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60 Minutes Reports On State Earthquake Crisis

A reporter for the television show 60 Minutes did a segment Sunday on Oklahoma’s earthquake crisis, shedding more light on a serious issue that needs to be resolved by state leaders.

What’s important to note before I discuss the segment is this: The earthquakes continue here in Oklahoma because of disposal well activity used in the hydraulic fracturing or fracking process. In fact, there were two larger earthquakes in the state on the day the segment appeared on our television screens. A 3.6-magnitude earthquake struck a few miles west of Perry at 4:19 p.m followed by a 3.4-magnitude in the same area at 7:10 p.m.

The 60 Minutes segment was reported by Bill Whitaker, who did an excellent job just initially pointing out the huge increase in earthquakes here. (The following quote and other quotes from the segment used in this post are from the transcript of the show.) “Before 2009, there were, on average, two earthquakes a year in Oklahoma that were magnitude 3 or greater,” Whitaker reported. “Last year, there were 907. That's right, 907.” I think the “that’s right, 907” set the tone for the segment.

I also thought Whitaker did a great job interviewing Kim Hatfield, who is on the executive committee of the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association. Hatfield tried to downplay the role of disposal wells in the crisis. “This is something that's been going on for 60, 70 years,” Hatfield said. “And we've had-- had a sudden change. And the question is what changed.” Whitaker’s response to Hatfield was short and to the point:

The thing that's different is the amount of water that the oil industry is pumping into the Arbuckle Formation. That's what's different. And along with that difference comes these earthquakes. That's not the trigger?

Hatfield’s response should elicit groans from anyone who has felt a larger earthquake here or experienced damage to their property because of the shaking. “The injection of water is a factor,” Hatfield said. “But it is not possibly the only factor. We don't know.”

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Oklahoma Dilemma

Here at the beginning of the twenty-first century, Oklahoma is decisively in a lose-lose situation.

If fossil fuel prices go down, which they have over the last several months despite a recent rebound, the state’s tax revenues plummet, our poor state gets even poorer in terms of government funding and the overall economy declines. If oil and gas prices skyrocket, then the frackers go berserk, creating environmental damage, including global warming, and now the earthquakes that rattle our homes and nerves on a daily basis.

We’ve all heard of and many of us have cringed at the term “The Oklahoma Standard,” but what we really have is “The Oklahoma Dilemma.” Unless the state can really diversify its economy—energy-related employment represents around one-quarter of all jobs here—then we’re tied to the boom and bust cycle of the fossil fuel patch for years to come or until fossil fuels are reduced to just one small segment of the world’s overall energy use.

I highly doubt Oklahoma CAN diversify its economy in any major sense. For decades, state leaders have talked about such diversification, and for decades nothing has really been done primarily because it can’t be done. Our state has major structural problems, like its Tornado Alley, its anti-education bias, its crumbling infrastructure and its almost intentional lack of modernization. Oklahoma is also tied to a slowly dying industry that is getting replaced incrementally by renewable energy, such as wind power, which doesn’t have the same economic impact or create speculative boom times like the oil patch.

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State Budget Crisis Continues But Mary Hearts Donald 100 Percent

The idea that Gov. Mary Fallin is truly getting real consideration to become Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s running mate as the GOP vice presidential nominee might be beyond my current political comprehension level, but then the success of the Trump campaign has defied reality and sanity for a lot of people in this country.

How an openly bigoted, sexist, billionaire narcissistic reality show actor became the presidential nominee of one of only two major political parties in the great United States has been and will be parsed and parsed by pundits and scholars until there’s nothing left to parse or until the end of the American empire, whichever comes first. The prevailing view for now on the left is that leading establishment Republicans have been finally exposed for their hypocrisy and lies, especially when it comes to their supposed support for working class people, who angrily vote for Trump because they feel betrayed. But let’s be clear: Polls, for now, show Trump gets rejected by a majority of general election voters, especially women. That’s a hopeful sign.

Fallin was mentioned as a possible running mate for Trump by former South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer on a television talk show a couple weeks ago, and then the Trump camp tweeted: ".@AndreBauer Great job and advice on @CNN @jaketapper Thank you!" This is the gist of the only things that have happened on the grand Fallin/Trump political alliance: One remark by a former lieutenant governor from a small, inconsequential red state and a Trump-camp tweet. But, no, no, this hasn’t stopped Fallin from enjoying her carpe diem moment.

When Trump became the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Fallin decided to double down on her support for him while also mentioning she’s still open to talking about becoming his potential vice president nominee. An Associated Press story on the tragicomedy used the word “honored” to described how Fallin really feels about getting mentioned for vice president and also noted that our right-sizing governor supports Trump “100 percent.” Certainly, these are important and in-depth shallow and calculated remarks.

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