The rapid increase in Oklahoma’s seismic activity was very likely caused by humans— specifically the “injection/disposal of water associated with oil and gas production.”
The rapid increase in Oklahoma’s seismic activity was very likely caused by humans— specifically the “injection/disposal of water associated with oil and gas production.”

The rapid increase in Oklahoma’s seismic activity was very likely caused by humans— specifically the “injection/disposal of water associated with oil and gas production.”

The recent earthquakes that devastated Nepal highlight the need to find ways to avoid, or at least minimize, these catastrophes when humanly possible. One particular Oklahoma billionaire, engaged in the very activity that may be causing earthquakes in his own backyard, forcefully begs to disagree. And he’s been trying to use his seemingly unlimited resources to get his way.

Fossil fuel partisans in the Sooner State were rattled late last month when the Oklahoma Geological Survey (OGS) released a statement that the rapid increase in the state’s seismic activity was very likely caused by humans—specifically the “injection/disposal of water associated with oil and gas production.”

One billionaire oilman decided to take action—not about the message but about the messengers. Emails exposed by Bloomberg News reveal that Harold Hamm, the founder and CEO of Continental Resources, one of America’s ten biggest energy independents, asked the dean of the University of Oklahoma’s College of Earth and Energy to fire scientists involved with the OGS report, an official publication of the university.

“Mr. Hamm is very upset at some of the earthquake reporting to the point that he would like to see select OGS staff dismissed,” Dean Larry Grillot wrote to a couple of colleagues.

OU Stood Strong in Light of Overwhelming Evidence

Billionaire Harold Hamm called for the dismissal of university scientists who had the audacity to claim that human activity was to blame for increased seismic activity in the state.

Billionaire Harold Hamm called for the dismissal of university scientists who had the audacity to claim that human activity was to blame for increased seismic activity in the state.

To the university’s credit, none of the scientists were dismissed. One possible reason is that the findings of OGS were simply too unambiguous.

“The seismicity rate in 2013 was 70 times greater than the background seismicity rate observed in Oklahoma prior to 2008,” the OGS statement said. “While unlikely, this rate could have been potentially explained by natural variations in earthquake rates from naturally occurring swarms. The seismicity rate is now about 600 times greater than the background seismicity rate, and is very unlikely the result of a natural process.”

However, the episode is symptomatic of how science is often treated by the rich and powerful. If research goes counter to what benefits them, they either threaten to close purse strings or take even more drastic steps.

Oil Tycoon also Wanted Seat on Search Panel for New OGS Director

In this case, Hamm, who gives a significant amount of money to the university, apparently felt entitled to demand that some scientists be dismissed because their findings did not align with his business interests. The oil tycoon also lobbied to be part of the search committee that would select the new OGS director, saying that he feels strongly that such a panel should “include a representative from the oil and gas industry.”

While Hamm’s effort seems to have come up short, there is no shortage of billionaires who give lots of money to universities and other research institutions that investigate issues of even larger import than the impact of oil production methods on earthquakes in Oklahoma.

How many of them attach strings to their donations in an attempt to alter the outcome of scientific inquiry?

The undisputed masters of bending science in this way are congressional Republicans, who are currently trying to gut NASA earth science programs. These are the same programs that employ scientists who have concluded that climate change is real and manmade—conclusions that  do not sit well with some of the largest GOP donors.

American universities and research facilities are still the envy of  the world, and government-funded science has helped the US retain a top spot in many areas. However, a sustained attempt to stifle science by politicians and billionaires like Hamm, could jeopardize that position in the near future—and worse.

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MR
MR
5 years ago

This is talking about is fracking. What many people don’t realize is that fracking combines multiple chemicals with vast amounts of water to create a crevice in the earth to extract oil and gas. This is where the increased seismic activity comes into play. But it’s actually worse than just Earthquakes.

Water.

What happens to all those chemicals after fracking? Some are evaporated into the air, some run off in the streams, and some are distributed into each area’s aquifer. That means the air you breathe and the water you drink is unsafe.

There’s already a battle between corporations and wealthy families to buy up water rights. Not just lakes and streams, but land atop the major aquifers around the globe. (you don’t think the Bush family bought massive acreage in South America to escape persecution, did you?) It now costs more per gallon to buy water than to buy gasoline, where it was once a free trip to the water fountain. So where’s the sense in intentionally poisoning the water supply by fracking? – especially when the Bakken oil reserve estimates a 2,000 year supply.

Better question. Where’s the federal government, who is supposed to protect American citizens?

empiricist2
empiricist2
6 years ago

Based on the climate change comment, the author is biased. It’s a continual propaganda play on words- climate change is real- of course it is. Manmade- yes- but minimal- 1% maybe? CO2 is (was)not the culprit- temps are declining now. Ozone appears to have caused recent rise. See Dr Lu of Univ of Waterloo paper. Man only causes < 5% of CO2 generated (IPCC). CO2 is minor greenhouse gas. Radiation of heat much more than thought…. It's all a way to generate research spending to keep scientists employed, launch alternative energy etc etc to churn the economy. Another alternative is more wars, financed by taxpayers. We should just be upfront about it all- spend on infrastructure, high speed rail, repair, upgrade, etc. and support our US mfgrs. We will pay tax if it goes into our economy but it all seems to go overseas.

Whyfor
Whyfor
6 years ago
Reply to  empiricist2

empiricist2: I agree with the first part of your comment. I have, however, seen no evidence that “ozone appears to have caused a recent rise”. I’ll look for Dr. Lu’s paper. I haven’t seen evidence of a ‘recent’ rise in over 18 years. I agree with you again until I get to the part about keeping scientists employed and launching alternative energy projects to churn the economy. My take is that the World Controllers (or would-be World Controllers) want scientists to keep churning out papers that support their ‘settled’ science. They don’t want to churn the economy. In fact, the idea is to de-industrialize the developed economies and prevent developing nations from advancing. To keep too many people from objecting to that, they arrange subsidies for ‘renewable’ energies that cannot compete with industry-driving so-called fossil fuels. That creates the illusion of technical progress but does nothing to spur the creation of long-term jobs. State planning and subsidies for make-believe industrial growth cause both taxes and electricity prices to “necessarily sky-rocket” and drive manufacturing to other countries where fossil fuels are widely used. Such manufacturing does not relocate to poor nations where people are crying out for ‘real’ energy – not unreliable wind and solar. It is selective redistribution, a term with which socialists of varying stripes are familiar. More wars are definitely on the agenda. The expense will exhaust America. High speed rail is another invented necessity.

empiricist2
empiricist2
6 years ago
Reply to  Whyfor

I meant the most recent rise. Yes the socialist agenda fits.

disqus_3BrONUAJno
6 years ago

It would be helpful if they would decide if it is the production injection or the disposal injection is the cause of the problem. The news reports I’ve seen indicate it was the latter, which is totally unnecessary to the production process, and by disposing of the water in another way, could stop the seismic activity that it’s injection is causing for no useful reason.

MarxMarvelous
MarxMarvelous
6 years ago

Regular people are arrested for littering, jaywalking, spitting…this guy is literally earning billions by destroying the Earth we live upon, and is able to dictate what science is approved.
Disgusting.

disqus_3BrONUAJno
6 years ago
Reply to  MarxMarvelous

He isn’t making money by destroying the earth. His production techniques are causing tectonic activity which would be likely, eventually, happen anyway. Said activity doesn’t destroy the planet in any way. It causes destruction of human property which would have been destroyed by an earthquake, regardless of the cause. This is like saying that someone who runs over a child who foolishly chases a ball into the street without looking deliberately meant to run over the child, and was responsible for the child’s failure to protect itself. We can’t blame everybody for unintended consequences that were not of our planning without appearing to want to waive our responsibility for our own ineptness.
His ability to attempt to distort the science of the situation is a direct result of his having supported financially those who are doing the science, and they will probably lose his funding, and will probably whine about what they should have foreseen.

Dennis Nilsson
Dennis Nilsson
6 years ago

Are you “Harold Hamm”?

disqus_3BrONUAJno
6 years ago
Reply to  Dennis Nilsson

Nope.

FiuToYou
FiuToYou
6 years ago

Stop this kind of BS. Vote for Bernie Sanders. As for “Mr. Hamm, maybe he needs a ‘vacation’ down in the wetlands of Louisiana. He can go where the blue crab ‘crabbers’ live, with a T-shirt that says OIL BILLIONAIRE across the front. Maybe he could fire some of those people too!

disqus_3BrONUAJno
6 years ago
Reply to  FiuToYou

Voting for Bernie Sanders won’t make a difference unless you send him several large campaign donations as well.

StevieWelles
StevieWelles
6 years ago

I see you’ve run with the false narrative that requires an equation of “staff” = “scientists”. I work in higher ed. Staff is people like me: administrators. Scientists are generally referred to as “faculty” or “students”. Not defending his actions, but it’s possible there was something else he was pissed off about regarding the way something was handled.

Kevin Schmidt
Kevin Schmidt
6 years ago
Reply to  StevieWelles

I see you’ve run with quibbling, which in no way detracts from the facts of the article.

StevieWelles
StevieWelles
6 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Schmidt

What are the facts, exactly? That he wanted some staff fired? How does that equate to attempting to silence university scientists? Look, I’m anti-fracking myself, but I hate being pandered to with over-the-top headlines that tease “facts” out of tenuous interpretations.

Kevin Schmidt
Kevin Schmidt
6 years ago
Reply to  StevieWelles

You’re quibbling, again. You are the one guilty of teasing “tenuous interpretations” out of the “facts.”

StevieWelles
StevieWelles
6 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Schmidt

No substance here. I should expect as much when the general population takes anything they read as gospel truth so long as it comports with their preferred narrative.

Kevin Schmidt
Kevin Schmidt
6 years ago
Reply to  StevieWelles

True. There is no substance there in your comments that comports to your preferred narrative.

StevieWelles
StevieWelles
6 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Schmidt

Actually, all of my comments comport to my preferred narrative. That’s why I wrote them.

Kevin Schmidt
Kevin Schmidt
6 years ago
Reply to  StevieWelles

Thanks for admitting you comport to your preferred false narrative with no basis in reality.

StevieWelles
StevieWelles
6 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Schmidt

Thanks for demonstrating that you’re a mindless zealot with low-grade reading abilities.

Kevin Schmidt
Kevin Schmidt
6 years ago
Reply to  StevieWelles

You continue to project your own low-grade reading abilities.

I’m still waiting for you to prove the article wrong with something other than spurious accusations, quibbling and off topic zealotry.

StevieWelles
StevieWelles
6 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Schmidt

Article claim: oil billionaire attempts to silence university scientists.

Supporting quote: Mr. Hamm is very upset at some of the earthquake reporting to the point that he would like to see select OGS staff dismissed

In higher ed, where I work, scientists are not referred to as staff. Even if they were, and again, they are not, it didn’t actually say scientists. Therefore, the claim is unsupported by the facts as we have them. Is that enough detail for you to cut through the ideological haze? I suspect not.

Kevin Schmidt
Kevin Schmidt
6 years ago
Reply to  StevieWelles

You keep parroting the same quibbling remark. How does an incorrect reference to a person’s title disprove the fact that Hamm wanted faculty dismissed?
Opps! It does not.

What is it about the title, ‘Oil Billionaire Attempts to Silence University Scientists’ don’t you understand? The word “staff” does not appear anywhere in the title. You created a quibbling strawman argument that does not hold up under scrutiny.

StevieWelles
StevieWelles
6 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Schmidt

Good lord are you dense. What bit of evidence supports the claim made in the headline?

Kevin Schmidt
Kevin Schmidt
6 years ago
Reply to  StevieWelles

No, I am not dense. You are projecting your own denseness. At first I thought you were feigning ignorance, but now I know better.
The evidence was in the article. But you continue to quibble over a strawman of your own making. Who cares if the scientists are also called staff, faculty or anything else? The fact is, a billionaire wanted them fired. End of story.

StevieWelles
StevieWelles
6 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Schmidt

How do you know it was the scientists he wanted fired?

Kevin Schmidt
Kevin Schmidt
6 years ago
Reply to  StevieWelles

Because I read the article. Duh!

StevieWelles
StevieWelles
6 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Schmidt

Lol. I’m almost starting to think you’re pulling my leg. Because the author of this article said so? Can you provide something that would be considered evidence that he specifically asked for the scientists to be fired. Evidence in this case, or any case, does not include the opinion of a blogger? The only evidence we have is the email which says: “Mr. Hamm is very upset at some of the earthquake reporting to the point that he would like to see select OGS staff dismissed.” It says nothing about scientists. So what justifies the leap in logic required to assume “staff” in this case means “scientists”?

Kevin Schmidt
Kevin Schmidt
6 years ago
Reply to  StevieWelles

It’s not my fault you can’t stand the truth. The evidence was clearly presented. This is a news article, not a court of law.

StevieWelles
StevieWelles
6 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Schmidt

What truth? What evidence? If you can’t justify the leap in logic, just say so, and I’ll move on to a more worthy endeavor.

disqus_3BrONUAJno
6 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Schmidt

No, the end of the story is the university’s integrity in not bending to his unjustified influence.

johndissed
johndissed
6 years ago
Reply to  StevieWelles

The email does say “staff” but perhaps, if it’s not just a mis-use of the word, the faculty is tenured and the staff is vulnerable. It could still be an act of punishment. Maybe the staff was involved in the study, including the director that is being “replaced.” It all sounds very threatening, however you slice it. Certainly worth reporting on. “Scientist” doesn’t equal “faculty,” either. Some staff are janitorial, clerical. Other staff are research assistants and are invaluable collaborators. The email was linked to in the article as well, so it’s not like anything was deceptive about it.

StevieWelles
StevieWelles
6 years ago
Reply to  johndissed

It’s deceptive to claim that he tried to “silence scientists” by asking for staff to be fired. It imbues actions with an intent that, possibly likely, isnt clear. Words matter. He tried to have staff fired. That’s the truth. Why isn’t that good enough? Exaggeration rules the day.

johndissed
johndissed
6 years ago
Reply to  StevieWelles

Well the first point in the email is:
1. Mr. Hamm is very upset at some of the earthquake reporting to the point that he would like to see select OGS staff dismissed.

StevieWelles
StevieWelles
6 years ago
Reply to  johndissed

Staff, not specifically scientists. Upset with the reporting, not specifically the science. Words matter.

disqus_3BrONUAJno
6 years ago
Reply to  StevieWelles

Exaggeration rules the day, on both sides.

Whyfor
Whyfor
6 years ago
Reply to  johndissed

It is certainly not unheard of for ‘staff’ to put their own twist to the results of research papers and to present a media-friendly alarm where none is found in the actual evidence.

Jonn Mero
Jonn Mero
6 years ago
Reply to  StevieWelles

That argument sounds like a distraction, like any defender of the greedy and dishonest would use. The point is that the turd tried to influence the university for coming up with results of research that countered what he considered his business interests. A new twist on the soviet system, as Lysenko-methods come to mind?

StevieWelles
StevieWelles
6 years ago
Reply to  Jonn Mero

I’m actually arguing in favor of truth instead of rushing to judgment. If the facts aren’t enough, then don’t write the story. But don’t let me get in the way of your billionaire witch-hunt du jour.

fuddled
fuddled
6 years ago
Reply to  StevieWelles

Recently the OUGS finally agrees other geological research groups that the earthquakes are highly likely human caused.
OU President Boren, a Skull and Bones man, is on Hamm’s board of directors.
President Boren met with Hamm just before Hamm meets the geology faculty dean Grillot.
Grillot is on the board of a Pioneer Natural Resources, another oil company.
Grillot tells Hamm that the GS purpose it to provide for the development of oil and gas.
Hamm says to Grillot that he wants staff fired or he’ll get the governor to yank the GS.

Grillot sends a mixed message to the OUGS team.

That is all we know.
Do Boren, Grillot and Hamm all want the OUGS to be an earthquake denying PR firm, or just one or two of them?
Are Boren and Hamm conspiring to fire the dean Grillot, the “select staff”?
Is Grillot setting up Hamm’s company to fall by having it take responsibility for the recent earthquakes, thereby making a gain to Pioneer?

Lots of intrigue in prairie land.

Vixpix1
Vixpix1
6 years ago

As the harmful effects of climate change become more obvious, there will be a barrage of demands by people in the fossil fuel industry, and the politicians who get funding from these people, to suppress the findings of science. Mr. Hamm wants to fire the scientists who showed that the massive increase in Oklahoma earthquakes was caused by fracking. The Republicans in Congress want to slash NASA funding so that the agency will no longer have the money to examine what’s happening on earth (NASA has been one of the most important scientific groups to track global warming), but will only do its research on space. Similarly, the Koch brothers waved millions of dollars under the nose of some school (I think it was Florida State), and they wanted to have influence in the hiring of economics faculty. These malefactors of great wealth, as Teddy Roosevelt called this class of people, already control much of our political system through their now unlimited campaign donations, and they control the media (how many articles do you see on global warming?). They are now trying to buy up one of the few remaining institutions that tells uncomfortable scientific truths about what’s really happening in the world. If we reach the day when money talks and science walks, we will have turned into the Empire of the Star War movies — a ponderous military colossus with nothing to offer the world except violence.

disqus_3BrONUAJno
6 years ago
Reply to  Vixpix1

Some people are so far behind the current science that they continue to call something fossil fuel which is not related to fossils at all, as it turns out.

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