Oklahoma governor asks the state to pray for oil

“I think prayer is always a good thing, for anyone.”

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has called on Oklahoman to pray for oil. CREDIT: AP/Sue Ogrocki
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has called on Oklahoman to pray for oil. CREDIT: AP/Sue Ogrocki

It’s been a tough year for the oil industry. Prices earlier this year reached a 12-year low and, despite some gains, recovery has been elusive. In fact, things have remained so dire that Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) has deemed October 13 “Oilfield Prayer Day.”

“People of all faiths are invited to thank God for the blessings created by the oil and natural gas industry and to seek His wisdom and ask for protection,” the proclamation states.

Fallin first issued a similar proclamation in 2011, though the most recent iteration was revised to include all faiths, not just Christians, after backlash over the lack of inclusiveness.

Previously, the proclamation had been changed to apply only to Christians, as requested by a group called the Oilfield Christian Fellowship.

“There was some question about whether it was one particular faith or another, so we just amended it to say all faiths,” Fallin told the Associated Press. “There are many people suffering right now who have lost their jobs in the energy sector… there are a lot of families who have been hurt, and I think prayer is always a good thing, for anyone.”

As the State Impact reports, Oklahoma is deeply dependent on the oil and natural gas industries. About one-quarter of all jobs are linked to the energy industry, which helped the state overcome the recent recession. But as U.S. producers increased drilling and fracking amid a glut of crude, prices have plummeted, hitting jobs and even school funding the in Oklahoma have taken a hit.

Another unintended consequence of increased oil and gas production has been fracking-related earthquakes. Oklahoma went from from having a couple of earthquakes a year, to more than 900 in 2015, Fortune reported.

That comes as scientists across the country say fracking wastewater disposed in injection wells can flow into nearby faults and soften the friction holding faults in place, making it easier for a fault to slip, release the stress that was already there, and cause an earthquake. Even the United States Geological Society has said fracking caused man-made earthquakes in various parts of the United States, including Oklahoma.

This September, the state shut down nearly 40 fracking wastewater wells after a 5.6-magnitude earthquake rocked the town of Pawnee, located in northern Oklahoma.

Meanwhile, Fallin, a climate change denier, has been an active opponent of efforts to transition to clean energy sources, like solar, which is now producing more jobs than the oil and gas industry nationwide.

In early 2014, for instance, she signed a bill that would charge residents a fee if they produced their own energy through solar panels or small wind turbines. That same year Fallin also signed a bill that turned a tax incentive for new oil and gas drilling permanent — a break worth $470 million last fiscal year. That break has being ongoing although the state has been slashing education funding in part due to the oil-related revenue shortfall.

The two-term Republican is heavily backed by the oil and gas industry. Her top three contributors from 2005 through 2008 were all oil and gas corporations, according to OpenSecrets.org.