Does fracking cause earthquakes? No. Windmills do.
Liberals look to the reports of increased earthquake activity and add it to their list of reasons why they hate fracking. Hold on there! I wouldn’t be so quick to blame fracking. In every place where earthquakes are on the rise, we see an increase in the construction of windmills.
Take, for example, this story by the Enid News about earthquakes in Oklahoma. It cites a U.S. Geological Survey that reports over 549 earthquakes greater than 3.0 magnitude in 2014. This is a drastic rise compared to 2013, when there were 109, and in 2012 when there were 39. This large, sudden rise demands we investigate windmills.
Instead, according to the Enid News, the USGS is investigating if injection wells associated with fracking are responsible for earthquakes.
What are injection wells? You may not be aware of this because I wasn’t until I began working in the oilfield, but oil wells actually produce more water than oil. The oil from a well goes to the refinery, but the produced water is pumped back deep underground at a place called an injection well. (And is transported to the injection well by Peterbilts.)
This distinction between an injection well and the fracking process itself doesn’t matter to a liberal who is determined to hate fracking. He just looks at this chart of earthquakes in Oklahoma and sees a sudden rise beginning in 2009. His conclusion: fracking is to blame.
Am I unfairly caricaturizing liberals? Judge for yourself.
On July 31, NPR.org posted a headline that read, Is Fracking to Blame for Increase in Quakes in Oklahoma? On August 8, the Atlantic focused on fracking in its article Man-made Earthquakes are Changing the Seismic Landscape. MSNBC concluded in its headline on July 8, New study links Oklahoma earthquakes to fracking. The New Republic, however, exercized caution, using the word possibly when it published, Oklahoma Earthquakes Possibly Caused by Fracking.
Yes, these liberal news sites do mention the theory that it’s actually injection wells and not fracking. But the angle taken by the editors stokes their liberal readers’ frenzied hatred toward fracking. However, if the injection well theory is true, banning fracking is not necessary. Modifying the injection well disposal process alone could calm the earthquake epidemic – ifit’s true that injection wells cause the earthquakes.
The culpability of injection wells (and therefore fracking) comes into doubt when you consider two facts. First, the distribution of earthquakes does not correlate to the distribution of water injection wells. And second, the sudden rise in earthquakes did not begin until 2009.
Even the Atlantic in their fracking hit-piece struggles explaining the geography of the earthquakes. Speaking with Robert Williams, a geophysicist with the USGS, Adrienne LaFrance writes:
Why does fracking seem to be linked to an uptick in earthquakes in some places but not in others? “We don’t know exactly why,” Williams said. (Some of the other states where seismic activity is on the rise: Arkansas, Texas, and to a lesser extent, Ohio and Colorado.) “There are a lot of questions yet to be answered. But a key point: There are thousands of wastewater wells across Oklahoma and we’re seeing this concentration [of earthquakes] incentral Oklahoma.”
I’ll do him one better. There are thousands of injection wells all across the United States of America. Anywhere there is an oil well there is an injection well nearby. You cannot operate an oil well without an injection well because the water comes out of the ground at a ratio of 10 barrels to every one barrel of oil. Since this water is actually heavy salt water, you can’t dispose of it by dumping it on the ground. It must be injected beneath an impenetrable rock layer so it doesn’t pollute drinkable water aquifers.
So that means that if injection wells necessarily caused devastating earthquake epidemics, there would be earthquakes in every oil-producing state since Spindletop. Most importantly, it also means any oil production will lead to earthquakes regardless of whether fracking was used to stimulate the wells.
So again, why 2009 and why central Oklahoma?
Can we blame windmills?
The construction of windmill farms in Oklahoma correlates much better to the sudden upward trend of earthquakes. Remember the key year is 2009. That was long after fracking had already achieved widespread implementation. But it was just on the cusp of a massive uptick in windmill farm construction.
The windmill boom began in Oklahoma in 2003 with the construction of Oklahoma Wind Energy Center in Harper County, with a rated capacity of 102 Megawatts. According toinformation published by the Kansas Energy Information, between 2003 and 2008, Oklahoma allowed construction of 6 more bird-killing machines that together have a rated capacity of 706 MW. I say “rated” because who’s kidding who, windmills don’t produce energy like their proponents promise.
But then in 2009, things took a turn for the worse. Large truck convoys pulling loads too big for residential roads clogged Sooner state highways. Eerie metal monstrosities appeared everywhere on the horizon. Their looming stature, lethargic rotating, and sub-sonic droning caused unsettling feeling in people living nearby. Soon livestock were birthing defective offspring. Rumors swirled that the magnetic fields of these windmills next to the ranch were to blame.
Yes, 2009 was a big year. Oklahoma saw four massive windfarms come online. Each of these four were rated to put out between 99 and 127 MW. Compare that to the the previous six years which saw only seven windmill farms built.
Collectively, Oklahoma’s 11 windmill power plants totaled 1128 MW of electrical power. That’s a lot, right? 1128 MEGA WATTS!
All of these windmills turn wind energy into electrical energy, measured in mega watts. 1128 Mega Watts sounds great to a liberal who didn’t do so well in physics class. There’s one big factor he left out of the equation. The clue is in the following passage I found at an online science tutor, physicsclassroom.com, discussing energy:
A common scene in some parts of the countryside is a “wind farm.” High-speed winds are used to do work on the blades of a turbine at the so-called wind farm. The mechanical energy of the moving air gives the air particles the ability to apply a force and cause a displacement of the blades. As the blades spin, their energy is subsequently converted into electrical energy (a non-mechanical form of energy) and supplied to homes and industries in order to run electrical appliances.
The wind applies force to the windmills. Enough force to generate 1128 megawatts. But do the windmills fall over when the wind blows on them? No. So that means that even though some of the wind energy is turned into electrical energy, something else is applying enough force in the opposite direction of the wind to keep the windmills erect. What is that thing? I’ll give you a clue. It’s what the windmills are anchored into: the ground.
The ground keeps the windmills standing up in the fierce winds that whip up in the Oklahoma plains. Yet, as rugged as we think the ground is, it is actually just broken pieces of the earth’s crust floating on currents of magma. So besides turning wind energy into electrical energy, windmills transfer wind energy into kinetic energy by doing work on the tectonic plate. The plate therefore moves in the same direction as the prevailing wind.
Since some of you may be English majors, let me ask you this: Have you ever seen a hoovercraft on the ocean? Have you ever seen a fan boat on the bayou? These boats float on the water and are propelled by a giant fan. What I’m saying is that windmills turn the ground they are on into a giant hoovercraft.
You know the major cause of earthquakes, right? It’s when one of the earth’s tectonic plates crashes into another? Well what do you think happens when you build a ton of windmills in western Oklahoma and the whole ground crashes into eastern Oklahoma? You get tons of earthquakes in Central Oklahoma!
The windmill boom where it literally booms
Remember that 2009 was the year when the windmill building boom just took off. (Together with magnitude 3.0 earthquakes.) In the several years after, Oklahoma kept building many more farms. In 2012 alone, they built 10. One of those, the Canadian Hills Wind Farm, keeps 135 turbines in operation with a total capacity of 295 MW. By the end of 2012, there were 26 wind farms online with a projected capacity of 3.175 Gigawatts.
Say this in a Dr. Emmet Brown voice, “3.175 Gigawatts! Marty, you can’t just go building windmills and get 3.175 gigawatts.”
If we take the USGS chart of the magnitude 3.0 earthquakes in Oklahoma, and add to it the collective capacity of windfarms by year, we see a trend that shows a proportional correlation.
The time for action is now! Windmills cause earthquakes. You still don’t believe me? Well too bad. We’re shutting down all windmill construction until you can prove otherwise.