Claim:   Rep. Joe Barton said “wind is a finite resource and harnessing it would slow the winds down, which would cause the temperature to go up.”


Example:   [Collected via e-mail, February 2015]

Facebook has a thing going around that Congressman Joe Barton
from Texas said wind was a finite resource and harnessing it would cause
the world to be warmer. That is up there with the congressman who said an
island might tip over if we moved Navy personnel there. Did Mr Barton
actually say that about the wind??


Origins:   On 26 February 2009, Rep. Joe Barton of Texas made comments during the course of a Congressional subcommittee hearing on renewable energy in which he maintained a strong stance favoring fossil fuels over alternative energy sources. One quote attributed to him during that hearing has since become a popular internet meme:

Wind is a finite resource and harnessing it would slow the winds down, which would cause the temperature to go up.

Perhaps due to the contextual relevance of the comment (in the course of an otherwise unremarkable Congressional hearing), the quote has been routinely attributed to Barton in varying forms ever since. The remarks were not made on a television program or during the course of an interview, and in the ensuing years they have circulated with little question over whether Barton actually spoke those words, or in what context he might have said them.

As it turns out, the quote is not an accurate reflection of Barton’s statement during the hearing in question. The Texas congressman prefaced his remarks [PDF] by citing a paper written by Professor Jay Apt, executive director of the Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Center:

Before I ask my questions, I am going to read a paragraph from Dr. Apt’s
statement or paper that he wrote because we are here debating
a renewable energy standard because we think that there is a
theory that manmade emissions, primarily from fossil fuels
like coal, which reduce amounts of CO2, are causing climate
change, i.e., the temperature to rise, and one of the
solutions being proposed is an RES that is going to rely
fairly heavily on wind power, which obviously doesn’t create

I am going to read a paragraph which is if true very
ironic, and this is from Dr. Apt’s paper and I quote: “Wind
energy is a finite resource. At large scale, slowing down
the wind by using its energy to turn turbines has
environmental consequences
. A group of researchers at
Princeton University,” which is in New Jersey,
parenthetically “found that wind farms may change the mixing
of air near the surface, drying the soil near the site. At
planetary scales, David Keith, who was then at Carnegie
Mellon, and coworkers found that if wind supplied 10 percent
of expected global electricity demand in 2100, which is a number
of years off, the resulting change in the earth’s
atmospheric energy might cause some regions of the world to
experience temperature change of approximately 1 degree
Centigrade,” which I think is about 1-1/2 degrees or 1.6
degrees Fahrenheit.

Now, wind is God’s way of balancing heat. Wind is the way you shift heat from areas where it is hotter to areas where it is cooler. That is what wind is.
Wouldn’t it be ironic if in the interest of global warming we mandated massive switches to energy, which is a finite resource, which slows the winds down, which causes the
temperature to go up? Now, I am not saying that is going to happen, Mr. Chairman, but that is definitely something on the massive scale — I mean, it does make some sense. You stop something. You can’t transfer that heat and the heat goes up. It is just something to think about.

The purported quote has since circulated on the Internet intermittently; however, the meme is not quite an accurate representation of Barton’s remarks, as it excludes the context that Barton was quoting someone else when he mentioned that “wind energy is a finite resource” and stated that “slowing down the wind by using its energy to turn turbines has environmental consequences.” He did summarize those points in his own words at the end of his statement and averred that they “made sense,” but he also posited them as speculative hypotheticals, saying it would be “ironic” if they occurred, and proclaiming that “I am not saying that is going to happen.”

Last updated:   10 August 2015