Especially in a state that was not built for earthquakes.
The late-night earthquake on Groundhog Day was a wake-up call, both literally and figuratively. While the damage was minimal, there was a terrifying aspect of the 5.1 magnitude quake that shook the entire state and beyond, which was the fact that it should not be happening here. This is not the first time that earthquakes have been a frightening reality, whether or not they result in damage. Oklahoma does not reside on a fault line that should be generating earthquakes of this caliber.
While the true cause of the earthquake may be hard to determine, there is no denying that a leading cause of a weakening foundation of the state lies in resource stripping, more specifically, the oil and natural gas farming that plays a major part in the state’s economy. In an attempt to produce as much oil as possible, Oklahoma-based companies such as Chesapeake Energy Corp. and Devon Energy Corp. participate in fracking, which is the process of hydraulic fracturing underground to weaken Earth’s crust, resulting in the release of more natural gas and oil within tightly packed rocks. These two companies are not the only ones in the country to frack, but they are the number one and number five companies, respectively, of water use for fracking. Oklahoma is in the top three states that use the most water for fracking, using a total of 33 billion gallons of water between 2011 and 2016.
These numbers correlate with the near 2,000 earthquakes of magnitude 2.7 or more in Oklahoma in 2015, at the supposed height of fracking. Following a 5.8 magnitude earthquake near Pawnee in 2016, wastewater disposal wells in the vicinity were temporarily shut down. State regulators, specifically the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, have since urged a reduction in activity within the region, which has brought the quantity of wastewater being disposed of per day to 10,000 barrels, compared to the 50,000 barrels per day in the 2010s.
However, the surprising earthquake on Feb. 2 was proof that there needs to be even more regulation for fracking and wastewater disposal. Despite the belief that the state is incapable of producing an earthquake with a 6.0 magnitude or greater, authorities should not take this risk for the sake of sucking out all of the natural gas in the country.
There are several alternatives to hydraulic fracking that, although cannot completely supplement the natural gas that the country uses from Oklahoma, could potentially reduce the overall future damage that may occur with continued fracking.
Renewable energy: Solar and wind energy are an easy start to generating power within residential areas to eliminate gas usage from heating and they are clean, sustainable sources.
Renewable natural gas: Although expensive to produce, this is a way to eventually wean off of the nonrenewable natural gas that is a major necessity in the country. If properly supported, not only could this produce gas, but it could reduce landfill and animal waste in farming regions.
Plasma Pulse Technology: Developed in Russia, this technology creates electrical discharges where fracking would normally take place, but it is less destructive, resource-consuming and up to 90% cheaper in some cases while producing just as much oil as a normal fracking job of the same size. As it is a new technology, it has not been tested on larger sites, but smaller tests throughout the world have produced promising results about this major fracking alternative.
Oil and natural gas will be an important asset to humanity until it has all been harvested from the planet. However, major companies can avoid a potential blackout by seeing promise in alternatives as well as eliminating their biases and greed to benefit society. In a country funded by oil money and gas-fueled technology, supporting sustainable alternatives to natural gas and its production is a major step that citizens need to take to create a cleaner planet while we still have it. It should not take another major, man-made earthquake to realize that the danger of our crumbling planet is not just beneath our feet but in factories and companies seeking wealth over sustainability.