stockman. We won't pass judgment on the characterization of liberals, but will note that the congressman's characterization of California's oil wealth appears to be conflating a few different things.
The best reply came from the Guardian's Ana Marie Cox, who could certainly be grouped among the aforementioned science-hating, Bronze-Age-loving liberals.
Also true of many congressmen. RT @stevestockmantx: The best thing about the Earth is if you poke holes in it oil and gas come out.— Ana Marie Cox (@anamariecox) March 21, 2013