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.