Is Fracking Causing the Oklahoma Earthquakes?
I saw a few posts on Facebook about the unusual number of earthquakes taking place in Oklahoma. After researching Oklahoma earthquakes online, I found that there are hundreds of recorded earthquakes which are being attributed to the oil and gas industry and “hydraulic fracturing” (fracking).
Most of the earthquakes are taking place in the same region and are unnoticeable except by seismological detection devices. Even so, it’s important to find out why.
If fracking is the culprit in Oklahoma, then why are “regions that are hotbeds of fracking activity, such as North Dakota,” not “experiencing Oklahoma’s seismic spike”?
Could it be that fracking is not the culprit?
Post hoc, ergo propter hoc. “After this, therefore because of this.” Just because an event or series of events occur after another event or series of events does not mean the one is the cause of the other.
- The rooster crows before sunrise, therefore the crowing rooster causes the sun to rise.
- A baseball player wears his “lucky socks” for every game because the first time he wore them he got three hits.
- If the president hadn’t told the “funny hat” joke, he wouldn’t have lost Texas in the election.
The following is from an episode of the The West Wing (“Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc“):
In effect, there could be another cause for what Oklahoma is experiencing, and it may have little to do with fracking as the following article excerpt points out:
“One researcher, a Tulsa geologist, is now suggesting something else may be at work — the weather and aquifers.
“‘Where these quakes have occurred,’ explained Jean Antonides, ‘they all have occurred around these aquifers.’
“Aquifers are essentially underground reservoirs — a body of permeable rock, through which water can pass easily. There are many in Oklahoma, and the amount of water they contain can be affected by both weather and human activity.
“Antonides says his research shows that aquifers near the location of certain earthquakes had been depleted, through both drought and increased human demand, and then suddenly refilled, through intense and heavy rains.
“‘When you have rainfall amounts of six inches over a few day period,’ Antonides pointed out, ‘these rainfalls cover a thousand square miles — that’s a lot of weight.’
“That much new weight – potentially trillions of tons — if it’s along or across a fault, can be enough to cause an earthquake.
“‘If you change the weight, relative near surface, across that fault — either reducing the weight on one side, loading up the other side or vice versa,’ Antonides explained, ‘that could be the trigger point.’
“Antonides’ paper lays out evidence that this hydrologic loading could have triggered, not only the Prague earthquake, but last April’s 4.3 magnitude quake in Luther, a 5.8 M quake in Virginia in 2011, and others. University of Oklahoma research seismologist Austin Holland says he may be right.”
At this point, no one really knows. The knee-jerk reaction is to blame it on the oil and gas industry. “‘The key is putting everything out there, and looking at all the possibilities,’ Antonides insisted.”