I think it’s fair to say that at least some members of the Oklahoma Congressional delegation and the corporate power structure here are waging a carefully constructed rhetorical war against the environment.
The principal ammunition is money given by the oil and gas industry in campaign contributions to politicians, such as Republicans U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe and U.S. Rep. James Lankford, who represents Oklahoma’s Fifth Congressional District. The principal tactics—or to put it another way, what that money buys—are relentless science denial, linguistic subterfuge and reductionist sloganeering.
The victim, of course, is the environment. Our planet faces the major threat of global warming caused by man-made carbon emissions. By supporting the interests of the oil and gas industry above environmental protection, politicians like Inhofe and Lankford, the corporate energy sector here and their mouthpiece, The Oklahoman, have not only positioned themselves on the wrong side of history but have also sold out the future of the planet for money and power.
Take just this week. On Wednesday, Inhofe announced he, along with other senators, have introduced a legislative plan for a “full global embargo against Iranian oil” that also includes a requirement that the federal government open up more of its land for energy production. Of course, as even Inhofe concedes in a press release, the United States doesn’t import any oil from Iran, but that doesn’t matter because the new production of oil by big corporations on federal lands would somehow help those countries who do import oil from Iran. All this will result in the “defeat” of Iran, according to Inhofe, which is a somewhat fantastical concept in itself.
Of course, traditional drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on federal lands will also damage the environment and only exacerbate the real problem of climate change through the burning of fossil fuels, but, as we know, Inhofe doesn’t buy into the science of global warming and calls it all a hoax.
On Friday, Inhofe also issued a statement arguing that the Department of Interior needs to back off any re-proposals of rules over fracking on federal lands, which are going to provide the oil needed to defeat Iran. In the statement, Inhofe makes the claim that “over one million wells have been fracked and there has not been a single confirmed case of groundwater contamination in that time.” It’s not surprising that argument has been refuted. (Click here as well.) Fracking has also been related to earthquakes here in Oklahoma and elsewhere.
It’s also not surprising that Inhofe doesn’t mention in his press releases that he has received at least $550,950 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry since 2007.
Inhofe’s ties to the oil and gas industry through campaign funding ultimately result in an assault on the environment as he does the bidding of big energy companies.
One of his anti-environment colleagues in Washington, Lankford, does the same type of bidding. Lankford received $160,350 in campaign money from the oil and gas industry in the 2011-2012 campaign cycle. What does that amount of campaign money get the oil and gas industry?
On Thursday, Lankford criticized the federal government during a hearing for not expediting drilling permits on federal land. He has argued that new rules related to fracking are not needed for drilling on federal lands because apparently states do such a good job regulating the oil and gas industry. The Oklahoman, of course, extensively covered Lankford’s predictable remarks.
To round out the week, the newspaper, which is a propaganda mouthpiece for Inhofe, Lankford and all of Oklahoma City’s large energy companies, such as Devon, Chesapeake, Sandridge and Continental Resources, published an editorial Friday mocking protesters of the Keystone XL pipeline currently under construction in the state.
The editorial focused on one quote by a protester, who was arrested at a construction site, and the editorial made the sophomoric argument once again that people who fight for the environment most likely also use cars fueled by gasoline and thus have some type of conflict of interest that renders their arguments invalid.
The real conflict of interest is that the newspaper is owned by Philip Anschutz, a Colorado billionaire, who became rich drilling for fossil fuels, and that the newspaper conveniently never allows consistent, dissenting views to its one-sided, conservative myopia when it comes to the environmental destruction. Has Oklahoma become the epicenter of an anti-environment campaign waged by corporate interests for short-term profits?
It was only a matter of time because of the recent cool temperatures here in Oklahoma, but U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, the world’s most infamous global-warming science denier, has now weighed in on the issue with a typical dose of snark.
Last week, Inhofe issued a press statement titled, “Global Warming Alarmists Should Send Some of Their Hot Air to Warm Up Oklahoma,” that, as the title indicates, essentially argues that the abnormal, cooler temperatures in the state are proof that climate change is, well, simply “hot air.”
The argument is obviously nothing new for Inhofe, and, to his credit, he even referred to his “climate awareness friends” in the release. Good natured fun, right? Well, it’s only fun until you realize that Inhofe has cherry picked the science and used cold weather events throughout his career to argue there is some type of left-wing conspiracy among scientists to bring down the fossil-fuel industry.
The real alarmist, of course, is Inhofe himself, who has pretty much based his entire Senate career on fighting a straw man he pretty much created single handedly. That fictional straw man is the mad, leftist scientist who wants an immediate end to the use of fossil fuels in the world and, in a diabolical and secret quest, will lie and cheat and hurt people, especially those executives at oil and gas companies.
The short press release, published Friday, doesn’t mention that Inhofe from 2007 to 2012 has collected $550,950 in campaign funding from oil and gas companies, but it does mention how “our job-creating energy sector is being attacked.” That says much about Inhofe’s credibility.
So, once again, for the record: Global warming is happening, and it’s real. Variations in temperatures from one year to the next don’t matter nearly as much as long-term patterns. Look at these charts dating various temperature averages from 1880 to 2012 from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The planetary air temperature is also just one factor. For example, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently reported that ocean surface temperatures last year were the highest in 150 years.
As one climate-change scientist, Peter Gleick, has noted many global warmer deniers, such as Inhofe, engage in deceptions and falsehoods. In February, 2012, Gleick wrote:
These statements are scurrilous deceptions and falsehoods. The planet is warming – an observation noted by every climate research institution tracking temperatures, the US National Academy of Sciences (over and over and over), every other national academy of sciences on the planet, and every professional society in the geosciences.
Another recurring issue is Inhofe’s straw man. There are certainly environmental activists that engage in what some in the country might view as extreme acts, but the vast majority of people who argue for a reduction in the use of fossil fuels and carbon emissions are just regular people who drive cars and fly in airplanes and want to do the right thing. In fact, most of us are not alarmist enough over the issue, especially given the simple fact that the planet one day could be sucked dry of fossil fuels. What happens then? Renewable energy sources ultimately equal sustaining life.
We also don’t receive money in campaign contributions like Inhofe to gain power to express a particular point of view. Just that conflict alone should render Inhofe’s arguments biased and not worthy of consideration, but the corporate media here gives him a pass on that major conflict of interest.
Primarily, Inhofe can engage in his snarky ways because he’s supported by one of the most conservative newspapers in the world, The Oklahoman, which is owned by Colorado billionaire Philip Anschutz, an oil and gas magnate.
A recent editorial in The Oklahoman was highly critical of what it called “anti-fossil fuel forces," who have predicted a “global warming apocalypse” that has now supposedly come under scrutiny. The editorial is filled with straw man arguments and general arguments not supported by empirical evidence.
It’s a shame that some Oklahoma farmers suffered crop losses due to the seasonally late freezes, and it’s a good thing that recent rains here have made a dent in the severe drought. None of that, however, disproves global warming.
Recent developments in Oklahoma have made it clear that it’s long past time the state’s residents should stop taking for granted access to water and that any real discussion about future water shortages should include the potential impact of global warming on supplies.
As it often gets repeated, we can drill for oil and gas here until it's all gone, but we can’t survive without clean drinking water.
Here are three relatively recent developments concerning water issues in the state:
(1) In the midst of a drought and record-setting temperatures, Oklahoma City has taken 30,000 acre-feet of water from Canton Lake in northwest Oklahoma to help replenish Lake Hefner, a supply lake for Oklahoma City area residents. Oklahoma City officials have also announced they plan to consider raising water rates and canceling the upcoming boating season at Lake Hefner.
The move to take the extra water from Canton Lake, which is legal, of course, has drawn the scrutiny of northwest Oklahoma Legislators, who are highly critical of Oklahoma City’s action. State Sen. Bryce Marlatt, a Woodward Republican, didn’t mince his words about it:
Everyone knows we are in a prolonged drought, and cutting back on outdoor watering in the dead of winter really isn’t a solution. Oklahoma City’s ultimate plan is a huge draw on Canton Lake, the main recreational lake in western Oklahoma, but this is essentially going to kill our lake. Legally, they have the right to do it. But it doesn’t make it morally right. Oklahoma City needs to do everything it possibly can to avoid this draw down for as long as possible.
State Rep. Mike Sanders, a Kingfisher Republican, put it this way: “The economic and environmental impact to Canton and western Oklahoma will be felt for years to come if this goes through. This is a dire situation, and the fact of the matter is, if they aren’t conserving water, then they are actually wasting water. We simply don’t have the water to waste.”
If the drought continues here, as weather experts and climatologists are predicting, the water-supply situation will get even worse, with repeated and deepening conflict between the state’s largest cities and rural areas.
(2) Meanwhile, Norman announced last month that it was implementing an outdoor water rationing program. Lake Thunderbird, a water supply source, is more than 7 feet below normal.
The goal of ‘Moderate Mandatory Conservation’ is to accomplish a significant reduction in the water demand to more closely match the supply capabilities of the City. During the last two summers, the City instituted the mandatory odd/even water rotation program in the month of August. However, due to Lake Thunderbird’s declining supply, the City believes it is appropriate to institute this action now. It appears our present situation is resembling the drought of the 1950’s.
Lewis pointed out, as well, that residents use only 3 percent of water for drinking, and urged voluntary water conservation efforts.
(3) The Choctaw and Chickasaw nations have filed a federal lawsuit to protect their water rights in southeastern Oklahoma.
At the time the lawsuit was filed, Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby said:
Citizens of the Chickasaw Nation, like all Oklahomans, have a vital interest in maintaining the conditions necessary to ensure a strong economy and a thriving natural environment for our children and grandchildren. Because sustainable management of our water resources is imperative for the progress and prosperity of all Oklahomans, we have worked diligently to establish a working relationship with the state on this issue. Unfortunately, our efforts have been unsuccessful, leaving us no realistic alternative to legal action.
Surprisingly, Gov. Mary Fallin's only use of the word “water” in her recent state of the state speech came in this sentence: “We cannot afford to water down education standards.” This, of course, has nothing to with arguably the state’s biggest problem, a dwindling water supply that could eventually devastate the economy here or even worse.
Underpinning the continuing drought is the issue of global warming. The drought here and throughout the Southwest and Midwest is not an aberration. Other areas of the world are experiencing droughts as well, attributed to global warming, just as climatologists have long predicted.
When you also consider that last year was the warmest on record for the contiguous United States, the rising sea levels that helped fuel Hurricane Sandy and the recent blizzard in New England, and record arctic ice melting, it’s clear that global warming, at the very least, needs to be considered as a factor.
In Oklahoma, the oil and gas industry, along with their enablers in the Republican Party, shut down any discussion of global warming, but nothing substantial can be accomplished in solving the state’s water woes unless there’s a plan that takes into account climate change.
Manmade carbon emissions through the burning of fossil fuels are destroying the planet. The world faces a threat of massive water and food shortages. It’s time to act. Shifting water around to various lakes in the state and restricting outdoor watering won’t be enough.