A Lingering Cloud of Doom

The huge methane cloud hovering over the country’s Four Corners region, according to NASA, has been tied to national gas operations in that region.

At least it isn’t in Oklahoma, right? Well, oil and gas operators here are also grappling with new federal initiatives dealing with methane emissions, which is a greenhouse gas even more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide.

The Four Corners region is where the states Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah meet. A NASA-led study, published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed a cloud of methane the size of the state of Delaware hovering over the region. The cloud mainly consists of methane from oil and gas emissions and leaks.

One report on the development stated:

Methane is a key component of natural gas. The hot spot is not a local safety or health issue, but methane does contribute to global warming. Methane is 86 times more potent for trapping heat in the short-term than carbon dioxide.

The point here is obvious: Oil and gas operations and storage are a dirty business that need more, not less, regulation in terms of protecting the environment. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is endangering the entire planet because of the acceleration of global warming.


Grim Funding News For Colleges, Universities

The funding news for our country’s public universities and colleges is grim, and that certainly includes here in Oklahoma.

What happens to a culture that stops investing in critical inquiry, knowledge and learning? We all know the new pragmatics that state funding cuts to higher education mean students pay more in tuition and fees and some get priced out of the equation or take on huge student loan debt. But what about the bizarre act itself of de-funding our great centers of learning throughout the nation? Isn’t it a type of intellectual suicide?

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in an updated report notes that most states have cut support for colleges and universities from 2008-2016 or since the so-called Great Recession. This has driven up tuition, but that hasn’t kept pace with the state funding cuts so many colleges have reduced student services, classes and faculty positions. According to the report:

As states have slashed higher education funding, the price of attending public colleges has risen significantly faster than the growth in median income. For the average student, increases in federal student aid and the availability of tax credits have not kept up, jeopardizing the ability of many to afford the college education that is key to their long-term financial success.

Oklahoma, according to the report, reduced support for higher education by 21.7 percent from 2008-2016, making it one of 28 states that reduced funding by 20 percent or more during that time period. It’s unclear if that includes the nearly 16 percent cut to colleges and universities handed down by the legislature in its budget this past session. The 21.7 percent cut is adjusted for inflation.

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Earthquakes Still Major Problem In Oklahoma

Don’t buy into the hype from government officials and cheerleaders for the oil and gas industry here. Oklahoma's manmade-earthquake problem is far from solved.

If you need the most obvious evidence just consider the two 4.0-magnitude earthquakes that rattled Luther and Cherokee last week or, better yet, consider that on August 12 the state had already experienced1,668 earthquakes in 2016 or 619 earthquakes of 2.8-magnitude or higher from January to June. The decline, respectively, is from 1,914 and 701 in 2015.

The current year’s numbers have undoubtedly already gone up as I write this.

Here’s the main takeaway: The state has gone from experiencing hardly any earthquakes since before the 5.6-magnitude earthquake hit Prague in 2011 to a massive number of earthquakes, which shake it up on an almost daily basis. Nothing has changed, really.

Oklahoma has NOT solved its earthquake problem through more regulation of disposal wells used in fracking operations. What has happened is the worldwide oil glut has reduced overall wastewater volume amounts in the wells. The regulations, adopted by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC), may have had some impact or might have simply shifted earthquake swarms from one area to another, but, allow me to speculate, if oil was still selling at $100 a barrel there probably wouldn’t have been a decline at all. Oil barrel prices remain around the $40 to $45 range right now and are expected to sink even lower after the summer driving season.

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