Dear God, is Oil a Blessing or a Curse?

Originally published on

By calling on Oklahomans to pray for oil, Governor Mary Fallin has stretched the limits of my patience and perhaps a little bit of my better judgment. Governor Fallin would have us all believe that it’s been a really tough year for the oil industry.

In fact, it’s been so bad that she sat herself down and drew up a pretty state proclamation mandating a day asking people to “seek His wisdom and ask for protection” for Oklahoma’s oil and gas industry.

Revisit the BP oil spill, 5 years later by CNN youtube screenshot
Image from CNN YouTube video, “Revisit the BP oil spill, 5 years later” (screenshot)

Unphased by the incredible ignorance of this clearly unconstitutional fusion of church and state matters, Fallin responded to the initial public backlash by amending her proclamation to include all faiths, not just Christians, as the original version mandated. Her reply? “I think prayer is always a good thing, for anyone.”

I have no doubt about the truth of that statement. Certainly, prayer is good for anyone. However, I also agree with Bruce Prescott, a retired Norman, Oklahoma minister who said recently, “it’s not the governor’s responsibility to call anyone to prayer.”

Prescott is particularly well-known in Oklahoma as the man who successfully sued to have a Ten Commandments monument removed from the Oklahoma Capitol grounds in 2015. Referring to the Oilfield Day of Prayer Proclamation, Prescott said, “That’s a minister’s responsibility.”

Prescott added, “Another thing that’s an irritant on that one — there are a lot of things that could be prayed about in this state, and the oil field is not at the top of that list.”

Dear God: Is Oil a Blessing or a Curse?

How does one even begin to pray for oil? If we take Fallin seriously (sort of), we should “ask for protection” — Is the protection for oil? or from oil? Hmmm, let’s follow Fallin’s advice and “seek His wisdom.” Okay… Dear Friends, Let us pray… “Dear God: Is oil a blessing or a curse?”

Ok, so we didn’t get a really quick answer. This is, after all, a rather murky subject. Like all impatient seekers of God’s wisdom, I turned to Google for some more guidance, asking what God says about oil. I learned that, in the Jewish and Christian Old Testament, the most common word for “oil” is the Hebrew word shemen, occurring 192 times, and “in the large majority of those cases it refers to ‘olive oil’.”

In the Christian New Testament, the Greek word corresponding to the Hebrew shemen, or “oil,” is elaion, occurring “eleven times and refers exclusively to ‘olive oil’.” Islam’s Holy Qur’an also confirms that the use of the word zayt for “oil” refers to “olive oil”.

Fallin, on the other hand, is clearly referring to “petroleum,” that “naturally occurring, yellow-to-black liquid found in geological formations beneath the Earth’s surface, which is commonly refined into various types of fuels.”

Credit: Wikipedia Commons
Credit: Wikipedia Commons

Let’s Take a Long Look at Petroleum

Within the span of a mere 150 years, oil, more formally known as petroleum, has insidiously infiltrated every aspect of human civilization. It is toxic to nearly all forms of life on Earth and yet we are now dependent upon it as an essential component of nearly all forms of economic livelihood.

Transportation, heating, and the whole, pervasive plastics industry shoulder the bigger burdens of guilt for the terrible environmental impacts that petroleum is causing on Earth. Scientists and governmental bodies all over the world are now certain that human-related burning of fossil fuels such as coal and petroleum products are responsible for significant climate changes that have led to global warming.

There are a wide variety of dangers to health and life stemming from petroleum products, none of which we should be asked to pray for, and a few of which include:

• Birth Defects and Cancer – Crude oil and petroleum distillates are highly toxic and have been proven to be both carcinogenic and related to birth defects.

• Air Pollution – Compounds such as carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide, methanol, and fine particulates of soot enter the air when fossil fuels such as oil and petroleum products are burned. These compounds cause lung and heart diseases, as well as trap the heat in Earth’s atmosphere, causing extreme climate changes from global warming. Equally problematic are volatile organic compounds (VOCs), emitted from petroleum products, like benzene and other vapors. Benzene is extremely toxic and is known to cause cancer and DNA damage. VOCs from petroleum products are dangerously explosive and can cause severe respiratory troubles if they are inhaled.

• Acid Rain – Burning petroleum generates high temperatures in the air, heating nitrogen gas and generating nitrous oxides. Together with sulfur dioxide from sulfur in the oil, nitrous oxides combine with hydrogen in the atmosphere, resulting in acid rain. Acid rain is responsible for killing trees, acidifying bodies of water, killing fish and coral reefs in those bodies, and contributes to  faster corrosion of machinery, bridges, and important historic monuments.

• Oil Spills – Another lethal form of pollution, oil spills negatively impact both land and water, as well as all lifeforms present in the area of the spill. Cleanup and recovery of an oil spill can be incredibly difficult, depending on a wide variety of factors, such as air and/or water temperatures, type of oil, type of terrain, shoreline, or body of water affected. Larger spills can take many years to fully recover from, such as the terrible Deep Water Horizon spill of 2010.


Oklahoma is No Stranger to Oil Spills

As a major producer of oil and natural gas, Oklahoma is no stranger to oil spills, either. In fact, 3,793 oil spills were reported in Oklahoma between 2009-2012, according to StateImpact and EnergyWire. More spills were reported in Oklahoma than even in Texas, the leading oil and gas producer in the US.

Although North Dakota topped the list, EnergyWire points out that companies in that state have to report every spill of one barrel of oil or more. In Texas, spills of 5 barrels or more must be reported, and in Oklahoma, only spills over ten barrels are required to be reported.

Credit: Energywire, based on public data
Credit: Energywire, based on public data

Praying for More Global Warming is Flabbergasting

So many aspects of Fallin’s plea for folks to pray for oil are so farcical it’s downright flabbergasting. Asking people to pray for more global warming is spectacularly stupid. Asking people to believe there’s no such thing as climate change is not only dumbfounding, it’s a farce that even Exxon is no longer subscribing to.

Revealed recently in the Guardian, as early as 45 years ago, the oil industry knew that climate change was coming and that they were primarily responsible. In 1968, the Stanford Research Institute presented a report to the American Petroleum Institute (API) warning that CO2 released from burning fossil fuels could lead to “worldwide environmental changes.”

The 1968 Stanford report, republished by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), states, “Significant temperature changes are almost certain to occur by the year 2000 and these could bring about climatic change.” The report continues, “If the Earth’s temperature increases significantly, a number of events might be expected to occur including the melting of the Antarctic ice cap, a rise in sea levels, warming of the oceans and an increase in photosynthesis.”

“It is clear,” the report concludes damningly, “that we are unsure as to what our long-lived pollutants are doing to our environment; however, there seems to be no doubt that the potential damage to our environment could be severe.

Launching a “well-oiled” (sorry ;^p) propaganda campaign over the following decades, the science of climate change and global warming has been constantly under attack in the mainstream media. As early as 1981, ExxonMobil, the largest oil company in the world knew about climate change and spent millions to promote mainstream climate denial.

The Guardian reports, “Exxon had a dedicated in-house team that established the connection between fossil fuels and climate change, but the company still spent years refusing to acknowledge the issue and funding climate denial activities.”

Although Gov. Mary Fallin doesn’t seem to have gotten that tweet, Exxon now accepts climate science, and is no longer actively promoting denial of fossil fuel’s negative environmental impacts.

However, with nearly half a million dollars in contributions from the energy and natural resources industry recorded in Gov. Fallin’s campaign finances, it comes as no surprise that she’s still denying climate change. An active antagonist in Donald Trump’s camp of climate ignoramuses, Fallin explains Oklahoma’s uptick in severe droughts as “just nature itself and the patterns that flow.”

Hailing infamous climate denier Sen. Inhofe (R-OK) as a “voice of logic on climate change,” Fallin has likewise sided with Ohio’s Bill Johnson against the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

Fallin has even signed an executive order which states that Oklahoma will refuse to comply with the EPA’s rules for carbon reduction.

That is, if Alabama’s State Prayer Request to block the EPA carbon rules goes unanswered…

Manipulating People to Pray for the Rich is Downright Disgusting

Finally, manipulating people to pray for the rich is deplorable and downright disgusting. Crying big crocodile tears, Gov. Mary Fallin would have us all believe that the great state of Oklahoma is going bankrupt due to the misfortunate downturn in oil prices.

“There are many people suffering right now who have lost their jobs in the energy sector,” grieves Gov. Fallin, “…there are a lot of families who have been hurt, and I think prayer is always a good thing, for anyone.” This is the pathetic “pious” pandering of a pathological liar.

Credit: SCRF
Credit: SCRF

The True State of Oil and Gas in Oklahoma

The Oklahoma State Chamber Research Foundation (SCRF) just last month published its report, “Economic Impact of the Oil & Gas Industry on Oklahoma.” The headline states, “Oklahoma Energy is driving our state forward!”

Stating the true situation, SCRF lists the following highlights of Oklahoma’s oil and gas industry contributions to the state’s economy:

• State crude production reached 157.8 million barrels in 2015, a 157% increase from 2005
• State natural gas output is up by 60% since 2003, to 2.5 trillion cubic feet in 2015
• Oklahoma now ranks fifth among the states in oil production and third in natural gas production
• Over the past 10 years, the state produced $15.4 billion annually in crude oil and natural gas
• Oklahoma is the second largest oil and gas hub in the U.S., trailing only Texas
• Oklahoma ranks as the 3rd most attractive oil and gas market among 126 markets worldwide
• Oil and gas activity accounts for more than half the fixed investment ($20.3 billion) in Oklahoma
• The state exported both crude oil and natural gas valued at $7.1 billion in 2015
• In 2015, the oil and gas industry employed 53,500 Oklahomans who earned $5.6 billion
• 95,000 Oklahomans earned $10 billion in self-employment income from oil and gas activity
• In total, nearly 150,000 Oklahomans are either wage and salary workers or self-employed in the oil and gas sector
• Household earnings ($15.6 billion) from the oil and gas sector total 13.2% of total state earnings
• Average wages in the oil and gas sector ($104,000) are more than double the state average ($44,178)

A Hypocritical Political Ploy

Framing the state-mandated day of prayer for Oklahoma’s oilfields as a religious plea for God’s mercy and protection for suffering families is a hypocritical political ploy to cover budgetary mismanagement.

Former Oklahoma Governor David Walters addressed this hypocrisy in April 2016, stating in the OK Observer that “It’s Not an Oil and Gas Crisis.” Commenting on the official report that Oklahoma was facing a $1.3 billion shortfall in public funding, Walters set the story straight.

“Republican officials blame the shortfall on the cyclical nature of the oil industry,” stated Walters, “but a review of the numbers says that simply is not true.” He explained, “The budget shortfall has four components: $500 million in one-time funds, $325 million less in individual income tax collections, $229 million reduction in sales tax collections, and a $224 million reduction in gross production taxes. Oil revenue can only account for about 30% of the $1.3 billion shortfall. Responsible budget action could have prevented even that.”

“The greater negative impact on income tax collections is the relentless attacks waged by state officials against jobs in healthcare, education, and government services, which contributes twice that of oil and gas to the Oklahoma economy,” Walters stated.

“The only pure oil- and gas-related shortfall in the budget,” continued Walters, “involves the $224 million decline in gross production taxes. To be fair, however, in 2010, the Legislature cut the gross production tax rate from 7% to 2%. They did this during the $100 per barrel oil period when they could have used the revenue to shore up funds in preparation for the next cyclical downturn.”

“Bottom Line: 70% of the $1.3 billion shortfall has nothing to do with oil and gas price declines.”

Prophetically responding to October’s day of prayer six months earlier in April, former Governor David Walters issued his own prayer request:

“Pray that Oklahomans realize elections have consequences.”

Amen, Brother David, now that’s something I can pray for! — Oklahomans and all US citizens alike need to appreciate that our elections have consequences!

Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump - Caricatures by DonkeyHotey on Flickr
Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump – Caricatures by DonkeyHotey on Flickr

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