Screw It, Let’s Add Earthquakes Into the Mix


More than 2,500 small earthquakes have hit Oklahoma in the past five years, and nearly all of them can be linked to the process of drilling for oil and gas, according to a recent study published in the journal Science.

The study, led by Cornell University geophysics professor Katie Keranen, is the latest of many scientific studies showing a probable connection between earthquakes and drilling-related activity across the country. Specifically, the quakes are linked not to the fuel extraction itself, but to a process called “wastewater injection,” in which companies take the leftover water used to frack wells and inject it deep into the ground.

Scientists increasingly believe that the large amount of water that is injected into the ground after a well is fracked can change the state of stress on existing fault lines to the point of failure, causing earthquakes. Keranen’s study analyzed four prolific wastewater disposal wells in southeast Oklahoma City, which collectively inject approximately four million barrels of wastewater into the ground each month.

The research showed that fluid from those wells were migrating along fault lines for miles, and Keranen’s team determined the migration was likely responsible for earthquakes occurring as far as 22 miles away.

Anyone’s gas bill gone down? Anyone’s electric bill gone down now that plants are switching to natural gas for half the cost and twice the yield of coal? Yeah, me neither. Someone’s getting rich, though, so I guess that is all that matters. Fuck the externalities and the impact on everyone else.

36 replies
  1. 1
    Schlemizel says:

    Hey, I have a great idea! Lets everyone shit right where they live, I am sure it’ll all be OK.

  2. 2
    JPL says:

    Oh my goodness. You know that the officials will be calling FEMA for aid in repairing the damage and if the Government refuses, they will say, it’s the Fed’s fault.
    Just like our tax dollars help subsidize Walmart workers by providing them with medicaid and food stamps, we’ll help out Oklahoma.

  3. 3
    Litlebritdifrnt says:

    People (large oil and gas companies) are blasting large holes in the ground, nature hates a vacuum, that is basic science, if you blast large holes in the ground then something has to take their place. Why is anyone surprised that earthquakes are going to be occurring on a more recent basis?

  4. 4
    Baud says:

    I still blame gays. #teachthecontroversy

  5. 5
    satby says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt: There you go with all that crazy “science” talk.

  6. 6
    MikeJ says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt: The holes aren’t the problem, it’s the liquid being pumped in.

  7. 7
    Roger Moore says:

    Anyone here in California in favor of fracking? Who cares about earthquakes, am I right? I will say that if there’s a big earthquake and there’s any indication that fracking played a role, the legal liability could be greater than the net worth of the entire fossil fuel industry.

  8. 8
    WaterGirl says:

    Has anybody heard the comedy routine where they riff on how it was that cigarette smoking was started? It’s been decades for me, but it was a funny version of take this plant, roll it up in paper, put it in your mouth, set it on fire, and then breathe in the smoke.

    Something similar to that is how some idiots got the idea that fracking would be a good idea.

    See, even FYWP disapproves of fracking; autocorrect is constantly changing the word to tracking.

    Edit: see #1, for instance, though I was thinking of something a bit more detailed and technical. but #1 shows the right spirit.

  9. 9
    scav says:

    Planned obsolescence, even accelerated obsolescence was just taking too long. Pre-emptive obsolescence is the next wave! 21st century Dude! Shaking and breaking all those objects is creative destruction job-creating Invisible-Hand Magic!!. Getting rid of all the infrastructure and namby-pamby non-waste-water will make everyone stronger — win-win!

  10. 10
    Jim C says:

    @WaterGirl: Bob Newhart used to do one of those routines about smoking.

    ETA: Here it is on YouTube.

  11. 11
    gussie says:

    I remember the first time I read about this, oh, a couple years ago, and thought it was just blatant conspiracy theory. ‘Sure, Dr. Evil, drilling for oils is causing friggin’ EARTHQUAKES!’

    I wonder what percentage of Americans know that this is an actual thing.

  12. 12
    Citizen Scientist says:

    Even here in southeastern Pennsylvania, where we don’t have much fracking (for now, most of it is well north and west of here), seismic activity is on the rise. I finally got a small taste of what my friends in California are used to about two years ago. Noticeable tremor lasted for about 40 seconds and freaked me out a little bit. I was on a military post at the time where artillery, air-to-ground bombing, and aviation activities are a near constant. This was no military training-induced vibration. It was a noticeable seismic event. If I recall correctly, the local USGS guys were saying that it was highly unusual for our area. It would be irresponsible not to speculate as to its cause.

  13. 13
    MikeJ says:

    @WaterGirl: There was a line in the routine I vaguely remember about, “remember when Billy died from all that smoke when the barn caught on fire? Let’s do that!” Which sounds sort of Carlin-esque.

  14. 14
    rikyrah says:

    be warned other states that want to let the frackers in.

    be warned.

  15. 15
    Schlemizel says:

    Bob Newhart did this as a phone call between Sir Walter Raleigh and his boss trying to figure out how to make money off the crap Wally brought back from the New World. BN as Wally explains setting it on fire & then stops & says “Well, yeah, I suppose you could chop it fine and stuff it up your nose”

    You really need BNs impeccable timing to get the full effect.

    EDIT: I see a couple people got here first.

  16. 16
    gnomedad says:

    Are a lot of little quakes in Oklahoma really a threat compared to the water contamination?

  17. 17
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Roger Moore:

    Apparently they’ve been fracking in California for a few decades now, but they want to expand it to do “unconventional” fracking and there are a few desirable sites close to major fault lines. Because there’s no way that could go wrong.

  18. 18
    Mnemosyne says:


    Water contamination is a little abstract for most people. Holy shit, the motherfucking ground is shaking! is more visceral and tends to get the point across better.

  19. 19
    GregB says:

    It’s ok. Red state children can’t be killed in earthquakes.

    Jesus will protect them.

  20. 20
    MikeJ says:

    @Mnemosyne: What’s funny is that in California they experimented with injecting plain old water near geologic hot spots, boil the water, use the steam to turn a turbine. 100% clean energy, except that when they did it, they got earthquakes. So they want to do something very, very similar, except the liquid will be some unlabeled brew, they won’t bring it back up, and they use it to produce fossil fuels.

  21. 21
    Emma says:

    @Mnemosyne: Lord God, tell me you’re joking. Wouldn’t you love it? Fracking near the San Andreas. What could possibly go wrong?

  22. 22
    trollhattan says:

    @Roger Moore:
    This news might have tempered their boners a bit.

    Nobody’s saying where the fracking water is supposed to come from, either.

  23. 23
    skerry says:

    Rally in DC on 13 July against Cove Point, MD Liquified Natural Gas Export Facility.

    For far too long, President Obama has allowed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to put the interests of the oil and gas industry above our health, safety and climate. FERC has rubber-stamped project after project to expand fracking here and export fracked gas overseas.

    On Sunday, July 13th, we say enough is enough. We’ll come together by the thousands in downtown Washinton, D.C. to call for a change of course — at a critical time.

    This summer, FERC will be making up its mind on one of the most egregious examples of the rush to export harmful fossil fuels: Dominion Resources’ proposal to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal in Cove Point, Maryland. This project would expand fracking in the Marcellus Shale region, put Cove Point and other local communities in danger and raise gas prices in the U.S.

  24. 24
    Violet says:

    Related: The wingnut sub-culture of “coal rollers”–idiots who mess with their pickup trucks so they burn more fuel and spew black smoke:

    “Prius Repellent” is a perfect introduction to one of the Obama era’s great conservative subcultures: the men and women who “roll coal.” For as little as $500, anyone with a diesel truck and a dream can install a smoke stack and the equipment that lets a driver “trick the engine” into needing more fuel. The result is a burst of black smoke that doubles as a political or cultural statement—a protest against the EPA, a ritual shaming of hybrid “rice burners,” and a stellar source of truck memes.

    They are who we think they are:

    “I run into a lot of people that really don’t like Obama at all,” said one seller of stack kits from Wisconsin. “If he’s into the environment, if he’s into this or that, we’re not. I hear a lot of that. To get a single stack on my truck—that’s my way of giving them the finger. You want clean air and a tiny carbon footprint? Well, screw you.”

    Against anything Obama is for. Too bad he hasn’t come out in support of breathing.

  25. 25
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    2.2 earthquakes are not a problem. Oil & Gas knows what chemicals getting into one’s drinking water? That’s a problem.

  26. 26
    gnomedad says:

    Good point. It does make it more difficult to say “you’ll hardly notice we’re here”.

  27. 27
    WaterGirl says:

    @Mike J: I was thinking it might have been George Carlin, but not certain enough to say it. So I think you’re right. I can completely hear Carlin saying that!

  28. 28
    Cain says:


    2.2 earthquakes are not a problem. Oil & Gas knows what chemicals getting into one’s drinking water? That’s a problem.

    Naw, the invisible hand of the free market will solve that. Once everybody dies and they durn burn figure out whose is responsible, well the lawsuits will settle it fer everyone.

  29. 29
    billB says:

    gonna be pretty sad when half the country has no drinkable water or crops that grow. stay the heall out of our blue states, you made your bed now lie [die] in it.

  30. 30
    Lavocat says:

    Also, too: let’s inject lethal poisons that probably kill all life deep into the earth.

    What could possibly go wrong!?

  31. 31
  32. 32
    David Koch says:

    Sarah Silverman

    Keep your filthy hands off my guns while I decide what you can & can’t do with your uterus

  33. 33
    phein39 says:

    Back to JC’s original question, Anyone see their power bills go down?:

    Yes, here in central Illinois we have seen electricity prices go way down over the last 18 months or so, with my summer power bills going from $400 down to around $250. Didn’t have anything to do with fracking or natural gas, though, just some good ol’ competition in the utility market (albeit socialized competition based on city-government negotiating power).

    Now, if we can just get a bill to the Governor’s desk mandating that power companies buy excess solar/wind produced by consumers at the same rate they charge consumers, we’re talking socialist-market utopia . . .

  34. 34
    Joe says:

    @phein39: Same here. Two years ago, I filled up my propane tank for $3.95 a gallon. This year, it was $1.90. I buy 500 gallons at a time.

  35. 35
    johnny aquitard says:


    “if he’s into this or that, we’re not.”

    About as succinct a restatement of Cleek’s Law as it gets.

  36. 36
    Dave says:

    A technical note… In the “awl bidness” a barrel is 42 gallons. A gallon of water is 8.32 pounds. So John’s 4 million barrels per month is equal to 168 million gallons per month, or 1.4 billion pounds per month. Assuming a 30-day month, that’s 5.6 million gallons per day, or 46.5 million pounds per day. That’s a lot!

Comments are closed.