Earthquakes have now become a daily occurrence in Oklahoma and other Midwest states. In the past, a baseline incidence of quakes was two or so a year. Now, the region is experiencing over 500 a year, according to official seismological records. So far, there hasn’t been “a big one”. Most of the quakes have registered around 3 to 5 on the Richter Scale. But it seems only a matter of time before the Earth lashes back with deadly force.
A report this week in the Washington Post tells of widespread
structural damage and personal injuries from the “swarm of earthquakes”
that residents in Oklahoma are having to endure. With trepidation,
ordinary people are fearing that a final calamity is crescendoing.
“The earthquakes come nearly every day now, cracking drywall, popping
floor tiles and rattling kitchen cabinets. On Monday, three quakes hit
this historic land-rush town [Guthrie] in 24 hours, booming and rumbling
like the end of the world,” reports Lori Montgomery for the Post.
“After a while, you can’t even tell what’s a pre-shock or an
after-shock. The ground just keeps moving,” says one resident. “People
are so frustrated and scared.”
The oil and gas industry will, of course, deny any link between the
new geological phenomenon and its increased drilling activity. But
self-serving capitalists are hardly a reliable source. They claim that
the surge in seismological tremors across America’s Midwest is just part
of a “natural cycle” of more frequent quakes. That’s not much comfort
to millions of people living in dense cities and towns, with their homes
mortgaged to the hilt, or their workplaces nestled in high-rise
No matter what the industry capitalists and their bribed politicians
may say, there seems little doubt that the Earth is quaking from the
so-called enhanced recovery techniques of hydraulic fracturing. This is
where chemical fluids are injected under extremely high pressure into
subterranean wells to break up shale rock layers and release untapped
reserves of natural gas or oil.
The injection-wells can penetrate the earth to a depth of 10,000 ft
(3 kilometers) and the high-pressure fracking fluid contains hundreds of
organic chemicals to punch out the raw fuel from the rock fissures.
Hydrocarbons and profits may be gushing anew for the American industry,
but it is humans and the environment that are subsidizing the system by
bearing the huge costs of collateral damage.
Fracking has become the new El Dorado for the oil and gas industry,
promising lucrative profits and a revival of flagging economies. The US
is a world leader in the practice, where rejuvenation of the oil and gas
industry is touted as the savior of a stagnant capitalist economy and
as a strategic lever for American global power.
The crisis in Ukraine, for example, is very much predicated on
American ambitions to displace Russia as the main energy supplier to
Europe. Fracking is thus the holy grail for Washington’s global
But as with many best-laid plans, there is a snag. Actually, several
potentially fatal snags. Not only is the proliferation of hydraulic
fracturing in the US unleashing seismological spasms; the industrial
activity is creating massive contamination of groundwater. Fracking
fluid can contain up to 600 chemicals, such as mercury and ethylene
glycol, some of which are known carcinogens.
Millions of barrels of chemical fluid have to be pumped into the
Earth in order to retrieve the same number of barrels of gas or oil
equivalent. These chemicals are seeping into freshwater aquifers and
thence into drinking-water infrastructure. Also, the natural methane gas
released from the fracking process is not always recovered by the
industry. Instead, it finds its way into unintended fissures and
eventually home water supplies, to the point where some households in
America’s Midwest can now ignite water coming out of their kitchen taps.
There are now reckoned to be 500,000 of these injection-wells
operating across the US, mainly in the Midwest states of Oklahoma,
Texas, Ohio and Arkansas. So far, the oil and gas industry has enjoyed a
boom in profits and stock market exuberance; and certainly several
states have gained revenues and jobs as a result. But the steep human
and environmental costs are looming, and, increasingly, are no longer
hidden. Millions of people living in quaking homes and offices is a
harbinger of even bigger “costs.”
That’s capitalism for you. The pursuit of private financial profit is
the only objective that over-rules all other considerations. Poisoning
water and people, destroying the Earth and natural ecosystems are all
irrelevant where capitalism is concerned. Profit is the only
decision-maker, no matter how absurd, unjust or calamitous.
The state of Oklahoma was reportedly hit with over 550 quakes in the
past year. In the 1930s, the red-dirt state was clobbered with another
ecological crisis, known as the “dust bowl era.” Millions of families
were uprooted, dispossessed and displaced because new intensive farming
practices in preceding years had ruined the soil structure, making it
blow away in huge waves of dust. Farms were shuttered by banks
foreclosing on bankrupt families. Industrial agriculture and the
reckless pursuit of capitalist profit was the primary cause of the Dust
In his classic novel, The Grapes of Wrath (1939), John
Steinbeck wrote about the anguish and suffering of the droves of people
from Oklahoma and other Midwest states, who during the Great Depression
had to migrate to California to eke out a living as farm laborers. They
endured heartrending poverty, sickness, hunger, death, and brutality
from truncheon-wielding cops along the way.
Eight decades on, America still hasn’t learnt anything. Capitalism is
killing the Earth and its people, again and again. How many calamities
must be endured under this barbaric, irrational system? When will we
finish with it, before it finishes us?
And it’s not just about oil and gas, or agriculture. Capitalism
mandates imperialism, which in turn mandates conflict and war. Anyone
must see that America’s collision course with Russia over the trumped-up
Ukraine crisis is a direct function of US imperialism and its European
vassals. Ultimately, this capitalist logic, unchecked, could lead to
nuclear war, just as American imperialist-capitalist logic was behind
the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
Part of the reason for subjugating Eastern Ukraine is to make way for
oil and gas fracking in Novorossiya by the company Burisma, whose
executive board members include Hunter Biden, son of Joe Biden, the US
So there you have the complete circle. Killing people at home and
around the world, and all for the making of tacky bits of paper called
dollars. Surely human beings can do better than that.
by Finian Cunningham from here