Media Narrative Wrongly Ties Oklahoma Earthquakes To Fracking

(REUTERS/Luke MacGregor)

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Media outlets linked a swarm of earthquakes in Oklahoma to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, over the weekend, which contradicts government research and relies on undisclosed sources.

Reuters’ Sunday article, which was picked up by Yahoo News, for example, claims “[t]wo large earthquakes were recorded in northwest Oklahoma on Wednesday, including a magnitude 4.8 quake” before going on to tie the quakes to fracking.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS), the federal government’s geological research agency, does not list the 4.8 or the 4.4 earthquakes as caused by fracking. Additionally, the USGS website states “[h]ydraulic fracturing, commonly known as ‘fracking’, does not appear to be linked to the increased rate of magnitude 3 and larger earthquakes.”

The use of the term “large” is also misleading. Earthquakes are measured on a logarithmic scale, and the difference between whole numbers on the scale is massive. A quake with a magnitude of 9.0 devastated Japan in 2011, while a 3.0 quake generally cannot be felt. An earthquake that measures 3.0 on the Richter scale releases 31 times the energy of a 2.0 quake and has a shaking amplitude 10 times smaller than that of a 3.0 quake.

The Reuters article then goes on to quote a Democrat in the state legislature, who uses the issue to bash Oklahoma’s Republican leaders.

Another example of false links betweens earthquakes and fracking is an ABC News segment that aired Thursday and claimed “experts continue to say the increase in quakes could very well be linked to fracking in that region.”

When The Daily Caller News Foundation contacted ABC News to identify the “experts,” ABC refused saying, “We don’t have the specifics on that.”

ABC News correctly stated that the earthquakes did not cause any deaths or injuries.

Fracking-earthquake myths told by environmentalists and media outlets are so widespread that the USGS actually maintains a “Myths and Misconceptions” section of its website to debunk them.

Dr. Matthew Hornback, a professor of geophysics at Southern Methodist University, told Texas lawmakers in May, “[w]e’re not talking at all about fracking. In fact, it’s been driving us crazy, frankly, that people keep using it in the press,” when asked if fracking causes significant earthquakes.

This is not a new phenomenon. In October, Bloomberg News ran an article claiming Oklahoma earthquakes were threatening America’s oil supply and therefore a threat to national security. However, as shown by The DCNF, the quakes aren’t powerful enough to do damage, aren’t caused by fracking and aren’t causing concerns for national security.

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