A state agency has no business sponsoring a children’s poster contest that promotes a particular private industry when that industry and its products have negative effects that the contest completely ignores.
The poster contest — titled "Where Would WE Be Without Oil, Gas & Mining?" — is sponsored by oil producers and the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining. It offers a $500 reward to a student in each elementary grade who most enthusiastically illustrates the benefits of mined resources.
To make this nefarious bit of propaganda even worse, the contest is connected to Earth Day. Children on that day should be learning how precious and fragile their environment is and how the burning of fossil fuels is raising the planet’s temperature and fouling the air we breathe — the opposite message of the one being promoted.
According to contest rules, the posters should show how mineral resources support the children’s quality of life.
"For instance: Coal, oil and natural gas provide most of the energy we use for heat, light, and electricity. We use mined materials and petroleum products every day in gasoline, cars, computers, skateboards, home-building materials, and tools," the rules state.
Parents and at least one school district administrator rightly have expressed disgust with the motivation behind the contest and its attempt to link drilling and mining with the values associated with the national observance of Earth Day.
Utah Moms for Clean Air is planning its own alternative version of the poster contest. Its theme is "Explore the Economic, Environmental and Health Costs of Fossil Fuels on Utah."
There is nothing wrong with oil producers marketing the benefits of their products. And there is no doubt that Utahns depend on petroleum products for many of their everyday activities, from driving to work to participating in recreation. But that needs to change.
It’s shameful for the state of Utah and Utah schools to be complicit in what can only be called a form of brainwashing when directed at such young children.
Education about the role of oil, gas and mining in Utahns’ quality of life should include the broad picture and should be based on science.
A better state-sponsored contest would be one that encourages children and their parents to understand both sides of this issue, perhaps with the title "Explore the Benefits and the Negative Effects of Producing and Using Fossil Fuels."
Copyright 2013 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.