Man-made Earthquakes and “Three-Eyed Billy Embraces the Apocalypse” (Mark Fiore Video)

USGSLogoBy Elaine Magliaro

Mark Fiore said that the new frontier in scientific denial is “earthquake denial.” He noted that the burning of fossil fuels has helped to change the atmosphere—and now processes being used to extract oil and gas from the earth are causing earthquakes. Yes, earthquakes! As Fiore said, “this isn’t just some crackpot conspiracy theory designed to undermine the oil industry. The USGS and loads of scientists confirm that the industry practice of injecting oil and gas wastewater deep underground is causing earthquakes.”


Something must be up when Oklahoma now has more earthquakes than California.  Speaking of California, even though we have naturally-occurring earthquakes, the Golden State isn’t immune from the ravages of the oil and gas industry.  (Or the ravages of bumbling regulators, depending on which part of the story you pursue.)  Hundreds of oil wastewater disposal wells have pumped toxic filth into aquifers that had previously been fit for human consumption. 

Three-eyed Billy Embraces the Apocalypse

The Los Angeles Times reported today that the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has unveiled a map of earthquakes thought to be triggered by human activity in eastern and central United States.

Los Angeles Times:

Oklahoma is by far the worst-hit state recently, according to the USGS study released Thursday. The state last year had more earthquakes magnitude 3 or higher than California, part of a huge increase recorded in recent years.

Seismic activity in Texas near the Dallas-Fort Worth area has also increased substantially recently. Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico and Ohio have all experienced more frequent quakes in the last year.

The study reported that all of the areas highlighted on the map “are located near deep fluid injection wells or other industrial activities capable of inducing earthquakes.”

Mark Petersen, chief of the USGS’ National Seismic Hazard Project, said the pattern of increased quakes was troubling. He added, “These earthquakes are occurring at a higher rate than ever before, and pose a much greater risk and threat to people living nearby.”

Los Angeles Times:

The release of the map comes as officials are coming to terms with the idea that wastewater disposal following oil and gas extraction is causing more earthquakes. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves shooting a high-pressure mix of water, sand and chemicals deep underground to extract oil and natural gas. The resulting wastewater is often forced underground as well, but can trigger earthquakes on faults that haven’t moved in a very long time.

Induced Earthquakes (USGS)

Preliminary Findings:

A team of USGS scientists led by Bill Ellsworth analyzed changes in the rate of earthquake occurrence using large USGS databases of earthquakes recorded since 1970. The increase in seismicity has been found to coincide with the injection of wastewater in deep disposal wells in several locations, including Colorado, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Ohio. Much of this wastewater is a byproduct of oil and gas production and is routinely disposed of by injection into wells specifically designed and approved for this purpose.

Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as “fracking,” does not appear to be linked to the increased rate of magnitude 3 and larger earthquakes.

Although wastewater injection has not yet been linked to large earthquakes (M6+), scientists cannot eliminate the possibility. It does appear that wastewater disposal induced the M5.3 Raton Basin, Colorado earthquake in 2011 as well as the M5.6 quake that struck Prague, Oklahoma in 2011, leading to a few injuries and damage to more than a dozen homes.


Three-eyed Billy Embraces the Apocalypse (Mark Fiore)

Induced Earthquakes (USGS)

New Insight on Ground Shaking from Man-Made Earthquakes (USGS)

Incorporating Induced Seismicity in the 2014 United States National Seismic Hazard Model—Results of 2014 Workshop and Sensitivity Studies (USGS)

Man-made earthquakes increasing in central and eastern U.S., study finds (Los Angeles Times)


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32 Responses to Man-made Earthquakes and “Three-Eyed Billy Embraces the Apocalypse” (Mark Fiore Video)

  1. swarthmoremom says:

    I lived through a few of those north Texas earthquakes.

  2. Elaine M. says:

    Oklahoma Lawmakers Vote To Outlaw Fracking Bans As Earthquakes In The State Spike

    Oklahoma’s government is of two minds when it comes to fossil fuel extraction.

    In an especially fractious split, the day after the state’s energy and environment cabinet acknowledged that the “recent rise in earthquakes cannot be entirely attributed to natural causes,” state lawmakers passed two bills to limit the ability of localities to decide if they want to allow fracking and drilling nearby.

    While at least eight bills were filed this session in Oklahoma to prevent cities and counties from banning drilling operations, the two that passed through the House this week are SB 809 and SB 468. SB 809 would allow “reasonable” ordinances related to “road use, traffic, noise and odor,” but would not allow any outright bans — the bill prohibits the direct regulation of oil and gas exploration, drilling, or fracking. SB 468 would make it so that any interference with oil and gas production would be considered a “taking” of property, meaning royalty owners could seek compensation.

  3. Mike Spindell says:

    Oklahoma…….A wholly owned subsidiary of anyone with a lot of money.

  4. Bob Kauten says:

    Can’t they just outlaw earthquakes?
    Outlawing fracking would require a spine, and intelligence.

  5. Bob Kauten says:

    Thanks for the Oklahoma clip, Mike!
    I’d forgotten why I abhor musicals.
    I’ve got some bread in the ice-box.
    All I need is to scoop up some of that cheesy ham. I’ll be all set!
    He looks good without them fingernails, don’t he?

  6. Bob Kauten says:

    “In an especially fractious split…”
    A work of genius.

  7. bigfatmike says:

    “Can’t they just outlaw earthquakes?”

    No. But we can outlaw government employees talking about them. That ought to help.

  8. pete says:

    Almond roasted squirrel. Mmmm

  9. Mike Spindell says:


    That is called Chipmunk Almondine. It a big seller at the French restaurant in Tulsa.

  10. bron98 says:

    I seem to recall a paper where they were trying to induce slippage in fault lines to reduce the magnitude of the quakes. If they could get them to slip at substantially less force, the resulting earthquake would be low enough in magnitude to prevent/minimize property damage and loss of life.

    Oil is found in rock crevices, fractures, sand is used to keep the fractures open during pumping. This has been used since about 1950.

    Here is a pretty good article on the subject:

    Are small earthquakes a problem? Especially if they are causing only minor damage. Maybe these small ones are preventing a larger one from happening?

  11. swarthmoremom says: “Mr. Petersen noted that wastewater disposal and related earthquakes “fluctuate year by year based on economic and policy decisions, which are very difficult to predict.” In fact, the report shows that in places where wastewater injection stopped, earthquake frequency fell to near zero — notably, in central Arkansas since 2011 and in an area north of Denver in the 1970s.

    Predicting risk is also hard, the report noted, because there is no scientific consensus on just how powerful such quakes can be. The report estimated the effects of shocks up to magnitudes 6 and 7, while noting that some scientists have speculated that the catastrophic 7.9-magnitude earthquake in China in 2008 was caused by human activity.

    “I’m not necessarily saying that we’re going to have a 7 in Oklahoma,” Mr. Petersen said. “But I don’t think we can rule that out.”

    Scientists have also posited that human-caused quakes could lead to additional ones on naturally occurring faults nearby.

    The agency’s assessments of naturally occurring earthquake risks are often used to help determine building codes and set insurance rates. Buildings in the middle of the country, unlike those on the West Coast, generally do not have to meet seismic safety standards.”

  12. swarthmoremom says:” “When the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport needed to stop its earthquake spike a few years ago,” Maddow said, “they temporarily shut down the wells that were injecting fracking fluid into the ground at high pressure on the airport property, and lo and behold, those earthquakes stopped.” “

  13. “Are small earthquakes a problem? Especially if they are causing only minor damage. Maybe these small ones are preventing a larger one from happening?”

    This misses the point and illustrates a misunderstanding of the fundamental geology involved. These are earthquakes occurring in otherwise stable areas, i.e. either regions with no major slip-strike or subduction/thrust faults or long dormant fault systems, and not occurring along plate boundaries. The “small earthquakes” would not be happening but for the fracking activity creating instability where there was none before. The phenomenon you’re thinking of happens most often on slip-strike faults where stress builds up until a critical mass is reached and the plates slide along one another. Sometimes smaller quakes in these zone do reduce overall stress along the fault line and can mitigate a larger quake although sometimes the smaller quakes are simply precursors to larger quakes. A lot depends on how the plates are “binding” against each other.

    But even small earthquakes can be a problem. It costs money to rebuild damaged infrastructure and compensate property owners for damage. Those costs should be directly passed along to the oil companies responsible if it is determined that the risk is worth the benefit as these are truly man-made events that but for their actions would be so rarely occurring as natural phenomena as to be unforeseeable (intraplate quakes can happen when energy from a plate boundary quake propagates along exist intraplate faults but often the cause of intraplate quakes like the New Madrid quake are at this time unknown).

  14. bron98 says:


    Texas has a large seismic area, not high probability or magnitude but fault zones. You can see the areas on the map for seismic design in the international building codes.

    And oh by the way, if the fracking is causing property damage, those companies should pay for repair.

  15. bron98 says:

    “It has been 45 years now since the first Earth Day. You would think that in this time frame, given the urgency with which we were told we had to confront the supposed threats to the environment—Harvard biologist George Wald told us, “Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken”—at least one of the big environmental disasters should have come to fruition. Fifteen years ago, an article in Reason took a look at claims like this from the first Earth Day in 1970. The specific quotations have been helpfully excerpted here and have been bounced around a lot on the Internet and on conservative talk radio for the last few days. It is a comical litany of forecasting gone wrong.”

  16. bron98 says:

    from the same article:

    “Here is how the king of the overpopulation hysteria, Stanford University’s Paul Ehrlich, responded: “Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make. The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.””

    I wonder if fracking is just another BS prediction of leftist loonies. It is so hard to believe anything the left says because they lie about almost everything to promote their agendas.

    Is the lying due to inept perception, stupidity or malfeasance?

    • bigfatmike says:

      ” It is so hard to believe anything the left says because they lie about almost everything to promote their agendas. … Is the lying due to inept perception, stupidity or malfeasance?”

      Come on bron98. Isn’t there a difference between lying and inept perception? Isn’t possible they are just stupid and wrong rather than lying?

      Further, I have not read the studies about fracking and earth quakes. But at the headline level it seems the state agencies have some hard data and clear correlations. Doesn’t that put the discussion of fracking in a very different area than Ehrlich’s projections about starvation?

      Finally does it make sense to compare the quality of the projections from a person like Ehrlich with the scientific work of a state agency.

      If a person like Ehrlich makes several wrong predictions we might reasonably take his later predictions with a grain of salt. But why should we use Ehrlich’s reputation to impugn the studies of a state agency. Why would you assume the state agency reflects the view of the left? I have no data but I would bet the staff involved in the studies of fracking and earthquakes reflect a spectrum of political views.

  17. bron98 says:

    from the same article:

    “The ultimate example of this trend is the spectacular death of peak oil, the theory that we would eventually reach a peak in global oil production, after which we would be doomed to make do with an ever-dwindling supply. It’s a theory that has been shattered by the fracking revolution, which revived US oil supplies after decades of decline and promises to do so across the world. The cause was a series of innovations in drilling and extraction that made it possible to access huge new reserves of oil in shale formations, where it could not be tapped before.”

    Whoops, a possible reason for opposing fracking? If you cant lie about the peak, you need to make the reality conform to your world view. There must be a point of peak oil, fracking eliminated it so now fracking is under attack because the perception doesn’t comport with reality.

  18. Elaine M. says:

    bron said: “I wonder if fracking is just another BS prediction of leftist loonies. It is so hard to believe anything the left says because they lie about almost everything to promote their agendas.”

    We all know that the right-wing has no loonies with agendas! Doncha know that it’s a badge of honor among them to be anti-science. After all, the Earth is only about 6,000 years old and evolution is a lie from the pit of hell!

  19. No one is lying about peak oil, B. The estimates of the timing are off, but then again, that’s why things like that are called “forecasts”: per OED “Predict or estimate (a future event or trend)”. Most people have a real problem with the word “estimate”. You’ve dealt with construction people. You should know that is true. An estimate is to “roughly calculate or judge the value, number, quantity, or extent of” X. It is not a number set in stone (pardon the allusion).

    However, there are two good reason for opposing fracking that have nothing to do with peak oil or lies. The first, as mentioned here, is geological instability. The second is that it does terrible things to the water table both through the additives used in the pressurizing process and by the seismic activity compacting water-low aquifers (a process which cannot be reversed, once collapsed, that aquifer is effectively dead).

    Fracking is under attack because it is an extraction process that comes at too high a cost.

    And peak oil is still going to happen.

    Regardless, we need to develop a carbon free energy alternative. Or even better, a technology that sequesters carbon while producing energy . . . an artificial photosynthesis if you will. Say, like this. It is in its infancy, but this breakthrough could lead to carbon sequestering green solar power. An ecological two-fer. That? Is something to be excited about instead of fracking which is something to be distressed about. Carbon is still main problem with fossil fuels, regardless of their source or their quantity.

    Then again, you don’t think AGW is real despite the overwhelming scientific consensus that it is quite real.

  20. bron98 says:

    And peak oil is still going to happen.

    And you know that with certainty? of course it is finite here on earth but the question is how much is available. The other question is the origination of oil. is it former living organisms or is there also another source? maybe there is a band of methane deep within the earth from the time of the formation of the earth. maybe it migrates to the surface and becomes oil along the way.

    you just don’t know do you? you don’t know when peak oil will happen. I am all for other forms of energy but if you would leave the market alone we would have probably had it by now. but no, you guys had to go and take over utilities.

    look at what has happened in a basically unregulated environment, the internet, all manner of fantastic things. the same would happen in every area of human endeavor if the regulatory environment were different.

    But no we cant have too many people doing well, that would ruin our will to power over others.

  21. bron98 says:

    No wonder all of these environmental hysterias seem to begin with the phrase, “if current trends continue.” But current trends don’t continue. Global temperatures go down, then up, then stay flat. Population growth tapers off, while agricultural yields increase at even higher rates. We don’t just sit around using up our currently available oil reserves; we go out and find new reserves of oil and new ways to extract it.

    And that’s the real issue. The environmental doomsayers don’t just extrapolate blindly from current trends. They extrapolate only from the trends that fit their apocalyptic vision while ignoring trends that don’t fit. They project forward the current rate at which we’re using up our resources, but ignore the history of our ability to innovate and create. They get all excited by 20 years of rising temperature or rising oil prices—but ignore two centuries of rising wealth and longevity.

    It’s almost as if they started with a preconceived conclusion and cast about for evidence to support it.

  22. bron98 says:

    When men fail as entirely as they have—well, I’m not going to ask them to fall on their swords. But we might ask them to understand why, when they assure us their newest doomsday predictions are really, really true this time, we’re not inclined to believe a single word they say.

  23. “It’s almost as if they started with a preconceived conclusion and cast about for evidence to support it.”

    The irony is delicious, but that isn’t how science works. This misconception on your part though comes as no surprise considering you regularly get the order of operation of the scientific method backwards (observation informs theory, theory does not inform observation). You do the same thing with your armchair sociology. You start with the conclusions of Objectivism and then project them onto the world instead of observing the world and forming conclusions based in your own reason and common sense. It is, of course, easier to let others tell you what to think than to think for yourself and thinking for yourself frees you from the ideological dogmatism of others.

    That’s one reason I keep telling you Rand is bad for your brain. Another is that Objectivism is nearly perfect in its immorality. A third is that it is based upon false premises.

  24. bron98 says:


    I never said I was a sociologist, armchair philosopher maybe.

  25. Sociology is both the theoretical, observational and applied science side of the philosophy as liberal arts coin in much the same way that law is, B. Law is more than just theory, but integrates history and sociology and psychology in the form of jurisprudence to operate as an applied social science. They are all forms of social engineering in some ways; frameworks for understanding human interaction with each other and the universe at large.

  26. Also, in re peak oil (I just freed that comment from the filter), the exact date isn’t important as the “deep time” geological time. Because even in those terms, the peak is coming soon. There is also the issue of existing versus extractable under a cost/benefit analysis. As for where oil comes from? That whole “oil is spontaneously created” argument is made by people with 1) a vested interest in the petroleum business and 2) an idiot’s understanding of chemistry.

    And all of this still doesn’t address the atmospheric carbon issue. We could have oil growing on trees and unless we find a carbon free (or at least carbon neutral) energy solution, we are still going to break the sky and the water if we keep pumping carbon previously trapped in lithospheric liquids and solids into the air. Carbon retains heat. That is its nature. Carbon dioxide acidifies water. That is its nature. So keep heating up the atmosphere and acidifying the oceans and see how well that works out.

    The next mass extinction might very well be man made (unless a comet or asteroid or massive vulcanism or a virus gets us first).

  27. bron98 says:


    I have no financial interest in any type of oil. How do you know I am an idiot in chemistry? I did well in it in high school and college. In fact engineers had to take the hard course and I took 2 semesters. Granted I haven’t kept up with the current state of the art so I do admit ignorance as to new breakthroughs but I am betting a mole is still a mole, Avogadro’s number is still 6.02×10^23, pv=nrt and H2O is still the symbol for water. Among many other things which are long forgotten such as molecular weights of the various elements. I also have taken thermodynamics, so I have more than the average person’s understanding of chemistry. I also got high marks in thermo, I am pretty sure I was the curve setter in that class.

    So I don’t think I have an idiots understanding of chemistry, although I do plead ignorance as to the current state of the science.

    Two books speculate (convincingly in my opinion) on the presence of a realm of bacterial life in the Earth’s crust down to a depth of about 10 kilometers, that feed on oil which is also present there in massive quantities. It is proposed that Peak Oil is a myth, based on conventional wisdom in the West that petroleum (crude oil) is the product of effectively “cooking” plant and animal remains over millennia, when really it is produced all the time by geochemical processes within the deep-earth and upwells continually, percolating through the pores present in rocks to collect in deposits closer to the surface. Natural gas too is proposed to originate in vast volumes from such inner-planetary processes, and for example the existence of methane-hydrates in large areas of sediments under the oceans and on land, under permafrost it is suggested is a consequence of “capping” the gas in and under ice-layers.

    The books are: “The Deep Hot Biosphere” by Thomas Gold (DHB) and “Jagged Environment” by Chris James (JE). DHB proposes very many convincing scientific arguments, supported by observations while JE expresses through its own conclusions an Earth-centred human philosophy.

  28. I wasn’t talking about you in specific, B., but your arguments there are derivative. I’ve looked at them before. The Abiogenic origin of oil theory is contradicted by the geochemisty observed in nature. Wiki has a nice summary of the chemical arguments against here.

  29. And regardless of the fungible versus sustainable nature of the resource, that still doesn’t change the free atmospheric carbon issue.

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