(Here’s the bottom line: Overall, homeowners here, in particular, have much more to be worried about when it comes to the earthquake surge than they do about wind farms in rural parts of the state.)
Earthquakes that scientists argue are caused by the oil and gas fracking process continue to shake Oklahoma in record numbers, but the state’s largest newspaper is more concerned about the property rights of people who live near wind farms.
A recent Oklahoman editorial—“With wind farms, property rights issues deserve careful review” (July 28, 2014)—points out, “The problem with wind turbines . . . is that neighboring properties can be negatively impacted.” It goes on to make the point that the Oklahoma Corporation Commission needs to carefully consider the rights of the people who own these “neighboring properties.”
Of course, there’s nothing directly wrong with this innocuous argument over the noise and what the editorial calls “obstructed views” caused by wind farms, which generate electricity and represent one important energy alternative to fossil fuels. Wind farms should be strategically placed to cause no or as little nuisance as possible. That’s just common sense, and I agree with it while deeply supporting the development of renewable energy sources.
So one might hope The Oklahoman would apply this logic about property rights to the huge surge in earthquakes here over the last three years or so. Scientists argue the record-breaking number of earthquakes at a 3.0-magnitude or higher—there have been more than 200 so far in Oklahoma this year, surpassing even California—are caused by wastewater disposal wells used in the hydraulic fracturing or fracking drilling process by the oil and gas industry.
The position on the issue taken by The Oklahoman has basically parroted the oil and gas industry’s claim that there’s no definitive proof disposal wells are responsible for the earthquakes. In a July 9 editorial, the newspaper argued, “It’s not yet settled science that oil and gas exploration is to blame for the earthquake swarm,” and “we’ll just have to ride it out” while obtaining “a rider to our homeowner insurance policies.” That’s helpful, right?
In the fracking process, wastewater laced with chemicals used to release oil and gas is eventually injected by high pressure underground into rock formations. Scientists believe this process can trigger earthquakes.
It’s no secret that The Oklahoman editorial page is a fervent supporter of the oil and gas industry, which, of course, is a vital part of the economy here. It should also be noted that the newspaper is owned by Colorado billionaire Philip Anschutz, who made his money in the drilling business. The newspaper’s support for the oil and gas industry also means it offers little critical coverage of it. That has to be done by media outlets outside the state.
So let’s get this straight. In the distorted worldview of The Oklahoman it’s okay to ignore science and argue, essentially, in favor of the oil and gas industry over the property rights of anyone in the state who owns a structure that’s shaking on an almost daily basis because of earthquakes. Yet, when it comes to clean, renewable energy, such as wind farms, the newspaper argues the rights of property owners should be a paramount concern for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. That’s a major contradiction.
Here’s the bottom line: Overall, homeowners here, in particular, have much more to be worried about when it comes to the earthquake surge than they do about wind farms in rural parts of the state.
A 3.4-magnitude earthquake struck near Edmond on Wednesday, for example. Are all these earthquakes damaging the foundations and roofs of homes? Is it only a matter of time before a huge earthquake causes massive property damage? The Oklahoman doesn’t seem too concerned about that, but if your view is obstructed by a wind turbine out in the country it has got your back.
Unfortunately, state leaders, such as Gov. Mary Fallin and members of the Corporation Commission, have done little to address the earthquake issue here because of the powerful oil and gas political lobby. Their positions are supported by The Oklahoman editorial page. People need to wake up and work outside of the ultra-conservative bubble to protect their homes before it’s too late.
As everyone in Oklahoma enjoys the cooler weather today and tomorrow this summer, it might be a good time to note that both May and June were the hottest months on records for the planet.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently reported this information, which has fueled speculation that 2014 may be the hottest year on record, according to a recent story in The Washington Post.
The record-breaking heat, which NOAA says has been caused by hotter ocean temperatures, is yet even more evidence that the planet is getting warmer and that the planet needs to take collective action to reduce manmade carbon emissions.
This should be noted in Oklahoma this rather unusual cool summer because it’s home to U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, one of the planet’s most well known climate-science deniers. Inhofe calls global warming fears a “hoax” or a worldwide conspiracy generated by liberal scientists.
Inhofe just recently stopped a Senate resolution that basically argued climate change is, in fact, a reality. One of those Senators who supported the resolution, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, said Inhofe’s views were an “alternate reality.” According to ThinkProgress, Whitehouse went on to say this about Inhofe arguments: “To say that we have no warming is just not factual.” He also said, “. . . Republicans, they are losing their young voters on this . . .” (See the above video in which Whitehouse responds to Inhofe.)
Inhofe has received $368,500 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry since 2009. The burning of fossil fuels, such as gasoline, produces the carbon emissions that have been blamed for manmade global warming. Inhofe’s claim that climate science is a ruse has always been overshadowed by his close connection to the energy industry, which, of course, has a strong political lobby here.
For the most part, the corporate media here has failed to adequately connect Inhofe’s views on climate science with his financial ties to the oil and gas industry. That would be called unbiased journalism, which is rarely practiced here when it comes to the energy industry, especially at the state’s largest newspaper, The Oklahoman.
Inhofe’s views have a trickle-down effect here in Oklahoma and make the issue a political one when it’s really a planetary one. I’m sure some teachers in certain districts are afraid to deal with the issue with students in classrooms in fear of reprisal from conservative administrators. The legislature, for example, often tries to pass bills that claim climate science is “controversial.” Local weather forecasters on television stations in Oklahoma City have consistently failed to address the reality of climate change. The television advertising dollars from the energy industry that support the news stations seal the issue. It’s the ignorance that Inhofe has wrought in this place.
So here’s what Oklahomans need to know today: Just because it’s cool for a few days in the summer in our state doesn’t mean it’s not terribly hot in other parts of the world or that the oceans are not warming.
Inhofe, who is expected to coast to reelection against his Democratic opponent Matt Silverstein, can continue to serve in the Senate perhaps because a majority of voters here can’t accept the idea that the world doesn’t revolve around them.
The fluctuations in the Oklahoma weather don’t disprove global warming. Climate science is based on years of data and on a planetary basis. It’s also based on ocean temperatures and visible, recorded evidence, such as the melting of the arctic ice cap.
The fact that Gov. Mary Fallin’s approval rating has significantly dropped and that she now finds herself in a competitive race in her reelection bid may well be part of a national growing dissatisfaction with the Republican Party on a state level.
A recent post on PoliticusUSA shows how Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, who has practically bankrupt our neighboring state through radical tax cuts, and Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal are also in highly competitive reelection races with challengers.
A Daily Kos post published in April also cited even more Republican governors facing reelection problems.
Fallin was mentioned in the PoliticusUSA post because her approval rating has dropped over the last year by approximately 20 percent, according to SoonerPoll. A recent Rasmussen poll also showed Fallin had only a slim 45 to 40 percent lead in her race against Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joe Dorman, pictured right with Fallin. Until now the prevailing wisdom has been that Fallin would coast to victory.
So are voters simply growing tired of Republican-dominated state governments with their litany of ideological initiatives, such as tax cuts for the wealthy and pension cuts for state workers? Has the backlash against President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats in red states across the country, which began in the 2010, simply run its course?
It does appear likely that at least some of discontent with Fallin and other Republican governors can be associated with a general frustration among the electorate with one-party governance at the state level. Now that Obama is finishing his second term, he no longer serves as a catalyst for anger generated primarily by right-wing media outlets, such as Fox News. In essence he’s old news while the disaster of complete GOP dominance in red states has left behind its ruins. Just look at the financial shape of Kansas, which under Republican dominance led by Brownback implemented steep tax cuts for its wealthiest citizens and slashed its budget in draconian ways. Kansas has become a national spectacle of failed GOP ideology and extremism.
Pundits have argued that Fallin’s drop is due to her support of outgoing and controversial State Schools Superintendent Janet Barresi and her refusal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. I agree that Fallin’s support of Barresi, high-stakes testing and school privatization initiatives may have hurt her as well as her refusal to expand Medicaid under the generous terms set by the federal government. Fallin, of course, has recently tried to distance herself from Barresi, but she hasn’t bended yet on Medicaid. I also believe Fallin’s support for unnecessary tax cuts for the state’s oil and gas industry, along with inadequate funding for education, has created dissatisfied voters.
I also think Republicans with their supermajorities in the Oklahoma House and Senate have simply not delivered the panacea they promised. The state still has budget problems, a host of social problems, such as lack of medical access, and mind-boggling incarceration rates. Earthquakes, which scientists argue are caused by the oil and gas industry, now strike the state on a regular basis and state leaders, including Fallin, have been slow to react. Republicans promised efficient government, but that just hasn’t happened. They’re too busy passing meaningless, ideological bills or bills that don’t hold up to constitutional muster. Fallin, as the state’s top Republican, is probably facing a general dissatisfaction among Republican and Democratic voters over the state’s current direction.
In the end, if Dorman beats Fallin in the governor’s race, it will represent a major change in the political climate here.