Earth Quakes - Geological and Political

A recent article in the NY Times relates a story in Oklahoma where a fairly recent spate of earth quakes has shaken up more than just a few houses.  It has triggered questions around the possible causes of these geological phenomena and spurred legal actions based on assumptions about those causes.

Once again, the question of correlation vs. causation is ending up in our court system, an institution based on the idea of seeking the truth and the least likely to dig it up when faced with the nature of the question at hand.  That question is: Does fracking have an impact on the geological forces which cause earth quakes?

The question itself is valid, and is much like the question of human impact on climate change.  Both questions have little data to support either of the opposing views.  Both are highly politicized for the same reason:  They each have a significant impact on the most important industry in the US and arguably in the world, that being the energy industry.

Unfortunately, the rush to litigate and politicize the issues will be unlikely to enhance our understanding of the underlying natural systems, and even more unfortunately, will most likely slow the  process of learning enough to answer the questions.  While the forces of industry scramble to discredit any science that might support human impact, the forces of those with mis-guided win-at-all-costs anti-oil will grasp at any psudo-scientific data-straws that might sway public opinion their way.  Thus, true science will be set aside to get to the perceived real issue of who will or won't make money.

An interesting statement made by a lady whose house was damaged in one of the recent quakes and who is suing the energy company that drills in the area:

 “If the truth destroys something,” she said, “then it needs to be destroyed.”

Regardless of which interest the truth supports, that truth will most certainly not be found in a court room, nor in the pages or videos of any news media.  The sad truth is that neither of those institution are capable of finding the truth, and the latter certainly has no vested interest in it being discovered; after all, the truth is not controversial, and does not sell news copy....

One final note about the quote from the lady filing suit:  The truth may destroy, but it is well known to set one free.