Oil and gas coloring books teach kids safety, fossil fuel dependence

It’s finally summer: The time of year when your kids run
through the sprinklers, munch on watermelon, and whip out their
crayons to scribble in coloring book pages of fracking wells and
gas pipes. Wait, what?

Last week, Puget Sound Energy, the Seattle-area utility, shared
an odd activity on Twitter: “Color your way through Natural Gas
Town and learn how natural gas provides energy to your
neighborhood!” The tweet,
later deleted
, linked to an online coloring page showing
a
detailed map
of how natural gas lines run underneath your yard
and into your home. The image is from Energy Safe Kids, a national
program that teaches children safety tips — like how to sniff out
a gas leak and avoid pummeling natural gas meters with water
balloons.

The Energy Safe Kids site includes an interactive coloring page
for the friendly gas flame named “Don Fuego,” a video game
called “Gas Dash” in which your character hurdles gas meters
and fire extinguishers while riding a bike, and a word search that
challenges you to find “butane,” “pilot light,” and
“cogeneration.”

An online coloring book page of a flame character named Don FuegoAn interactive coloring
page for “Don Fuego.”
Energy Safe Kids / Book Widgets

Sure, nobody wants kids to burn the house down — common-sense
safety tips are important. But Natural Gas Town follows a long line
of oil and gas activity books, often used to introduce
schoolchildren to the wonders of fossil fuels. In 2010, a
coloring book
from the drilling company Talisman Energy
introduced Talisman Terry
the Fracosaurus
, a dinosaur teaching kids the wonders of
fracking. And who could forget
Chesapeake Charlie
, Chesapeake Energy’s cartoon beagle with a
soft spot for natural gas?

Energy Safe Kids is a program of the nonprofit National Energy
Foundation, whose board includes officials
from lobbying groups such as the American Public Gas Association
and the American Gas Association. Many utilities across the country
share resources
from Energy Safe Kids on social
media
and with
local schools
.

The program uses its materials to teach students how to stay
safe around outlets and furnaces and how to prevent disasters from
happening. But it doesn’t stop at safety tips; the site calls
natural gas a “very safe energy source” that “enriches our
lives in countless ways that are increasing.” There’s no
mention that natural gas is a fossil fuel that contributes to
climate change, nor that gas-powered appliances
can threaten public health
— particularly children’s
health.

Turning on a gas stove is a bit like pumping car exhaust into
your kitchen. You breathe in many of the same pollutants at lower
doses, including carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate
matter, and formaldehyde, which have been linked with breathing and
heart problems. One study
from 2013 found that using a gas stove increases the risk of
children developing asthma symptoms by 42 percent and lifelong
asthma by 24 percent.

Gary Swan, a vice president of the National Energy Foundation,
said in an email that the Energy Safe Kids program will consider
adding information about the risk of asthma to its site. As for
climate change, he said, most of the company’s work is “focused
around helping children and their families reduce their energy
usage at home and, by extension, at school and in the community.”
These programs address climate change “quite a bit,” he said,
although the safety tips are more narrowly focused on helping kids
avoid accidents.

Janet Kim, a spokesperson from Puget Sound Energy, said in an
email that the tweet about Natural Gas Town was deleted because
while the intent was to promote safety, the post “lacked
context.”

The fossil fuel industry has a history of
pumping its propaganda
into classrooms. In 2013, a bunch of
oil, gas, and coal mining companies (along with the same National
Energy Foundation) sponsored an
Earth Day poster contest
for Utah elementary students asking
them to illustrate the question “Where would you be without oil,
gas, & mining?” In 2017, schools and libraries across
Oklahoma received more than 9,000 free copies of the children’s
book Petro Pete’s Big Bad Dream, where little Pete wakes up one
morning to find that his toothbrush, bike tires, and other
petroleum byproducts have gone missing. When the school bus
doesn’t show, he’s forced to walk to school in PJs. That same
year,
tens of thousands of public school teachers
all across the
country received a copy of the book Why Scientists Disagree About
Global Warming in their mailboxes.

A coloring book page of "Talisman Terry, the friendly Fracosaurus", which is a dinosaur that enjoys fracking apparentlyTalisman Energy

“Educating” kids about fossil fuels is just one of many
tactics the industry has used to get the public on its side. As
Mother Jones reported last week, gas companies are now
paying Instagram influencers
to post photos of them looking
stylish next to their gas stoves with the hashtag #cookingwithgas.
The “now
you’re cooking with gas
” campaign has been going on since
the 1930s, when the gas industry was trying to knock out its
competition, wood and electric stoves.

Now the industry is under threat again, this time by the rise of
renewable energy and the growing public concerns about climate
change and the role fossil fuels play in causing it. In California,
30 cities have
banned gas
in new building construction in a growing movement
to “electrify
everything
,” threatening to make gas stoves obsolete.

The fossil fuel industry has learned a lot of PR tricks in the
past century: making up
fake news
, creating
bogus studies
, and bullying journalists into
overcorrecting their articles
. The practice of fabricating

grassroots groups
to create the illusion of community support
for a cause has become so common it has a name,
“astroturfing.”

Children are particularly susceptible to advertising, as any
parent finds out when they reach the cereal aisle, and it seems
like the fossil fuel industry is trying to hook them young. But as
evidenced by the rise of the youth climate strikes sparked by Greta
Thunberg, the 17-year-old Swedish activist, the industry’s
attempts to persuade them aren’t working as well as it hoped.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline
Oil and gas coloring books teach kids safety, fossil fuel
dependence
on Jun 29, 2020.

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News 2
Oil and gas coloring books teach kids safety, fossil fuel
dependence