Inspect, Government, Inspect

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The fact a Republican legislator in an extremely conservative state is pointing out the lack of government oversight of oil and gas wells exposes the dirty business of extracting fossil fuels.

Here’s the larger, local philosophical question right now: Can one acknowledge the positive impact of the energy industry on the Oklahoma economy while also arguing for stricter regulations and oversight protecting the environment?

State Rep. Steve Vaughan, a Republican from Ponca City, held an interim study last week on the issue of water contamination related to oil and gas wells. According to a media release, here’s what Vaughan had to say on the topic:

There are more than 22,000 producing as well as disposal wells in my area. Less than 50 percent have been tested for their mechanical integrity in the last four years, according to DEQ. I think we learned in today’s study that we could give some of our fish and wildlife guys and other agencies some power to report and shut down problematic wells. We could also give the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality and Oklahoma Corporation Commission more resources to look into these wells.

There’s not a lot of GOP “drill, baby, drill” rhetoric in that extremely specific statement. Here’s the media release issued by Vaughan. Here’s a news story about the interim study.

The concern is whether oil and gas pollution is contributing to fish kills in the Salt Fork River and water well contamination in north central Oklahoma in Vaughan’s District 37.

Another pressing issue is that scientists claim wastewater disposal wells used in the hydraulic fracturing or fracking process are responsible for the state’s earthquake emergency. The state is now experiencing more 3.0-magnitude earthquakes than California. There have been so many earthquakes that it’s literally difficult to keep track of them. As I write this, the number could change. As of July, there were 258 3.0-magnitude quakes. I use that low number only because it’s cited in this excellent National Geographic story about Oklahoma’s earthquake swarm.

The larger issue is that all this points to the need to develop cleaner, renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power and hydropower. Even those energy sources don’t come without their own negative environmental impact, but there’s no doubt the extraction of fossil fuels, along with carbon emissions, continues to critically damage our planet.

OU Sends Message It Condones Violence Against Women

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(Mixon should be banned from ever playing football at OU and, if legally possible, expelled permanently from the university if he is convicted in the case. If that sensible decision doesn’t happen soon then Stoops and OU Athletic Director Joe Castiglione should be fired or allowed to resign, and Boren should retire.)

The fact suspended University of Oklahoma football player Joe Mixon still gets to hang out with the team despite the serious criminal charge against him is an embarrassment for OU and the entire state.

It sends a message that we condone violence against women here, and it comes at a time when the national media is also focusing on Ray Rice, the former Baltimore Ravens football player caught on video knocking out his then fiancé by a fist blow to her face.

The 18-year-old Mixon faces a misdemeanor charge of an “act resulting in a gross injury” after he allegedly hit a fellow 20-year-old female student in the face at a Norman restaurant on July 25. Like the Rice case, there is a video of the incident, which has been viewed by reporters.

According to one media report, a police affidavit claims Mixon "struck her on the left side of her face with his closed right first, knocking her into a table top and then to the ground where she laid motionless." Another police document, according to the same report, outlines how the young woman was diagnosed with a “fractured jaw, fractured cheek bone, fractured sinus and fractured orbit which caused a hemotoma on the left eye.”

Mixon has been suspended from the football team for one year by the university, a decision which I have argued in another post was basically siding with him in the case and ignoring the growing evidence that football breeds, promotes and condones violent behavior among its participants, especially violence directed against women.

Unfortunately, OU President David Boren was involved in the decision to only suspend Mixon for one year, and he’s apparently looking the other way as the university’s football program led by coach Bob Stoops continues to coddle him.

On Thursday, according to media reports, Mixon was with OU football players at a pep rally before Saturday’s game against the University of Tennessee. A photograph shows him surrounded by team players, who apparently are not overly concerned about the allegation against Mixon.

Let’s be clear: All this is reprehensible. The fact Mixon is still connected to the team absolutely sends a message the university condones violence against women. It is a violation of everything a university should stand for. It also opens up OU and state taxpayers even more to legal action. It’s an embarrassment for the entire state.

Mixon should be banned from ever playing football at OU and, if legally possible, expelled permanently from the university if he is convicted in the case. If that sensible decision doesn’t happen soon then Stoops and OU Athletic Director Joe Castiglione should be fired or allowed to resign, and Boren should retire.

The fact that some 18-year-old wannabe college football player, accused of a violent crime, is apparently more important than the reputation of the state’s leading research university is a disgusting spectacle that should be difficult to endure for everyone here, but especially for educators in the state.

This is exactly how and why violence against women in our culture is perpetuated.

Ignorant Fallacies

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The Oklahoman published such an asinine editorial about the energy industry Monday that it deserves as much rebuttal as reasonable people can muster.

The editorial, titled “Still plenty of ignorance about the U.S. energy industry,” is a glaring example of a weak argument that completely ignores or distorts competing claims while omitting obvious and crucial facts. It’s the usual fare offered up by The Oklahoman, but this an extreme example.

The editorial’s sophomoric premise, supported by extremely weak evidence, is that people remain ignorant about where fossil fuels, such as natural gas, actually come from and how they are produced and they just don’t understand how important hydraulic facturing drilling or fracking is to energy independence. Consequently, we must endure the editorial’s tortuous logic, such as this:

Attitudes about energy continue to be a concern and, unfortunately, ignorance is still in evidence. We’re far removed from the time when some folks thought gasoline came out of the ground from a well below the filling station — somehow being refined along the way.

But are we really that far from such ignorance? Perhaps not.

Did anyone at anytime actually believe that “gasoline came out of the ground from a well below the filling station . . .”? Who? When? Is that just a given? How many people? Even if this is true the time period in which it occurred is important. Did it occur at the beginning of the automobile age when cars and horse buggies shared the road?

And, come on, even if we grant that general anecdote is really true we aren’t “that far from such ignorance” just because a survey shows some people don’t know the term hydraulic fracturing or that some people are opposed to fracking. The general “ignorance” anecdote—even if it's true on some level—and the survey information don’t equate. It’s a textbook example of a false comparison.

But that’s just the typical silly stuff upon which The Oklahoman constructs its opinion page on a daily basis. It’s the editorial’s omissions that really flaw the argument. The editorial points out that fracking has paved the way for U.S. energy independence and hints how this is good for the geopolitical scene. But it never mentions the environmental impact of fracking.

To be fair, the editorial does conclude, “For some of them [meaning the ignorant people], the only march that matters is a demonstration to stop fracking.” Yet it doesn’t outline why there is a “demonstration to stop fracking.” In essence, then, the editorial implicitly and disingenuously makes the argument that people who care about the environment are ignorant people along the lines of people who once thought “gasoline came out of the ground from a well below the filling station . . .”. It’s ridiculous.

First, many, if not most, people who are concerned the fracking process is contaminating our water supplies and causing earthquakes are fully aware of the continued importance of fossil fuels in our daily lives. That, however, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to develop renewable and cleaner energy, or that energy companies shouldn’t face stringent environmental regulations when they frack. This is without even considering the impact of manmade carbon emissions on global warming.

Here’s the basic truthful story The Oklahoman distorts: The fracking drilling technique has created a boom in natural gas production in this country. Some people throughout the country where fracking occurs have taken note of its detrimental environmental impact and have protested in varying degrees.

A town hall this summer in Edmond about the state’s earthquake emergency, which scientists argue is related to disposal wells used in the fracking process attracted “several hundred people.” These are the people The Oklahoman thinks are ignorant. And I guess they are ignorant if they support the biased, uncaring newspaper, now owned by a Colorado billionaire, Philip Anschutz, who made his money in the energy business.

But I prefer to see these people deemed ignoramuses by The Oklahoman as intelligent, concerned citizens waking up to what’s happening around them when it comes to fracking and its link to our earthquake emergency and, hopefully, realizing the state’s largest newspaper editorial page could care less about their safety or property.

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