Some Senate Republicans have issued what they are calling a “report” on the virtues, righteousness and basic overall goodness of hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking.
Fracking, according to the political manifesto, i.e. report, is not only one of the most wonderful things to ever happen for the economy but has also strengthened our country’s geopolitical position in the world. What’s more, so it goes, fracking is also extremely safe and not harmful to the environment. Don’t listen to those Hollywood elites, people. All is well.
Here’s some language from the document just to show how serious it is:
This report highlights the incontrovertible benefits derived from the domestic production of oil and natural gas through the use of hydraulic fracturing. At the same time, it thoroughly discredits the leading claims made by the Obama Administration and their far-left allies who are rooted firmly in the fight against accessing America’s abundant domestic energy. It subsequently undermines the credibility of those who are seeking to devastate America’s energy security, economic opportunity and the livelihoods of families across the country through a coordinated war on hydraulic fracturing and domestic oil and natural gas.
Real scientific stuff, right? Note “far-left allies” and the hyperbolic “coordinated war.” The idea that there’s a real war of any type of oil and gas production in the country is utter fabrication. The frackers here in Oklahoma, for example, frack with impunity. If there IS a figurative war, then it’s a war against the environment, and the frackers are winning it hands down.
The report, titled “Setting The Record Straight: Hydraulic Fracturing and America’s Energy Revolution,” was prepared by the Republicans on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Oklahoma’s own U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, a senior member of the EPW Committee, lauded the report, arguing “. . . this report dispels the falsehoods perpetuated by the Obama Administration and environmental extremists about hydraulic fracturing.”
Who is the extremist? Someone like Inhofe, who has long argued that the science of climate change is a worldwide leftist conspiracy or someone in Oklahoma concerned injection wells used in the fracking process are causing nerve-rattling earthquakes every other day where they live?
The report itself is such a political statement that one wonders why the Republicans even bothered to dress it up in a “study” format. Here’s another sentence from the report: “Far-left environmental groups have teamed up with President Obama’s federal bureaucrats and the Hollywood elite in a coordinated effort to distort the truth about hydraulic fracturing and try to sway public opinion against it. “ How can anyone possibly take the “report” seriously after reading that? Movie stars are ruining America’s energy independence? That’s just nonsense.
Let’s be clear that fracking is a highly intensive industrial process that needs constant monitoring and heavy regulation. In the fracking process, water and chemicals are injected by high pressure into rock formations to release oil and gas. The wastewater is then injected into underground disposal wells. Scientists and environmentalists, have argued that the fracking process can lead to ground and surface water contamination. They have also linked wastewater disposal wells to a surge in earthquakes, especially in Oklahoma. On a larger level, the carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels have contributed to global warming that threatens the planet.
To simply argue that the environmental impact of fracking is non-existent or negligible is, in itself, a sort of extremism that panders to rich oil and gas industry executives. Since 1989, Inhofe has received more than $1.7 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry, according to OpenSecrets.org.
The larger question, then, is how to release oil and gas from the ground with the least amount of impact to the environment, not whether Hollywood elites and President Barack Obama are meeting in secret lairs plotting the demise of the diabolical fossil fuel cabal. It should be noted on a more serious level that the fracking boom has continued while Obama has been in office.
This country and the entire world needs to invest more in the development of renewable energy sources that have the least amount of impact on the environment. No report or, to be more accurate in this case, no amount of clichéd political sloganeering can dispel that argument.
Recently compiled statistical information confirms Oklahoma continues to rely heavily on the federal government for its financial viability and maybe its very existence.
This comes against the backdrop of all the anti-federal government whining among conservatives here about overspending and deficits in Washington, D.C. Here are some questions: If Oklahoma paid its fair share to the federal government, what would happen to its health and education systems? What would happen to the economy? Could it even exist as an independent state?
Without help from taxpayers from other states, such as New York, Oklahoma would lose approximately $12.5 billion a year if it got back dollar for dollar what it paid to the federal government each year in income, payroll, business, excise and estate taxes. Last year, the entire state budget for Oklahoma was only $7.1 billion.
The information comes from State Smart, an online, interactive site published by the National Priorities Project, which describes itself as a . . . “non-partisan research organization dedicated to making complex federal budget information transparent and accessible so people can prioritize and influence how their tax dollars are spent.”
Here’s how State Smart breaks down the numbers from Oklahoma: Using data from the most recent years available, Oklahoma received an estimated $38.6 billion from the federal government, which includes $7.6 billion for programs like Medicaid and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families; $22.2 billion in payments and grants for programs such as Social Security and Medicare and Pell Grants; $2.1 billion in federal contracts; and $6.7 billion for the salaries and benefits of federal employees.
Oklahomans and the state’s businesses paid in $26.1 billion to the federal government during the same time period, with more than 75 percent coming from individual and payroll taxes. That’s a $12.5 billion difference, with Oklahoma on the receiving end.
By comparison, the state of New York, using the same calculations, received $191.6 billion from the federal government yet paid in $207.4 billion. That means New Yorkers paid an estimated $15.8 billion more in taxes that they received back from the federal government, which is more than enough to fund Oklahoma’s shortfall.
According to the available statistics that have calculated this information through the years, Oklahoma has long been known as a “receiver state,” or a state that receives more back from the federal government than it pays in federal taxes. In itself, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with this system. The country needs the federal highway system and federal outposts, such as courts, offices and military bases, in all the states. Some states will always have to give more to support the country as a whole. This helps keep our country’s democracy functioning.
But what should continue to aggravate progressives and, really, everyone here is the relentless criticism by some conservatives about the overspending of the federal government and the push on the state level for more tax cuts for Oklahoma’s wealthy.
I’m reminded especially of Gov. Mary Fallin’s argument in a recent State of the State speech that Oklahoma has something to teach the federal government about fiscal responsibility and her recent campaign television advertisements bashing the federal Affordable Care Act. Is the lesson that you should criticize a larger and more powerful entity that basically provides for your financial viability, that, let’s face it, actually provides for your existence? It’s as if Oklahoma is an immature, spoiled child complaining about his/her generous and loving parents. Remember, that’s $12.5 billion spoiled.
The anti-federal government rhetoric here is hollow and shallow. It’s reductionist sloganeering. It’s not rooted in reality. It’s hypocritical. It’s not helpful for the vast majority of Oklahomans, only the wealthy and conservative politicians pandering to low-information voters so they can get elected. It’s dumb.
The truth is Oklahoma, with its low taxes and its budget of only $7 billion or so, remains a state with poor medical outcomes and health systems, dreadfully underfunded education systems, extreme costly weather disasters and rotting infrastructure, and the only thing that keeps it afloat are tax dollars that come from other states.
The following question is purely speculative and philosophical. Could the state even exist as a separate entity if the billions of dollars provided by taxpayers from other states were eliminated, the Oklahoma legislature continued to reduce state revenue through tax cuts for rich people and the recent oil and gas fracking boom here went bust? I believe it would certainly create a new mass exodus from the state.
Sure, it’s difficult to imagine all that happening at once or Oklahoma becoming a part of Texas or part of a newly formed state carved out among other receiver states or perhaps even a federal territory again, but more extreme events in history have happened and will happen in the future.
Mad As Hell, a documentary film outlining the creation of the revolutionary digital network The Young Turks has been scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. Nov. 18 screening at Oklahoma City’s Quail Springs Mall 24 theater.
People can reserve and/or purchase their $10 tickets through the Gathr Films site here. A minimum number of ticket reservations and purchases is necessary for the screening to happen. No one will be charged, however, if the quota isn’t met.
I’m helping to bring attention to this event because The Young Turks network has truly revolutionized the digital news and video entertainment industry through the numerous avant-garde shows that appear on its Internet site. Founded by Cenk Uygur, pictured right, the network anticipated the growing viewer transition from traditional television channels to Internet-based video platforms, such as Hulu and YouTube.
Uygur hosts the network’s flagship program, also named The Young Turks. Overall, according to its site, the network receives more than 68 million page views per month.
Jay Hansen, a local representative of The Young Turks, said Uygur has expressed an interest in attending and speaking at all the film’s screenings throughout the country, and that it’s likely he will attend the one in Oklahoma City if it happens.
The Young Turks site presents an American Heritage Dictionary to help define its name and mission:
1. Young progressive or insurgent member of an institution, movement, or political party.
2. Young person who rebels against authority or societal expectations.
One of Uygur’s missions, for example, is to help reform campaign financing laws because of “money’s damaging influence on our government.”
Mad As Hell focuses on the struggles Uygur endured while creating his show and the network. Here's a trailer for the film.