Saturday, April 11, 2015

It is a scientific reality that fracking causes earthquakes

I worry a lot about issues over which I have no control whatsoever.  A lesson that I should have learnt a long time ago, at least when when the campus recruitment interviewer literally drew it on a piece of paper.  But, stupid is as stupid does!

One of those issues that I worry about is energy and the environment.  Especially the fossil fuels.

My worry about the fossil fuels is also why through my tired and sleepy mind and body I read through a depressing and comprehensive report on the earthquakes that are being caused by fracking.

The links between fracking and seismic activity have been reported for a while now.  The essay is not "news" in that sense, but it is awesome for how it brings it all together.  Readers--whether or not they comment here--will benefit from reading that essay in its entirety.  It will be a disservice to quote anything from that essay in one of my favorite magazines ever--the New Yorker.  But, with an understanding that you--the reader--will read that essay, I will quote just a little.

There is a global oil glut; one major reason is the extraction via fracking in the US.  But, the extraction comes at a huge price:
Until 2008, Oklahoma experienced an average of one to two earthquakes of 3.0 magnitude or greater each year. (Magnitude-3.0 earthquakes tend to be felt, while smaller earthquakes may be noticed only by scientific equipment or by people close to the epicenter.) In 2009, there were twenty. The next year, there were forty-two. In 2014, there were five hundred and eighty-five, nearly triple the rate of California. Including smaller earthquakes in the count, there were more than five thousand. This year, there has been an average of two earthquakes a day of magnitude 3.0 or greater.
William Ellsworth, a research geologist at the United States Geological Survey, told me, “We can say with virtual certainty that the increased seismicity in Oklahoma has to do with recent changes in the way that oil and gas are being produced.” Many of the larger earthquakes are caused by disposal wells, where the billions of barrels of brackish water brought up by drilling for oil and gas are pumped back into the ground. (Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking—in which chemically treated water is injected into the earth to fracture rocks in order to access oil and gas reserves—causes smaller earthquakes, almost always less than 3.0.) Disposal wells trigger earthquakes when they are dug too deep, near or into basement rock, or when the wells impinge on a fault line. Ellsworth said, “Scientifically, it’s really quite clear.”
Scientifically clear.  But, throw in the social and economic conservative ideology, and add to that the powerful politics of the industry, and science gets tossed aside.  Scientific data and results get hidden from the public, and discredited.
In state government, oil money is both invisible and pervasive. In 2013, Mary Fallin, the governor, combined the positions of Secretary of Energy and Secretary of the Environment. Michael Teague, whom she appointed to the position, when asked by the local NPR reporter Joe Wertz whether he believed in climate change, responded that he believed that the climate changed every day. Of the earthquakes, Teague has said that we need to learn more. Fallin’s first substantive response came in 2014, when she encouraged Oklahomans to buy earthquake insurance. (However, many earthquake-insurance policies in the state exclude coverage for induced earthquakes.)
Note how the market works with the reality--excluding coverage for the induced earthquakes--but the politics operates in an invented reality?  That approach to create a reality that does not exist started happening big time only a few years ago; recall that old shit from the Cheney/Bush people?  You forgot?
We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.
We ordinary people were powerless and couldn't stop the war machine from going to Iraq.  We ordinary people are powerless and cannot stop the machines from inducing earthquakes in Oklahoma.

That does not mean I won't stop worrying and commenting.  Stupid is as stupid does!  I am sriram, sriram khĂ© ;)


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