That was my first reaction this morning to seeing the news that Colorado’s Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper recently drank a glass of fracking fluid to demonstrate that it is safe. From the Washington Times account:
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper went to unusually great lengths to learn firsthand the strides the oil and gas industry has made to minimize environmental harm from fracking.
The first-term Democrat and former Denver mayor told a Senate committee on Tuesday that he actually drank a glass of fracking fluid produced by oilfield services giant Halliburton.
The fluid is made entirely “of ingredients sourced from the food industry,” the company says, making it safe for Mr. Hickenlooper and others to imbibe.
“You can drink it. We did drink it around the table, almost rituallike, in a funny way,” he told the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. “It was a demonstration. … they’ve invested millions of dollars in what is a benign fluid in every sense.”
This story brought back some fond long-ago memories of the great B.T. Collins, one of the legends of the California political scene who died of a heart attack 20 years ago at the too-soon age of 52. B.T. had lost both legs and one arm in Vietnam, but that never slowed him down a bit. “Bold, profane, and utterly outrageous” was one characterization of him. What else could you say about someone who asked that he be remembered at his alma mater by having a urinal in the men’s room dedicated to him? (See photo.) A conservative Republican who was a state legislator at the time his death, he nevertheless did a bizarre turn as Jerry Brown’s chief of staff late in Brown’s (first) second term in 1981.
It was then that B.T. did perhaps his most remarkable deed. In 1981 California was compelled by the federal government (under threat of otherwise slapping a full quarantine on California’s agricultural products) to begin an aggressive program of aerial spraying of malathion to kill off a Mediterranean fruit fly infestation. Environmentalists and paranoid fruit juice drinkers went bonkers of course, and mounted street protests and 24/7 panic-fests. That’s when B.T. (everyone knew him by his initials) called a press conference and poured a glass of spray-strength malathion from a canister. And then drank the whole glass. The enviro panic campaign started to collapse at that moment.
What no one ever knew was that about a half hour or so later B.T. threw up violently, as you might expect. No word yet on whether Governor Hickelooper is, um, passing gas in strange new ways from his fracking fluid cocktail. I have no doubt that if B.T. were with us today, he’d belly up to the bar and yell, “Bartender—give me a fracking martini!” Though he might not say “fracking.” He’d say something else.
By the way, isn’t “Hickenlooper” a great name? I’m glad to see unusual names making a comeback in politics. One of my favorites from the early 1960s was the Republican senator Leverett Saltonstall. Sounds straight out of Trollope or something.
UPDATE: Powerline reader Wayne Van Heuvelen of Urbandale, Iowa writes in to note: “Unusual names are indeed being recycled. In fact, Bourke Hickenlooper was the governor of Iowa in the 1940′s and was an Iowa Senator from the 1940′s to 1969. Given the unusual surname, I imagine the current governor of Colorado and the late Senator Hickenlooper are related.”
JOHN adds: I used to do quite a bit of work on behalf of manufacturers of agricultural chemicals, defending them against claims of phytotoxicity or nonperformance. In that capacity, I learned that it used to be rather common practice for ag chem salesmen to demonstrate the safety of their company’s herbicide products by drinking them at meetings with groups of farmers. The practice was severely frowned on by the chemical companies, but the salesmen never seemed to come to any harm. However, note that I said herbicides. Plants aren’t very much like people, so it is not surprising that drinking a liquid that is fatal to certain plants may not be toxic to humans. However, insects are quite a bit like humans, and I never heard of anyone trying to drink an insecticide, many of which are extremely toxic to humans (and some of which have even been used to commit murder on occasion). I think a person would be crazy to drink malathion or any other insecticide.