Just hours after BP officials announced Thursday that the flow of oil had finally stopped from their damaged well in the Gulf of Mexico, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour declared in Aspen that a moratorium on drilling more wells in the Gulf “is a stupid idea.”
“When a plane crashes, we don’t shut down the airlines for six months while we we’re trying to figure out why,” Barbour said.
Barbour was in Aspen for a Republican Governors’ Associations meeting and fundraising event, along with Republican governors from Texas, Virginia, Minnesota and Hawaii.
The five governors, including Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Gov. Linda Lingle of Hawaii, took questions Thursday at the Aspen Institute from Institute CEO Walter Isaacson and members of the audience.
The five governors were in general agreement that government regulation and spending, taxes, the Obama administration, national debt, teacher’s unions, global-warming science, and the recently passed financial reform and health care bills are bad.
And they generally agreed that tough border security with Mexico, the right to carry concealed weapons with a license, the free market, educational testing, military spending in Iraq and Afghanistan, nuclear power and American fossil fuel development are good.
On the topic of energy development, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas agreed with Barbour that an oil drilling moratorium in the Gulf was a bad idea.
“It is such a bad knee-jerk reaction,” Perry said, saying that a moratorium would hurt an already “fragile economy.”
Perry also said he is a “global-warming skeptic” and said proposed “cap and trade” legislation to reduce carbon emissions was not necessary and that “incentive-based regulations” were the answer to reduce pollutants.
“The fact of the matter is, we need to not be distracted on this issue of man-made global warming,” Perry said.
When asked his position on global warming, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell gave an apparently sarcastic answer.
“I’m pretty worried about climate change,” McDonnell said. ”My first month in office, we had three blizzards and 60 inches of snow in northern Virginia.”
The line drew a laugh and applause from the crowd, many of whom were in Aspen to attend the Republican Governors’ Association events here, which were organized by Republican fundraiser and Aspen resident Fred Malek.
McDonnell said the answer to the country’s energy challenges is not “in punishing the traditional carbon-based industries, but incentivising the growth in the alternative sector.”
McDonnell also said that “government interference with some of the new fracking operations” for natural gas drilling was a problem when it came to meeting the country’s energy needs.
Gov. Barbour agreed.
“There are lots of people on the left who want you to burn natural gas, they just don’t want you to produce it,” Barbour said. “You’re going to have to deal with, in most states, whether it is New York, Pennsylvania or whether it is here in Colorado, the people on the left who want to say that hydraulic fracturing is some sort of threat to the water supply, some sort of threat to something, so that they have an excuse to not allow the production of this natural gas.”
Barbour is the current chair of the Republican Governors’ Association, and in response to a question about how Republicans can gain a majority in Congress this fall, Barbour said it would take “message discipline” in the upcoming election.
“The focus is going to be on the economy, jobs, spending, taxes, debt, deficit, interest rates, because that’s what’s on people’s minds,” Barbour said. “This is the election that matters. We can’t wait until 2012 to take our country back.”