Bizarre Coal Industry Propaganda Program Infiltrates K-12 Classrooms

Illustration for article titled A Bizarre Coal Industry Propaganda Program Is Infiltrating K-12 Classrooms

Portray: Michael Loccisano (Getty Photos)

Subsequent week, dozens of lecturers from North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, South Dakota, and Iowa will fall on Bismarck Bid College in North Dakota for the annual three-day Lignite Energy Council Teacher’s Seminar.

There, in accordance with supplies posted on the seminar’s net build, they’ll hear displays and panel discussions on coal’s history, geology, mining and reclamation, besides listening to relating to the “profession alternatives, environmental challenges, transmission and examine and trend subject matters.” The seminar, which has been held every June since 1986 (canceled best doubtless closing twelve months on account of the pandemic) is speed by the Lignite Energy Council, a regional switch association whose mission relate is to “supply protection to, make a selection and improve trend of our region’s great lignite resource”—relating to lignite coal, the least energy-dense earn of coal.

Rush at no trace to educators, the seminar is piece of a greater program to convince lecturers and children that coal is “vitally indispensable” and that involves worksheets for youngsters that name carbon dioxide as “indispensable to plant lifestyles.” The total program might perhaps also furthermore be partly funded by out-of-say ratepayers from utilities that tout their renewable energy goals.

When you’re an substantial coal fan, the seminar sounds gracious dope. Academics don’t cling to pay the rest to attend, a fine perk in an technology of tight college budgets. Earlier than the pandemic, the seminar featured tours of “mining operations, reclamation net sites and coal conversion facilities.” In accordance to an informational video, lecturers are given a assortment of free chocolates, including an loyal portion of coal besides ash samples (wow!) and academic supplies and lesson plans “to bewitch aid to their examine room.” Hundreds of those educational supplies are readily available on the LEC net build; among them is an “Energy and CO2 Management” locate manual with several deceptive info that paint carbon dioxide as stunning, truly, and a grisly “Captain Coal” coloring sheet.

In a video produced by LEC geared in direction of youthful viewers that roughly makes me desire a lobotomy, two youngsters originate casually chatting relating to the lignite coal industry, as all fashioned classic college youngsters originate. One in every of them is undoubtedly into her sleek coal-themed cell phone sport; her reluctant buddy (or even sibling?) begins asking her questions about her sleek ardour.

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“My cousin says that coal creates pollution and wrecks the ambiance,” the spiteful child on the sofa says.

“That’s depraved,” his sister proclaims, adding that she “learned at college” that emissions from coal-based entirely mostly energy cling reduced. “The energy vegetation that burn coal to originate electricity work undoubtedly no longer easy and exercise a huge range of money to originate it a dapper gasoline.” (LEC did no longer resolution several of our questions as of press time, including if any just scientists had reviewed the academic supplies they pass out to lecturers on the seminar.)

Coal’s ties to varsities speed deep. Local taxes on coal mines in North Dakota and diverse states aid straight fund colleges within the build, and we’re now seeing some disastrous results because the coal market implodes. In Wyoming, a Okay-12 education system that depends heavily on taxes from coal manufacturing is going through severe funds cuts as ask for coal drops and mines end.

The LEC teacher seminar affords any other in for coal to persuade what goes on in public college college rooms. In accordance to LEC documents, lecturers attending the seminar are eligible to grab a $1,000 grant for his or her college; a fresh winner inclined the money to originate up a LEGO robotics program. The route furthermore counts as a chronic education credit, which aid make a selection lecturers in stunning standing. It’s no longer easy to fault money-strapped public college lecturers in coal-dependent regions for taking piece.

Nonetheless the teacher seminar might perhaps draw funds from outdoors of North Dakota, including from possibilities in states with more aggressive emissions bargain goals. In accordance to LEC’s 2019 annual file, nearly $2 million of its $4 million funds comes from member dues; several regional utilities are members of the LEC. As a minimum undoubtedly one of those utilities inclined ratepayer funds to pay its LEC dues: Otter Tail Energy, which, in its newest fee case, requested many of of thousands of bucks from its possibilities for membership dues in particular advocacy organizations, including LEC.

Otter Tail serves 132,500 possibilities in Minnesota and North and South Dakota and proudly touts its renewable energy sources on its net build. In an electronic mail, a spokesperson told Earther that the $47,545 it used to be requesting ratepayers to pony up for an LEC membership used to be separated out from dues the utility pays that fund the organization’s lobbying efforts, and that the LEC does loads to strengthen examine into “emissions-reductions technologies.” The spokesperson did no longer acknowledge to additional questions about whether LEC furthermore separates out its educational programs in its emails, or whether Otter Tail would separate ratepayer money from dues for LEC’s educational programs transferring forward.

Whereas “educational” programs admire the teacher seminars might perhaps also no longer technically be lobbying, in documents, LEC doesn’t even strive to hide that it’s feeding pro-coal propaganda to youngsters in tell to build a death industry. In a grant proposal submitted by LEC closing fall for an education program, of which the seminar is a explain, the community asked the say of North Dakota to foot the invoice for $200,000 of what it said is a $400,000 yearly effort to advertise coal to lecturers and children. Right here’s how the proposal place it:

“Training relating to the regional lignite industry is indispensable in fostering a certain or staunch peek of the industry which furthermore aids in staunch regulatory, industry and profession climates for the Trade. Procure admission to to educational alternatives and with out pain-consumable industry data is indispensable in furthering awareness relating to the industry, in particular with youthful generations.”

Deliverables listed encompass the map to educate lecturers and college students alike relating to the “energy, economics and the environmental impacts of the regional lignite industry.” It furthermore defined success because the “map viewers” reaching “agreement that coal is vitally indispensable to our region’s energy present.” 

Addressing the climate crisis will in truth require eradicating coal from the capacity system. A 2018 landmark file found coal spend would cling to fall 97% globally to cling a transparent shot at retaining the planet from heating up more than 1.5 levels Celsius (2.7 levels Fahrenheit). Previous having a liveable planet, there’s furthermore a stunning financial argument to ditch coal. Study shows tearing down three-quarters of coal vegetation within the U.S. these days and replacing them with renewables would consequence in more cost effective electricity.

The fossil gasoline industry—and coal in particular—is in decline. The free teacher seminar and propaganda for youngsters pushed by LEC besides diverse teams and utilities are an strive to make a decision obsolesce at bay a bit of longer. Nonetheless forcing ratepayers to pay for brainwashing youngsters a few death industry can best doubtless wor for thus lengthy.

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