By Scott Weeden, Senior On-Line Editor From Colorado to Arkansas to Virginia to the U.K., as Elvis Presley used to sing, “There’s a whole lot of shakin’ going on.” And, not all of that shaking is related to fracing as some people have claimed. After a 5.8 earthquake struck Louisa County, VA, and a 5.3 earthquake rattled Las Animas County, CO, the internet quickly filled with speculation that fracing caused the temblors. Scientists for the U.S. Geological Survey said that it was highly unlikely that hydraulic fracturing could have triggered such large earthquakes. After all, there aren’t any fracing operations in that area of Virginia. “The shaking from that earthquake, as is typical for Eastern U.S. earthquakes, went very far. People were shaken and detected the earthquake all the way up to Maine, to Florida, to Ontario and west at least as far as Missouri,” said Michael Blanpied, associate coordinator, USGS Earthquake Hazards Program. “It was a very widely felt earthquake, perhaps the most number of people feeling an earthquake in the United States since the country's beginning.” And, the internet began to spread the speculation much more widely than that Aug. 23 earthquake was felt. Blanpied was addressing questions from people all over the country in a chatroom three days after the Virginia earthquake. You could say he was addressing the aftershock. “We know that the fracing process can cause very small earthquakes. But, the fracing process, we think, doesn’t really induce large earthquakes,” he said in answer to a question in the chat room. “The thing that can induce large earthquakes is the high-pressure, fluid injection -- waste-fluid injection -- that is done in some places. “However, as far as we’re aware, there’s not really the mining or fluid injection processes going on in Virginia that would have connected this earthquake with anything like that,” he continued. “And, just too be clear, the connection between fracing and fluid injection and earthquakes is an area of active research,” Blanpied emphasized. “We’re really only starting to learn about how those things are connected.” The “micro-quakes” that were reported earlier this year in Arkansas and the U.K. could have resulted from high-pressure injection of fluids into underground formations. In February, a swarm of earthquakes rattled an area north of Little Rock. The Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission pointed to four disposal wells as a possible source for the quakes, which ranged from 1.8 to 3.5 on the Richter scale. The state imposed a moratorium on new disposal wells in the area. In May, shale-gas drilling near Blackpool, U.K., was suspended in the wake of fears that the fracing may have caused a small earthquake in the area. Cuadrilla Resources, the energy company conducting the fracing operations, delayed its operations while seismic information was studied. Cuadrilla is the only company performing fracing operations in the U.K. The company halted operations after discussions with the British Geological Survey (BGS). The BGS, Keele University and Cuadrilla had installed seismic monitoring equipment at the well site after a 2.3 earth tremor on April 1. The tremor on May 27 registered 1.5 on the Richter scale, according to media reports. The BGS noted that the U.K. records around 20 to 30 earthquakes around 2.0 on the scale every year. However, there had been no tremors measured around Blackpool before the drilling began. Remember that the Richter scale is a log scale. A 3.0 earthquake is 10 times stronger than a 2.0. A 4.0 is 10 times stronger than a 3.0, and so on. That would mean a 7.0 temblor is 100,000 times more powerful than a 2.0 quake. In 2001, a study of rare earthquake swarms in southern Colorado prompted study of the connection between earthquakes and fracing. Officials could not rule out the likelihood that disposal wells in the area caused the quakes. However, there’s not a scale for the shock factor in today’s social media when it comes to hyperbole regarding hydraulic fracturing. It’s interesting to see how quickly both information and misinformation are distributed through today’s internet. It is also fascinating to see how much of what is said in the social media is taken to heart by whoever reads it. Industry and the government are taking to the internet too. The USGS used social media -- a chat room -- to address concerns about the earthquakes in Colorado and Virginia within days after the events. Sometimes, though, the message gets lost in the rhetoric. The internet chatter did do one thing of note -- it focused attention on an area that needs additional research. These micro-quakes are a concern when it comes to tapping into North America’s shale gas resources. And, not everyone is happy about the response by industry or the government. The oil industry has been living on the fault line for a long time (it is the industry’s fault there is global warming , for example). Can these micro-quakes create slip faults that would allow communication between formations? Could these operations lead to stronger earthquakes and surface damage? Is there a way to mitigate these micro-quakes? And, we need to know the answer to whether or not high-pressure injections cause micro-quakes, whether the answer is yes or no. Right now, fracing of oil and gas shales is a very high-stakes game. Neither the industry nor the consuming public can afford to come up short in energy. Sometimes the rhetoric wins out over the science. That’s why finding out exactly what is going on is so important. And to get that message out, you will need all the latest communication media. After all, when it comes to energy and earthquakes, everyone is “all shook up,” as Elvis also noted.