Column: So, who’s a fan of earthquakes (and genocide)?

Jared Bashaw


A political cartoon title “Extract & Exploit” (JARED BASHAW/THE VISTA)

     If you read the local news, you might have seen more stories in the past couple of months about silly little accidents and slip-ups by a certain industry that our state relies heavily on. Heck, even if you don’t read the news, if you just live in Oklahoma City or Edmond you’ve felt the effects of what I’m talking about. The other night I sat in a movie theater, and all of a sudden everyone in the room felt the tremors from the ground; the place shook a bit and filled with whispers from the audience. Turns out the increase in earthquakes is largely the result of a technique that oil extractors use to get oil out of the ground: Hydraulic Fracturing (fracking). Fracking and the injection of wastewater deep into the ground were responsible for the substantial 5.1 magnitude earthquake in February, as well as many others I’m sure you’ve felt since.

     Earthquakes are just one symptom of the oil and gas industry’s operations in our state, just the past year we’ve seen many oil spills that affect the health of both the residents and the land. Off the top of my head, we had Energy Transfer’s 16-inch line hit during construction near 178th and Portland in OKC, an event that had oil spewing out of the ground for hours, making a black fountain 30 feet tall (picture below, courtesy of Oklahoma’s channel 4). 

     Then there’s the oil well that leaked in Edmond, March of last year. It polluted the air horribly with a bad smell and smog. It’s actually the same well that had a massive leak in September of 2015. Oh yeah, it also spilled into a private pond in 2012. That’s three times that the same oil well harmed the land and citizens of Edmond in case you weren’t counting.

     Finally, the big one from this year. The massive $7.4 Million oil spill that happened in Cushing. The spill leaked into Skull Creek, which feeds into a major source of water for Tulsa. The spill poured gallons and gallons of oil onto Tribal territory, damaging the Sac and Fox people’s land for decades to come. This is the quote from the Sac and Fox Nation’s statement on that spill:

     “The oil discharged from the pipeline polluted Skull Creek and its shoreline, impacted soil, vegetation, surface water, and sediment on the creek bottom. Hundreds of trees, along with plants and shrubs, were destroyed or have been removed as part of response activities. The pipeline rupture has also impacted Sac and Fox cultural resources, including numerous oiled or dead fish and wildlife,” it read.  

    They pointed to a pattern in a direct and serious way.

     “The pipeline rupture and its aftermath point to the problem our tribe and others have encountered historically with the entities that hold rights of way on Indian lands,” the statement read. 

     Not only is the oil and gas industry causing us minor annoyance and inconvenience with earthquakes and smog in the air, but it is tragically harming the land and health of a historically oppressed people. Add in the issue of climate change; the fact that this last march was the warmest march ever recorded, and it’s enough to drive me crazy. 

     When I think about our state’s reliance on the oil industry, I repeatedly think of Executive Order 13990. This was an order signed by Biden in 2021, right after he took office, in which he argued against the development of a major U.S. oil pipeline.

     “The significance of the proposed pipeline for our energy security and economy is limited, stressed that the United States must prioritize the development of a clean energy economy, which will in turn create good jobs. The analysis further concluded that approval of the proposed pipeline would undermine U.S. climate leadership by undercutting the credibility and influence of the United States in urging other countries to take ambitious climate action,” the order read.

     If we keep building our reliance on the oil and gas industry, then we contribute to climate change, which results in extreme weather that will continue to ravage the nation and will only get worse with the more money we devote to oil developments. These extreme weather events will result in more harm to the economy than the oil does to benefit it. There are limited resources that can be devoted to developing energy for the nation. Because only so much money can go towards providing energy, an investment that goes to developing an oil and gas resource is an investment that is being taken away from developing a more renewable source of energy.

     The problem is that oil companies can profit more immediately by devoting their money to fossil fuel energy, even when it hurts us more with its side effects. Our current energy infrastructure leaks oil and hurts us, and once installed, it is relatively permanent. Pipelines, roads, drilling sites, and powerlines connected to the grid cannot just be abandoned or tore out when they are no longer useful, they are a massive land burden. By building this infrastructure, we commit to extracting countless tons of oil for years to come. It’s a massive commitment to an industry that should be mostly gone in 2050.

     The extraction of oil is harmful to the planet. The position of the government should be to disincentivize investment in that industry and shift the demand of the markets to renewable energy. Then we can see more innovation and improvement in renewable energy technology, instead of relying more on outdated fossil fuels. Biden knows this, which is why he promised historic progress on climate change and said in his executive order that America needs to demonstrate “climate leadership”. However, Biden does not care about climate change, or the effect that the oil industry has on people like the Sac and Fox nation, or the citizens of Edmond. Despite his empty promise to care, and the stated goal to be a climate leader on the global scale, Biden has approved more federal oil and gas projects than Trump did while in office. This is not an endorsement of Trump, he is an open climate change denialist and a quack, all I am saying is that Biden is not our guy. Please consider your vote very carefully in this upcoming election, protect our environment and local ecosystems.

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