Ralph Hall (R-TX)

Ralph Hall (R-TX) is the unassuming new chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee. Like many Americans these days, Hall considers the pinnacle of American advancement in science and technology to be ‘splosions. There’s no way to read his praise of the BP oil spill – that’s not a typo, I wrote “praise” – in anything approaching a good way.

Like many Texas Republicans, Hall questions those conclusions. He’s also an unconditional champion of fossil fuels who won’t give up the holy grail of oil drilling – exploring in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. And BP’s gigantic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico didn’t dampen his enthusiasm for offshore drilling.

“As we saw that thing bubbling out, blossoming out – all that energy, every minute of every hour of every day of every week – that was tremendous to me,” he said. “That we could deliver that kind of energy out there – even on an explosion.”

I mean, sure, 11 people died and the ecology of a large body of water has been ruined for who knows how long – but look at the energy, man, the energy!

Hall’s more inclined toward advances in the space program than he is mitigating climate change, and that mostly has to do with his efforts to fully fund Johnson Space Center, which is located in Texas. On climate change, however, Hall expects to appoint James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) to the investigations subcommittee, where he will undoubtedly call in climate scientists and basically re-litigate the phenomenon of climate change for the benefit of the Republican base. Hall raised the prospect of issuing subpoenas to climate scientists to testify about their “false statements” on climate change.

It’s going to be a glorious two years. Hopefully Hall will join us for both of them – the new chair of the Science and Technology Committee turns 88 next year.

Fortunately, the reauthorization of science and technology funding, known as the America COMPETES Act, passed at the tail end of the lame duck session. I think the nation dodged a bullet with that one.

David Dayen

David Dayen