Inhofe

Taking The Heat: Has The Fracking Boom Really Been Good For Oklahoma?

image of U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, his wife and Vice President Joe Biden in the recent U.S. Senate swearing-in ceremony

Scientists have just reported that 2014 was the warmest year ever recorded, providing more evidence that manmade carbon emissions are accelerating global warming and threatening to do more extensive damage to the planet’s ecosystems.

Here in Oklahoma, many people are worried about the world oil glut and lowering gasoline prices, which are already damaging the state’s economy. But it’s precisely the burning of fossil fuels produced in energy states like Oklahoma and elsewhere in other countries that is contributing to the much larger problem—some would argue the world’s greatest challenge—of climate change.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA, according to media reports, have concluded the average temperature in 2014 was, respectively, 58.24 and 58.42 degrees Fahrenheit. This is more than 1.2 degrees above the twentieth-century average. NOAA reported that nine of the ten warmest years ever recorded have come since 2000.

Meanwhile, scientists reported in September that Arctic sea ice was at its sixth lowest level ever recorded. Arctic ice reflects ice back into the atmosphere cooling the planet. Less ice means a warmer planet.

Scientists throughout the world have long argued that growing carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels in vehicles and energy plants increase what is known as the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect, a natural phenomenon, is when carbon dioxide, methane gas and water vapor, get entrapped in the atmosphere causing the planet to stay warm.

But too much warmth can cause damage to the environment in several ways: Rising ocean levels caused by melting Arctic ice threatening coastline property, longer and harsher droughts diminishing the world’s food supply, extinction of wildlife disrupting natural habitats and extended heat waves killing people.

Some of those problems have obvious major consequences. For example, rising ocean levels could submerge millions of buildings and homes throughout the world in water, forcing massive human displacement. Droughts kill growing crops and reduce the drinking water supply. Other problems, such as wildlife disruption, which include insects, don’t necessarily have one clear and shared consequence, except in cases like fewer fish, a major world food source.

Republicans, most notably Oklahoma’s U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, have denied that manmade carbon emissions have contributed to global warming. It’s widely known that Inhofe claims scientists throughout the world are involved in a leftist conspiracy aimed at hurting oil and gas companies and that the warnings of the impact of global warming are simply a “hoax.” He has also argued that only a god could impact the environment in any major way.

“The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He [a god] is doing in the climate is to me outrageous,” Inhofe once said in an interview. That’s Inhofe and his wife with Vice President Joe Biden pictured right in a recent Senate swearing-in ceremony.

Inhofe is now chair of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and has announced he will fight to rollback rules by the Environmental Protection Agency to protect the environment from pollution while reducing carbon emissions.

Meanwhile, in other Oklahoma-related news, the hydraulic fracturing or fracking boom in this state and others has contributed to a world oil glut that has dropped the price of a barrel of oil below $50, a steep drop from the $100 to $110 a barrel range last summer. This means oil and gas companies here are planning to reduce production, which means fewer jobs and less tax revenue for the state.

So Oklahoma gets it all ways. The fracking bust could very well lead to a major economic downturn in Oklahoma, not experienced since the 1980s. Yet the fracking boom produced more of the carbon dioxide that leads to environmental crises, such as the current extreme drought in western Oklahoman that’s creating a major agricultural and water crisis in the state. Oklahoma also now leads the lower 48 states in the number of 3.0-magnitude or higher earthquakes, which scientists argue are caused by the wastewater injection well process used in the fracking process.

None of this will probably impact Inhofe’s quest to add as much carbon dioxide as possible to the planet’s atmosphere. It’s important to note Inhofe has received more that $1.7 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry, according to OpenSecrets.org.

Send In The Clown

Image of electric car in Amsterdam

Beyond the oil and gas lobby and conservative media outlets, such as The Oklahoman, there hasn’t been a lot of support for the development that Oklahoma’s U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe is in line to become the chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

In fact, the rhetorical response mostly resembles a doomsday movie. Who or what will save us now? President Barack Obama’s veto pen? How much damage can Inhofe do?

Now comes news from an article in The New York Times that Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, Inhofe’s fellow state Republican, has worked closely with Devon Energy here to criticize the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approach to regulating air pollution from natural gas wells.

Let’s deal with Inhofe first. Inhofe, of course, believes that global warming is a grand and elaborate hoax developed by leading climate scientists throughout the world and refutes the idea that manmade carbon emissions are taking the planet to the edge of a great crisis. He’s in line to become chair of the EPW Committee because Republicans will control the Senate starting next year, and he’s the committee’s ranking GOP member.

He’s written the absurd treatise, The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Threatens Your Future and has shown up at a climate conference in order to harass its attendees and argue that Hollywood elites are behind the hoax. Inhofe has argued the issue on Biblical terms as well, quoting scripture that he contends shows clearly that only God could impact the climate on a large scale.

In short, Inhofe uses conservative babble and the old GOP tropes, but it’s definitely not rooted in science, which contends the earth is getting warmer, and it’s going to wreak havoc on the planet unless it can be reversed or at least slowed down.

Then there's Barbra Streisand. Yes, that Barbra Streisand.

A recent post by David Corn that appeared on Mother Jones and Huffington Post brings up an encounter the writer had with Inhofe at a 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen. When Corn pressed Inhofe on naming some of the Hollywood elites in cahoots with world scientists in this fictional grand worldwide scam, the Senator named none other than Barbra Streisand, the famous singer and actor.

After Corn’s piece was recently published, Streisand issued this statement:

This would be hilarious if it weren't so frightening. I thank Senator Inhofe for singling me out as a voice against the perils of climate change! But I'm just a small part of millions of voices, who are informed and alarmed, including 97% of all climate scientists! God help us! This man is going to head the Committee on the Environment in the United States Senate. It’s like giving a fox the keys to the chicken coop.

This, then, is the rhetorical “climate” surrounding the 80-year-old Inhofe as he prepares his strategy to fight for the interests of the fossil-fuel industry at the cost of the planet. It’s only going to get worse, and Oklahoma’s image, in particular, will suffer in the process.

Inhofe has received more than $1.7 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry in his career, according to OpenSecrets.org. That type of money buys a lot of hot air.

In a somewhat related matter, The Times published a piece last weekend revealing that Attorney General Pruitt sent to the EPA the basic text of a letter written by Devon officials that argued the EPA is overestimating air pollution from natural gas wells.

The letter shows the cozy relationship Pruitt and some other state attorneys general have with the oil and gas industry, according to The Times, but the other issue here is that carbon emissions contribute to global warming. Pruitt and Inhofe obviously side with the oil and gas companies on doing little to nothing to decrease our carbon footprint.

Back To The Bluster

Image of Jim Inhofe from TPM

Get ready for at least two more years of political blustering and stunts over climate change from Oklahoma’s U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, who is expected to become chair again of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Inhofe, the ranking Republican on the EPW Committee, has wasted no time getting back into his contentious groove, and, in his new position, he will have no problem getting all the media attention he craves. This week, for example, he lambasted President Barack Obama for signing an agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping to reduce greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. It was widely reported.

According to Inhofe, the agreement is a “non-binding charade” and vows to fight the White House on new rules governing polluting emissions from power plants in this country. Inhofe is infamous for calling global warming a hoax and a left-wing conspiracy among scientists.

Of course, Inhofe misses the point that the agreement is supposed to be viewed on the world stage as a important symbolic gesture. How we monitor and measure a decline in carbon emissions over the years will always be problematic. What’s important is that there’s a discussion among important world leaders about climate change. For example, the agreement has spurred new discussions among Canadian government officials about curbing greenhouse gas emissions, according to a news report. That’s one of the points of such agreements between countries.

Under the agreement, the United States would reduce its carbon emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025. China would cap its emissions by 2030 and commit to generating 20 percent of its energy from non fossil fuels sources by 2030.

China and the United States account for 45 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The agreement is ambitious, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be implemented in good faith. Any reduction in carbon emissions would be good for the planet. Right now, global warming threatens the world’s eco systems, and, in the future, rising sea levels due to climate change could wreak havoc on major coastal cites throughout the world. This could lead to major population migrations and severely depressed economies never experienced before.

It’s no secret that Inhofe will stand in the way of progress on reducing carbon emissions. As I have written before, most media outlets when reporting on Inhofe’s latest rage against Obama or environmentalists or climate scientists fail to note that he has received more than $1.7 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry in his political career, according to OpenSecrets.org. Inhofe is a de facto spokesperson for fossil-fuel profiteers and represents a state that is experiencing a major energy boom because of hydraulic fracturing or fracking. The fact that Inhofe’s financial ties to the oil and gas industry often go unmentioned is a testament to how the corporate media has complacently accepted and implicitly endorsed the role of big money in our political process.

I expect a political correction on a national level in the 2016 elections. Starting in 2015, however, Republicans will control the Senate and House for two years, and they are indicating they plan to block and stonewall any White House proposals, even to the point of shutting down the government. Inhofe will be a part of this onslaught when it comes to climate change. It’s apparent already the Republicans will overreach and remind voters of the George W. Bush presidency, which was a debacle of right-wing extremism, but that’s not going to make it any easier to stomach.

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