Haley Barbour, Oil Expert

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


There have been many stupid stories in the past weeks about the Gulf oil spill. But this one might just take the cake: “Mississippi leaders: Spill’s environmental impact overhyped.”

It’s hard to know where to begin on this one. Perhaps the most important question: When did Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour become an expert on oil toxicity?

Barbour, DMR Director Bill Walker, DEQ Director Trudy Fisher and Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant have all described the oil and tar that has made its way to Mississippi waters and shores as “nontoxic.” Barbour said the “first cuts,” or volatile chemicals in the crude such as benzene, evaporate quickly near the well site and that the oil that makes it further into the Gulf is “emulsified and weathered.”

Wait, it gets more comical: Oil is just like toothpaste, according to Barbour:

Barbour has also said the risk to wildlife from oiling is not as bad as some have been saying.

“Once it gets to this stage, it’s not poisonous,” Barbour said. “But if a small animal got coated enough with it, it could smother it. But if you got enough toothpaste on you, you couldn’t breathe.”

I wonder if it’s Barbour’s years as a big-time lobbyist for interests like tobacco and big oil that qualify him to render these informed opinions. In fact, Barbour’s time lobbying for dirty energy interests appears to be his only qualification for talking about the subject.

At least the others quoted in the article are nominally better prepared to comment on the science. But that doesn’t make them any less wrong. Contrary to what they state in the piece, oil is toxic, it’s not just “CO2 and water” as one state official implies, and evidence has shown that it is getting into the food chain. But maybe reality is different in Mississippi.

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate