If you asked kids whether they support fracking, odds are they wouldn’t even know what that is. However, if a local celebrity were to show up at school turning fracking into a game, all the while playing kids’ favorite pop songs, suddenly they might think they love fracking.
That’s what’s happened in more than two dozen Ohio elementary schools in recent months, reports Al Jazeera. Pro-fracking group Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program (OOGEEP) teamed with Radio Disney, a collection of national radio stations geared for kids, to give rowdy presentations that favor drilling for natural gas. During the event, students work collectively to create a pipeline to transport ping pong balls, representing gas, from one part of the room to another.
While the kids seem to enjoy it, the state’s parents and environmental activists are displeased. They believe the “educational” activities are little more than corporate propaganda pieces designed to influence impressionable young minds. These critics have called on Radio Disney to stop having their on-air talent MC these events. At the very least, they believe that schools should invite anti-fracking groups to give presentations in order to counter the gas lobby’s message. Thus far, they have not seen any opposing viewpoints offered in the classrooms.
Watch video of OOGEEP/Radio Disney giving a modified presentation at the Ohio State Fair. During a natural gas simulation, kids jump and shout for prizes as “Call Me Maybe” plays.
Why would fracking advocates even need to indoctrinate young children? For starters, fracking has received a lot of negative attention in Ohio as of late. Not only were a series of earthquakes connected to fracking activity in Youngstown, but also the Associated Press uncovered that fracking was contaminating some of Ohio’s drinking water.
Rhonda Reda, executive director of the traveling exhibit, insists that her program is meant to encourage kids to pursue science and engineering careers rather than support drilling. As for enlisting Radio Disney to help, Reda says she partnered with the company to keep things “fun.” “Who better than Radio Disney to do that?” she asked.
This isn’t the gas industry’s first attempt at preemptively turning children into fracking supporters. A couple of years ago, Talisman Energy distributed a coloring book to kids. The coloring book’s protagonist, Terry the Fracosaurus, even defies public opinion by calling fracking “one of the cleanest, safest, and most useful of all energy sources.”
As for the Radio Disney events, it looks like they might now be as extinct as the fracosaurus. Pressure from environmental groups and public outcry grew so strong that on January 9, Disney issued a statement:
“The sole intent of the collaboration between Radio Disney and the nonprofit Rocking in Ohio educational initiative was to foster kids’ interest in science and technology. Having been inadvertently drawn into a debate that has no connection with this goal, Radio Disney has decided to withdraw from the few remaining installments of the program.”
Considering that not long ago, Radio Disney had indicated a desire to take the natural gas propaganda on the road to other states, this is definitely a success. Now it looks like Disney will avoid associating with fracking groups – at least explicitly – in the near future. Good work, concerned citizens!
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