Friday, April 6, 2012

Feeling The Earth Move And Not In A Good Way

I lived in Dickinson, North Dakota in the early 1980s and saw enough to convince me that oil booms are far from an unmitigated good.  The natural gas flaring and reserve pit trenching, common practices in the area at that time, cost both the state and individual landowners.

Now, far removed from the effects of the boom, I find this bit of news disconcerting.
A U.S. Geological Survey research team has linked oil and natural gas drilling operations to a series of recent earthquakes from Alabama to the Northern Rockies.
According to the study led by USGS geophysicist William Ellsworth, the spike in earthquakes since 2001 near oil and gas extraction operations is “almost certainly man-made.” The research team cites underground injection of drilling wastewater as a possible cause.
Humans cannot create energy without adverse consequences.  Windmills endanger migratory birds; nuclear waste never goes away; coal pollutes the air.  Ethanol production probably helped eliminate many smaller family farms; now, the public learns that oil drilling dramatically increases the risks of earthquakes.
“The study found that the frequency of earthquakes started rising in 2001 across a broad swath of the country between Alabama and Montana. In 2009, there were 50 earthquakes greater than magnitude-3.0, the abstract states, then 87 quakes in 2010. The 134 earthquakes in the zone last year is a sixfold increase over 20th century levels. [italics in original]
I suspect that environmentalists and alternative energy supporters will embrace the findings.  The "Drill Baby Drill" crowd will scream that depending on foreign oil and the specter of $5 gallon gas justify risk.

I wish that these findings would start a serious discussion about energy policy, but I doubt this news will change anything.  The fact that earthquakes or the risk of earthquakes won't change the discussion  implies that Americans need to make a seismic shift in their relationships with both the environment and each other.

No comments: