Fossil fuel shenanigans in Texas

07.10.2018

"Concerned that environmental groups were winning the hearts and minds of Texas schoolchildren — filling their heads with statements of the ills of fossil fuels — a politically connected Texas natural gas industry advocacy group devised a plan to fight back," reported the Austin American-Statesman (July 6, 2018).

State representative Jason Isaac (R-District 45), a founding member of the Texas Natural Gas Foundation who spearheaded the effort, told the newspaper that he was provoked by middle school material brought home by his son that described fossil fuels as causing global warming: "You're striking fear in children that oil and gas and coal are bad."

The Texas Natural Gas Foundation worked with the State Energy Conservation Office and the University of Texas to develop a teaching guide on energy issues. But experts asked by the American-Statesman to evaluate the completed guide described it as providing incomplete or even intentionally misleading information.

The head of the University of Texas's Environmental Science Institute commented that the guide claims that "devastation of our social and economic systems will result from switching away from the use of nonrenewables." He added, "That's not a very forward-looking way to work the problem of our energy future."

The project was funded by a federal grant, not by the fossil fuel industry or the Texas Natural Gas Foundation, and a staffer at the University of Texas who helped to oversee the project contended that there was no "pressure to misrepresent the science or the social aspects of the energy situation."

But two board members of the Texas Natural Gas Foundation briefed the writers of the guide about energy resources at a January 2016 meeting, where, according to the American-Statesman, "[n]o environmental groups or other experts were on the agenda to speak," and later invited them to attend a presentation on the moral case for fossil fuels.

Twenty Texan middle school science teachers were trained with the guide in 2016. The Texas Natural Gas Foundation reportedly is soliciting funds to train 275 additional teachers, perhaps in the summer of 2019, and hopes for the material to be adopted and customized for use outside Texas.