Human activity isn’t just warming the planet. We’re also causing earthquakes, and have been for decades.
Scientific evidence points to fracking as the cause of dramatically more frequent earthquakes in Oklahoma and other high fracking areas of the US, including Texas.
The state is having an average of 2.5 earthquakes of at least magnitude 3 every day, when it used to average only 1.5 a year.
It isn’t the fracking that actually causes the earthquakes, but the disposal of the wastewater created during the process. Fracking companies pump this dirty water into the earth in a place with deep underground faults, so it doesn’t return to the surface. The theory is that this activity on the fault line lubricates Earth’s plates where they rub against each other, allowing them to move more freely, causing more frequent earthquakes.
While these quakes aren’t happening at the exact time that companies are pumping liquid into faults, researchers have been studying the link between the two and are fairly certain they are connected.
“The picture is very clear” that this water can cause faults to move, USGS geophysicist William Ellsworth told the AP.
“The real earthquake”
Fracking is big business for Oklahoma — somewhere between 15% and 20% of all jobs in Oklahoma are related to fracking according to Energy Wire and Bloomberg. Perhaps, then, it doesn’t come as a surprise that state officials have only recently admitted the connection between fracking and the state’s increased seismic activity.
It also shouldn’t surprise that Jon Stewart goes to town with this juxtaposition of science and special interests on The Daily Show.
After laying out the data about Oklahoma’s earthquakes using recent news reports, Stewart shows a clip of Oklahoma’s governor, Mary Fallin, questioning whether the increase in earthquakes is man-made or natural.
Stewart paraphrases her: “Is it, as common sense might suggest, the seemingly obvious connection to fracking, or is the Lord using our great state as a shake weight?”
As well as common sense, scientific evidence suggests the former. In a surprise move, the state of Oklahoma has at last gotten on board and accepted the evidence, according to the next news clip played on the Daily Show.
“That right there is the real earthquake,” Stewart quipped in mock astonishment.
Despite that admission that oil and gas drilling operations are causing earthquakes, the Oklahoma House of Representatives turned right around and approved a bill to prevent cities and towns from regulating those oil and natural gas drilling operations, the next clip on the show reports.
Jon Stewart is all incredulous scorn at that decision.
“You finally admit that fracking has turned your state into one giant Brookstone massage chair, and your first response is to ensure that no one can ever stop it,” he says to the state of Oklahoma. “Why?”
A news clip of University of Washington seismologist John Vidale answers. Vidale says current practice is the cheapest option, “and it works well, except for the earthquakes and the contamination of groundwater.”
Not negligible exclusions, Jon Stewart seems to think.
Watch the whole video here, courtesy of Comedy Central. The full video includes Stewart’s remarks on Earth Day and “Dunk,” the NSA’s new recycling education mascot who encourages kids to dig through their school’s trash to find things to recycle.
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