Think of a quirky, fun and lovable scientist.
Bill Nye? No instead we will talk about Leo Petrochemicals a knockoff, who unlike Bill Nye , is a puppet for Big Oil.
Funded by enormous multinational oil corporations Leo’s job is to motivate children and teens to see oil production in a positive light. In one particular video aimed at Oklahoma students, he talks about how gas and oil can be utilized to produce thousands of items we use in our homes, schools, and businesses daily. While everything Leo is saying is truthful he very carefully omits the fact that the production of these products is detrimental to our air quality and to the ecosystems that surround us. Leo’s work promotes fracking, offshore drilling, and just about everything the oil industry does. His work is present in over 11 thousand classrooms illustrating a false narrative to society’s most vulnerable.
The oil and gas industry has moved beyond online videos and has actually created literature and lesson plans which shockingly are present in a number of classrooms. Petro Pete, for example, is an assortment of books targeted at kindergarten level students. These books contain content telling children they would not be able to brush their teeth without oil, wear clothing, ride bikes and play with soccer balls. Oklahoma schools are adopting these curriculums outlined by oil and gas industries because it is big business. In fact, in one year the industry spends 5 billion dollars to pay employees and 10 billion to build wells. This does not even count the countless billions in secondary spending.
At the same time, Oklahoma public schools are quite literally going broke. Just last year state officials slashed 30 million dollars in public education spending forcing school closures, countless educators being fired, and even shortening of the school day and week. Teachers are understandably desperate so many have turned to the Oklahoma Energy Resource Boards (OERB) an organization almost entirely funded by the oil industry. OERB is responsible for Leo Petrochemicals, Petro Pete, and the oil driven curriculum’s being implemented in classrooms around Oklahoma. OERB additionally sponsors petroleum field trips and reimburses teachers for schools supplies Many Oklahoma teachers have expressed that they are grateful for the opportunities OERB is providing. Teachers are not having to spend the hundreds of dollars they normally would on classroom supplies because OERB is providing them with supplies free of charge. These programs to “aid” teachers and students haven’t just begun with the OERB since 1996 they have been funding after-school programs, curriculum, and educational resources and have spent a total of 40 million dollars.
These few hundred dollars teachers save make all the difference in Oklahoma where teacher salaries are among some of the nation’s lowest at 58 thousand dollars. Despite massive cuts, to education and low teacher salaries, legislators in Oklahoma have somehow been able to continue to give over 470 million in tax breaks to the oil and gas industry.
The issues present in states like Oklahoma and Ohio raise much larger questions such as whether or not multinational corporations should be allowed in the classroom?
As AJ Plus reports this issue is a legal gray area which gives these corporations the opportunity to write lessons that solely reflect their agenda. This might give students the wrong impressions of what climate change definitely is and the commonly misconstrued fact that it is man made. States in the Midwest like Oklahoma have pushed for looser science standards opening the gates for an oil industry curriculum that very likely will neglect to disclose their role in climate change. One example is the Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program (OOGEEP) which posts lesson plans for teachers on the exact same website where entirely false articles like “Fossil Fuels Have Made the Earth Cleaner, Not Dirtier.”
Gas and Oil industries are planning for much larger scale the National Energy Education Development (NEEA) created materials that it plans to roll out nationwide. This organization is sponsored by British Petroleum (BP), Shell, and ConocoPhillips. Some statements in the lessons produced allege that some scientists believe that it is too soon to tell if the earth is warming and that it might be a good thing for the earth.
The Oil and Gas industry is trying to get to kids while they are young and likely naive. In the words of AJ Plus, big oil is in our cars, plastics, and surprisingly even our classrooms.