STEM education – fossil fuel’s trojan horse

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Fossil fuel companies use STEM education in schools and universities as a way to build credibility and social licence, and recruit future staff, while glossing over their role in global warming.

Australian Earth Science Education holds incursions with Woodside Petroleum, one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies. The partnership with Woodside Australian Science Project (WASP) can be a vehicle for falsely portraying oil and gas as the future of energy, while casting doubt over climate science.

In this video Woodside boasts how it has reached 10,000 students through the program, which includes teaching kids to drill for oil using vegemite sandwiches. 
Oresome Resources is an initiative of resources lobby groups from around the country to ‘assist the teaching and learning of minerals and energy’.

The extensive library of fact sheets, videos, interactives, lesson plans, PowerPoints and vodcasts are written against the curriculum in science, geography, maths and work studies – starting in kindergarten, with cartoons like this.



This coal ‘mythbusting’ fact sheet, was written by the Queensland Resources Council and was used in classrooms as recently as 2021.



It claimed ‘Global coal demand is forecast to rise 73% by 2030’. The International Energy Agency finds coal demand will stay steady or drop dramatically. It argued against the statement that ‘clean coal’ technology is unproven. And its claim that carbon capture and storage is ‘operating commercially’ falsely implies it is making money. 

The current coal fact sheet fails to mention burning coal is the primary cause of global warming.
Just under half of Minerals NSW‘s members are involved in coal. It runs the Upper Hunter Mining Dialogue that conducts school tours of mines in the Hunter region of northern NSW. It also has resources for teachers such as this VR coal mine tour that mentions ‘rehabilitation’ more than a dozen times but doesn’t mention coal’s effect as the primary driver of climate change.

It also reaches students through the PRIME program co-sponsored by Regional Development Australia (RDA) that has so-far promoted mining careers in 45 schools. Here’s a coal worker promoting a career at Glencore, the world’s largest coal exporter. These career programs ignore scientists warnings that coal must be phased out in rich countries by 2030.

Another RDA program has allowed Port Waratah Coal Services spruik its value to primary school children with Lego.
Also in the Hunter, the Bengalla Coal Mine, owned by New Hope Group, is a ‘leading energy partner’ in delivering STEM classes with the NSW Department of Education, STEM Industry School Partnership Program (SISP). Again, these materials portray coal mining as sustainable and ignore global warming.
South of Sydney, ‘STEM Zone‘ classes are sponsored by coal company, South32, via the University of Wollongong.
National Science Week is Australia’s largest celebration of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM. National Science Week has links to fossil fuels. One of its partners is the Australian Science Teachers Association (ATSA), which is sponsored by Santos, among others.
The Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) is a global organisation whose local sponsors include Santos, Senex Energy and Origin Energy. 

It provides Energy4Me kits for schools across Australia that include fun activities such as fracking using jelly. They also contain interesting interpretations of the future energy mix.

The above graph is attributed to the International Energy Agency, however the IEA’s Net Zero Emissions scenario from 2021, looks quite different, with oil and gas used less than solar and wind.


How are students going to prepare for the future when their lessons come from the industries of the past?

The WA Premiers Science Awards are sponsored by Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell and Woodside who collectively are some of Australia’s highest greenhouse gas emitters
Santos sponsors the ‘Santos Science Experience’ which tours schools across Australia, aimed at year 9 and 10 students.

Macquarie University has dropped Santos as a name sponsor following protests from eminent climate scientist, Prof Lesley Hughes.

However scores of other universities are still hosting the program – helping Santos greenwash its reputation in spite of its gas expansion.
School banking programs, such as Dollarmites, have been banned from schools in several states after the consumer watchdog (ACCC) found that children were exposed to “sophisticated advertising and marketing tactics” by providers. Surely the same could be said for fossil-funded education?

Ask your local politicians to support a Fossil Ad Ban
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