Energy

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.

    Fracking Creates Political, Legal Turmoil

    Image of anti-fracking sign

    The environmental impact of the hydraulic fracturing process, known as oil and gas fracking, has long been a contentious political conflict around the world.

    Now that conflict is starting to manifest itself here in Oklahoma in the form of legal action, community protest and energy-industry supported legislation aimed at shutting down any dissent from those concerned about their own personal safety and their quality of life. The fight is on in full force here and across the country.

    Here are three local recent developments to consider:

    (1) The Oklahoma Supreme Court, according to media reports, will consider if they should decide if oil companies can be held responsible for the 5.6-magnitude earthquake that struck Prague in 2011, causing damage. The lawsuit, brought by Prague resident Sandra Ladra, claims she suffered serious injuries in the earthquake. After the earthquake, scientists claimed it was caused by the injection well process used in the fracking process. In that process, wastewater used in fracking is injected by high pressure into rock formations into what are called wastewater disposal wells. This process, according to scientists, causes enough instability along existing fault lines to trigger earthquakes.

    (2) Hundreds of people turned out at a December meeting to protest a proposal for new hydraulic fracturing near Lake Hefner, which is one of Oklahoma City’s main water supplies. For years, environmentalists have claimed that fracking can lead to water contamination. After the meeting, which included chanting protestors carrying signs, the company requesting city permission to frack around and actually under the lake withdrew its request.

    (3) At least eight bills have been introduced in the Oklahoma Legislature in the upcoming legislative session by oil and gas industry supporters that will prohibit that state's local authorities to ban oil and gas drilling in city limits. This comes as places such as Denton, Texas, the state of New York and even the entire country of Scotland have issued different forms of bans on fracking.

    In the fracking process, water laced with chemicals is injected into the ground to create fissures in rock formations that release oil and gas. The wastewater from the process is then often injected into the ground again by high pressure, where it’s “stored” in some form. Oil and gas companies, of course, claim the process is safe and environmentally sound. But critics of fracking and the wastewater disposal well process argue that’s simply untrue, claiming it leads to polluted water and now a tremendous surge in earthquakes here and elsewhere.

    Oklahoma, which now leads the contiguous United States in the number of earthquakes of 3.0-magnitude or higher, has experienced a fracking boom recently, which has helped create a world oil glut that has driven down prices and now threatens to do much damage to the state’s economy. Meanwhile, the state’s conservative legislature and Gov. Mary Fallin have granted steep tax cuts to oil and gas companies to continue fracking.

    Here are my corresponding views on these three issues:

    (1) Those companies operating wastewater injection wells should be held financially responsible for the damage caused by earthquakes if scientists determine the overall process causes earthquakes. Rejecting science is a sign of willful neglect. These companies wouldn’t reject the basic scientific engineering that creates the protocols of fracking or the injection well process.

    (2) New fracking should never be allowed near an area’s main water supply. There’s too much evidence that fracking can pollute water supplies. There have been films about it and lawsuits over it. The evidences grows that fracking is harmful to our planet and especially to our drinking water.

    (3) People in Oklahoma and elsewhere on the local level have the right to vote to protect their water and ensure their safety. There are plenty of places outside urban areas to frack for oil and gas. Given the growing environmental evidence, oil and gas companies should keep their fracking operations as far away as possible from densely populated areas.

    As I mentioned, all this comes as world oil prices continue to drop. The price of oil per barrel has dropped from more than $100 last summer to below $50 now. This is an example of our country’s lack of a sensible energy policy. The obvious overall answer is to continue to develop renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind and hydro power, but with Republican conservatives in POWER both in Washington and Oklahoma, the planet’s environmental future, and especially here in Oklahoma, seems tragically bleak. There’s no other way to put it.

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