Energy

Obscene Editorial

Image of drilling rig

Obscene profits! Obscene profits! That’s what I say.

The editorial board of The Oklahoman always finds a way to take a serious local issue and turn it into a snarky smack down of anyone that doesn’t agree with its distorted right-wing conception of the universe.

In an April 6 editorial titled “Falling prices continue to take a toll on energy industry in Oklahoma, U.S,” the newspaper pointed out the negative impact of layoffs in the state’s oil and gas industry on the economy because of falling prices. That’s pretty typical stuff.

But this is the way the editorial gets into the issue:

THAT sound you don’t hear right now is the din from oil industry critics kvetching about “obscene profits.”

Funny how this group goes down a rabbit hole when things aren’t rosy for oil and gas producers, when profits are scarce (or nonexistent) and when the industry starts shedding high-paying jobs.

What nonsense. No one has gone down a rabbit hole. Continental Resources Chief Executive Officer Harold Hamm is apparently still worth several billion dollars, and that’s obscene. Once prices rebound, he will be worth billions more. That’s obscene.

It’s obscene because of major income inequality throughout the world, and the terrible impact of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on the environment in Oklahoma and elsewhere. The earthquakes here are probably not going to stop until oil and gas executives, such as Hamm, don’t make billions upon billions of dollars. Did I mention how obscene that is?

What the editorial fails to focus upon is that it’s not the richest executives who are losing their jobs. It’s mostly the men and women doing the geological and physical work of actually extracting the oil and gas from the ground. No one wants these people to lose their jobs in a personal sense. The green movement, of which I’m a member, would like to see a decline in fossil fuel drilling and more renewable energy development, but oil and gas companies are driven by the fact they can make obscene profit when prices are high. Many do so, and then when prices fall, they cut workers. That’s a fact.

What would be NOT obscene is if the oil and gas industry had sensible policies that would limit the impact of the boom and bust cycle, which has defined The Oil Age in the planet’s history.

What would be especially NOT obscene is if the federal government would establish an overall sensible, long-term energy policy that still encouraged the development for now of fossil fuels but also encouraged the development of renewable energy sources.

Let’s face it: The burning of fossil fuels has done much damage to our planet, which faces a global warming crisis. On the local level, the fracking process has been blamed for the huge surge in earthquakes, which is undoubtedly taking its toll on our buildings and infrastructure.

Billionaires like Hamm make billions of dollars off the wreckage.

When Will The Local Mainstream Media Give Credit When Due? Never

Artis struisvogel leest krant van oppasser / Ostrich reads newspaper of caretaker

I hope you caught my inaugural post in The Lost Ogle yesterday in which I laid out the coming financial downfall of Oklahoma and, sadly, in particular, the Oklahoma City area because we fracked our way into a mess and forgot we live on a planet with other countries and people.

Shortly after the post was published, state officials announced the state's coming budget shortfall has been doubled to more than $600 million. I DO think this number will rise.

Here's an excerpt from the post, published in Oklahoma City's most popular and irreverent blog:

Drill, baby, drill, has been the conservative mantra for “energy independence” from the world and freedom for people to drive Hummers again without embarrassment for displaying their “wasty ways”, as American novelist James Fenimore Cooper’s character Natty Bumppo would describe it. Yet drill, baby, drill, has put Oklahoma at risk once again. Drill, baby, drill? Why are we bringing “babies” into this muddle of geopolitics and neo-American colonialism? How about, drill, wasps, drill?

Here's the link to the entire post. I know it's a long post. It rambles. It meanders. It contains obscure references to serious literary figures and significant old rock songs. It's "wordy," people, yes, "wordy." Basically, it's your typical DocHoc train wreck of playfulness, frustration and, well, stirring up trouble by speaking truth to power. But can only power speak truth to power?

I really want to hear what you think about my new collaboration with TLO. Comment about it on Okie Funk's Facebook site.

But one thing I also want to point out today is that this little inconsequential blog, Okie Funk, predicted on Feb. 2 the state would eventually face a $1 billion budget shortfall because of oil field layoffs and declining gross production tax revenues. I hope it doesn't get that bad, but, for now, I'm sticking by that number. I think I win the you-were-right cigar at this point, anyway.

What's incredibly amazing is that that the mainstream media here and those brilliant "think" tanks that have done so much to help our state in recent years completely ignored this prediction and just regurgitated "experts"--basically themselves talking to each other--that said oil prices were going to rebound and all would be well.

This is the problem with the mainstream media here and the think tanks and the self-proclaimed experts. They are insular and afraid and arrogant. They either exist only for profit or themselves. The funny thing about the mainstream media profiteers is that you can actually make loads of money with truthful, irreverent reporting that is honest and true, but they won't do it because they are stuck in old timey models of journalism and boring rhetorical formats developed in the nineteenth century. The think tanks just become about writing their bland "reports" or "studies" that do nothing but quantify the obvious, and even then they won't step out of the boxes. They are about sustaining themselves as organizations, not helping people or making this a better place.

The Lost Ogle and this little blog that's only been around since 2004 tell it like it is whether you like the style or not, and the mainstream media and the think tanks don't even have the decency to acknowledge it's reporting information that's, really, old news. TLO had it first or Okie Funk said it two weeks ago. That's the way it goes these days.

Could Oklahoma Eventually Face $1 Billion Shortfall?

A hydraulic fracturing rig

So the layoffs begin because of the fracking bust and so does the tragedy that could have been prevented.

Helmerich and Payne, a Tulsa-based rig maker, has announced it’s laying off 2,000 employees because of the world oil glut caused by the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, boom here in Oklahoma and across the country.

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I’m against the negative environmental impact of fracking, but let me be clear that I’m also against people losing their jobs. I have many friends connected to the energy industry one way or another here in Oklahoma. I don’t want them to suffer through a job loss or even the anxiety they might lose their job.

Helmerich and Payne, of course, is just one company. Many oil and gas companies throughout the country and here in Oklahoma have announced around a 20 percent cutback in spending because the price of oil per barrel has dropped from more than $100 last summer to under $50 today.

The glut was caused because oil and gas companies here in the United States seized the opportunity to frack for shale oil as prices soared. Companies made tons of money, but now there’s a glut, and Saudi Arabia is not going to decrease its own oil production just because energy magnates such as locals Harold Hamm or Aubrey McClendon want to become even richer. The Saudis have every logical right to act as an equalizing force in the market. This is geopolitics at its basic level.

I have two thoughts on this issue today:

  • Virtually all the oil and gas experts featured in the local press are predicting a rebound in oil barrel prices by the end of the year yet I don’t see that those forecasts are based on anything fundamentally sound. The reasoning seems to be that companies will stop producing as much oil NOW, and then this will drive prices back up LATER. Okay, but wouldn’t more fracking at that point LATER eventually just lead to another downturn? What’s needed is an overall energy policy in the country that, along with fossil fuels, includes renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, and even more emphasis on energy conservation. The boom and bust cycle of fossil fuels is anachronistic and simply foolish. It ruins lives, and it pollutes our environment. What’s left to argue about?
  • Oklahoma is facing a $300 million budget shortfall attributed at least partially to the world oil glut. Again, I don’t see this number as something that’s fundamentally sound or correct. It’s a guess. With a sustained slide in gross production taxes and with layoffs that take money directly out of the overall economy in terms of sales and income taxes, the shortfall could certainly grow. Let me throw out a new shortfall number amount: $1 billion. That’s at the high end, true, but I’ve yet to encounter evidence that disputes the collective effect of a major downturn in the energy industry here. I hope I’m wrong, but people should be prepared for the worst.
  • Teachers need raises here. Our prison system is overcrowded with non-violent offenders, wasting millions upon millions of dollars each year. Too many people lack health insurance here and need better medical access. The state’s infrastructure, from the crumbling state Capitol building to our roads and bridges, needs improvements.

    But here in Oklahoma, we just allow the oil wildcatters to drill, baby, drill, pretty much whenever and wherever they want until they drill us all into misery and despair. They get the cash, the fancy homes and financial security. We get stuck with the big social and money problems when it all collapses. It’s the state’s story. Someone should write a song about it. What we need is a brand new state.

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