Coal Industry PR in Schools
This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's focus on the fallout of nuclear "spin."
- 1 National coal education programs
- 2 Illinois
- 3 Kentucky
- 4 Nevada
- 5 New Mexico
- 6 North Carolina
- 7 North Dakota
- 8 Tennessee
- 9 Texas
- 10 Utah
- 11 West Virginia
- 12 Resources
National coal education programs
American Coal Foundation
"About Us," American Coal Foundation website
"Resources," American Coal Foundation website
ACF's "Conserving Electric Energy" lesson plan for grades 3-8 is endorsed by the DOE's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
The NEED Project
The motto of the NEED Project is "putting energy into education."
Mine Safety and Health Administration
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, through its Office of Coal Development, provides pro-coal educational materials for elementary through high school classrooms. The "From the Coal Mines to the Power Lines" curriculum "provides numerous opportunities for teachers to introduce coal, Illinois' most abundant natural resource, or coal-related topics" in the classroom. Elementary school topics include discussion of coal in the context of goods and services, costs and benefits, and decision-making; rocks and minerals, the environment, and technology; and Illinois history, social studies and reading and writing exercises. The middle school curriculum includes incorporating coal in the context of supply and demand and economics, botany, geology, environmental studies, persuasive writing, and career options. Suggested high school topics include discussing coal in terms of cost-benefit analysis, the role of the Illinois coal industry in the state economy, environmental policy and issues, workplace law, biographies, and chemistry.
The department also sponsors a coal-related art and essay contest for students that "gives fifth- through eighth-grade students the opportunity to learn about our most abundant energy source" and a "Coal Education Conference" for teachers.
Teacher Resources: (1) lists of coal-related publications and Web sites; (2) a timeline showing a list of important dates in Illinois coal mining history during the 19th and 20th centuries, (3) an "Ask the Experts" list provides contact information to academic and governmental specialists on topics such as "coal geology," "clean coal technology," and "FutureGen."
The Kentucky Foundation is a non-profit organization that provides teaching materials and games for Kentucky schools designed to promote the image of the state's coal industry. According to tax and corporate records obtained by the Kentucky Herald-Leader, the organization is "run out of the Lexington office of the Kentucky Coal Association" by Bill Caylor, president of the association.
The Herald-Leader story reported that the foundation's web site described mountaintop removal mining as "simply the right thing to do -- both for the environment and for the local economy -- a true win-win." But after the Herald-Leader began investigating the Kentucky Foundation, the web site's content was changed at the direction of state officials to appear more neutral.
Funding for the Kentucky Foundation comes out of $400,000 in state funds designated for promoting coal. The Herald-Leader story reported that "Gov. Steve Beshear and a legislative committee have approved adding $17,500 to this year's $100,000 contract for the Kentucky Foundation so it can conduct a study showing the economic benefits of coal mining to the state. A retired University of Kentucky economist will be hired for the task."
Bill Caylor told the Herald-Leader, "The environmentalists throw out a lot of negative stuff, like kids who are suffering from asthma because they breathe particulate matter from living near a coal-fired power plant, or deaths caused on the roads by big coal trucks... We're trying to counteract that."
The web site discounted the environmental damage caused by mountaintop removal: "Only the topmost portion of the mountain is mined and generally leveled for the maximum recovery of coal. What's left is flatter, more useful land on the top of the mountain."
According to the Herald-Leader, funding for the Kentucky's coal promotion programs originated in 1994, after the legislature voted to fund nature preservation with funds from taxes paid by property owners on coal, oil and natural gas left underground. To quell coal industry displeasure over the nature preservation funding, the legislature then directed the governor to use $400,000 from the same source "for the purpose of public education of coal-related issues."
The coal industry then set up non-profit educational groups to receive the state grants.
The other major non-profit is Coal Education Development and Resource (CEDAR), which is run out of the office of the Coal Operators and Associates. In 2008, the Kentucky Foundation will receive $117,500 and CEDAR will receive $193,000.
CEDAR's mission is "to carry a positive message about the coal industry to Eastern Kentucky's children," according to the group. On its Web site, CEDAR includes "human interest stories" about its classroom work. One story involves an elementary school student who enjoyed preparing her entry for CEDAR's regional Coal Fair even as her relatives debated whether to let the family's property be leased by a coal company for mining.
CEDAR's website contains "human interest stories" about coal intended for classroom use. According to the site, after one student and her family "completed her Coal Fair project, they were ... subsequently able to convince the other family members that leasing their property to the coal company for the purpose of mining would be in everyone's best interest."
The Kentucky Coal Education website is aimed primarily at Kentucky teachers and students, and aims to "present factual, useful information about coal in a fun and productive way." A set of lesson plants, educational resources, and potential field trip locations are provided for "teacher's". Funding for the website is provided by the Kentucky Foundation.
The Nevada Mining Association runs an education program that includes workshops for teachers and students, classroom presentations, career fairs, earth science programs, and scholarships.
The stated aim of the Education Foundation of the New Mexico Mining Association is "to increase awareness of how minerals, mining, and earth science fields affect our daily lives." One of the programs operated by the foundation is the Summer Teacher Institute, a hands-on program for teachers that includes coal mine and plant tours, and instruction in geology, mining, processing, environmental monitoring, and reclamation. Teachers work with mine managers, geologists, hydrologists, geotechnical, processing and mining engineers to learn about mineral resource development.. The program is funded by the foundation.
NCCI's stated mission is to "support and financially assist public educational efforts pertaining specifically to the use and benefits of coal and the coal industry in general, to educate the membership by providing the highest level of quality informational programs in the coal industry, and to provide a business environment for our member companies consistent with the Vision of NCCI." NCCI is a partnership of 168 companies and organizations, founded in 1948. It supports CEDAR chapters in Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia, as well as directly offering $22,500 in academic scholarships to regional departments of mining engineering or technology each year, and participating in a coal education secondary school teacher recertification program at Virginia Tech.
- "Teacher Info," Lignite Energy Council
Lignite Research Council: "This Council is a private/public partnership to promote a coordinated research program to preserve and enhance the lignite industry. Twenty-three members are appointed by the governor: four lignite mining representatives; eight lignite processing representatives; one lignite research representative; four state agency representatives; one federal agency representative; one labor representative; one representative from the North Dakota House of Representatives; one representative from the North Dakota Senate; one representative from a political subdivision; and one lignite ownership group representatives." 
North Dakota's Lignite Research, Development and Marketing Program (Program) is a multi-million dollar state/industry partnership that concentrates on near term, practical research and development projects that provide the opportunity to preserve and enhance development of our state's abundant lignite resources.
The Program is funded by approximately 10 cents per ton from the North Dakota coal severance tax. With annual production at approximately 30 million tons per year, about $3 million is available each year for the Research, Development and Marketing Program.
Grants since the program's inception in 1987 have been used to: Help diversify the Great Plains Synfuels Plant; Improve methods for more efficient and cost-effective reclamation; Find cleaner ways to burn lignite in existing boilers; Identify new market opportunities; and Meet new challenges from proposed environmental regulations.
Projects involve either lignite marketing feasibility studies, small research projects or demonstration projects.
The Tennessee Valley Authority's "TVA Kids" website is aimed at generally educating children about TVA, and providing teachers with educational materials about TVA and electricity production in general. There is some focus on coal energy in these educational materials - their High School Energy Sourcebook has a chapter on coal energy, which states that "as the world's supply of oil dwindles, and as economic pressure against oil imports occurs, coal will again be looked upon, as it was during the 'energy crisis' of the 1970s, as our 'energy ace-in-the-hole.'" However, the site focuses much more on providing information on renewable energy - e.g., providing "environmental tips of the day," and proclaiming that "right from its earliest days, TVA worked to protect the environment." This focus on renewable energy is somewhat disingenuous, given that, as of 2005, 50.9% of TVA's electric capacity came from coal-fired power plants - compared with 0.08% from wind energy, 0.03% from small hydropower, and less than 0.01% from solar.
- "Teacher Workshops", Texas Mining and Reclamation Association
The Utah Mining Association contracts with the National Energy Foundation (NEF) to operate an education program that includes teacher workshops with a focus on the natural science curriculum of fourth graders. In 2006, UMA provided training and/or materials to approximately 2800 Utah teachers, and an estimated 107,000 students were impacted by this training.
CEDAR of Southern West Virginia grew out of a similar project in Kentucky, which was brought to Southern West Virginia by the West Virginia Coal Association and the Pocahontas Coal Association. It is a partnership between the coal industry, the business community, and educators. Its mission is to "facilitate the increase of knowledge and understanding of the many benefits the coal industry provides in daily lives by providing financial resources and coal education materials to implement its study in the school curriculum." Under its Teacher Coal Study Unit Program, CEDAR gives teachers grant money and educational materials, and awards cash prizes to teachers as "recognition for performance." CEDAR also hosts a regional coal fair, with students submitting projects on coal; 72 cash prizes are awarded to student participants. (This regional coal fair grows out of a network of coal fairs put on by individual schools; these school coal fair coordinators are evaluated, with cash prizes being given to the top three.) Finally, CEDAR offers ten $1000 scholarships to Southern West Virginia students for use at a local community or technical college. With the exception of these $1000 scholarships, the size of grants and cash prizes awarded by CEDAR to students and educators is not specified.
- "From the Coal Mines to the Power Lines" Coal Curriculum, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, accessed May 2008.
- Education, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, accessed May 2008.
- Education, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, accessed May 2008.
- John Cheves, "Taxes help promote mining: Coal industry gets $400,000 a year," Lexington Herald-Leader, 5/15/08
- "Understanding Kentucky's Coal Severance Fund," Kentuckians for the Commonwealth web site, accessed 5/08.
- Kentucky Coal Education website, accessed May 2008.
- North Carolina Coal Institute website, accessed May 2008.
- Lignite Research Council website, accessed May 2008
- ND Lignite Research Development and Marketing Program website, accessed May 2008
- TVA Kids website, accessed May 2008.
- "Existing Electric Generating Units in the United States, 2005", Energy Information Administration website, accessed April 2008.
- Green Power Switch, Tennessee Valley Authority website, accessed May 2008.
- CEDAR, West Virginia Coal Association website, accessed May 2008.
Related SourceWatch articles
- Daniel Ten Kate, "Coal and nuclear PR could start in schools", Bangkok Post, Mar 22, 2007
- Jeff Biggers, "Heartland Coal Crisis: Illinois bankrolls big coal school program? Interview with eco-justice leader Lan Richart," Huffpost Green, June 22, 2011
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