Mary Anne Hitt, the director of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign, is a new mom and has some words for those trying to greenwash schoolkids and college students:
As a new mom, I’m paying more attention these days to how big companies are trying to influence our kids. I just learned that one of the biggest blockers of climate action in the U.S. is now bringing its obstructionism to your kid’s middle school classroom. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy just released an energy education guide for teachers of 5th – 8th grade.
The guide explains to kids where our nation currently gets its energy, and then asks this question:
“What do you think could happen if one of our energy sources was suddenly unavailable (e.g., power plant maintenance, government curb on production, etc.)?”
Outside the classroom, the Chamber is working overtime to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from doing anything about global warming pollution. Of course, EPA would never put this nation in a position where “one of our energy sources was suddenly unavailable.” But that doesn’t stop the Chamber from suggesting that scary scenario to our nation’s kids and their teachers.
The Chamber has long opposed any action on curbing global warming pollution and other dangerous emissions from dirty power plants, whether it comes via action from the EPA or Congress.
Now they’re focusing on instilling their wrong beliefs into our kids. Just look at the focus of their Institute for 21st Century Energy:
“The mission of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy is to unify policymakers, regulators, business leaders, and the American public behind a common sense energy strategy to help keep America secure, prosperous, and clean. Through policy development, education, and advocacy, the Institute is building support for meaningful action at the local, state, national, and international levels.”
Sounds innocent enough, but after watching the Chamber spend millions against any action on cleaning up the dirty power plants that poison our air and water and cause global warming, it seems that we all know their real “common sense energy strategy” – make sure polluters can keep on polluting at current levels, regardless of the impact on today’s kids and future generations.
Right now EPA is proposing several safeguards to protect Americans from the pollution caused by coal-fired power plants – including rules that would treat coal ash (the by-product of burning coal for electricity) as the toxic waste that it is. EPA officials have already said that living near a toxic coal ash site can be worse for kids’ health than smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.
The Chamber doesn’t like these proposals, or any others that would require utilities to clean up coal pollution, and they are working overtime to stop them.
And this isn’t the first time that the Chamber or the coal industry has directly targeted kids or young people with a misleading pro-coal message.
- In early 2009, the Coal Education Development and Resource of Southern West Virginia, Inc., taught students to appreciate the destructive practice of mountaintop removal coal mining. (If you’re not familiar with mountaintop removal coal mining and its threats, read more here).
- In mid-2009, coal industry front-group Families Organized to Represent the Coal Economy released coloring books for kids.
- The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (who we remember for hiring a firm that forged letters from interest groups to Congressional representatives about global warming legislation) is currently running a bus tour to our nation’s college campuses to teach them about so-called “clean” coal. They just hit up West Virginia University.
- The coal industry gave so much money to the University of Kentucky that the administration renamed a dorm as Wildcat Coal Lodge last year.
The list goes on and on. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the coal industry want you to believe that coal will not affect your or your children’s health, and that any action by EPA will destroy the economy. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
So for my new baby and the rest of America’s kids, I’d like to add my own discussion question to the Chamber’s energy education guide:
“What do you think could happen if we don’t shift from coal and oil to clean energy sources, and families find that pollution makes the basic essentials of life suddenly unavailable (e.g., clean air, clean water, etc.)?”
Get Grist in your inbox