Two stories caught my eye this week.banning books that show polluters and the fossil fuel industry in a bad light.
Texas's Republican-controlled education board voted on Friday not to include several climate textbooks in the state science curriculum.
The 15-member board rejected seven out of 12 for eighth-graders. The approved textbooks are published by Savvas Learning Company, McGraw Hill, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Accelerate Learning and Summit K-12.
The rejected textbooks included climate-crisis policy solutions, and conservative board members criticized them for being too negative about fossil fuels – a major industry in the state. Texas leads the nation in the production of crude oil and natural gas.
Although Texas adopted standards in 2021 that requires eighth-graders be taught the basics about climate change, some argue that measure does not go far enough.
Aaron Kinsey, a Republican board member and executive of an oilfield services company in west Texas, criticized photos in some textbooks as unduly besmirching the oil and gas industry during a discussion of the materials this week.
“The selection of certain images can make things appear worse than they are, and I believe there was bias,” Kinsey said, according to Hearst Newspapers.
“You want to see children smiling in oilfields?” said Democratic board member Aicha Davis. “I don’t know what you want.”
And what else is bothering them? The devil's own tool, evolution. Can't be teaching that either... Goes hand in hand with the "radical, environmentalist agenda."
Some in powerful positions have tried to sway the board to reject the textbooks. On 1 November, the Texas railroad commissioner, Wayne Christian – who oversees the state’s oil and gas industry – sent a letter to the education board’s chairman, Kevin Ellis, relaying “concerns for potential textbooks that could promote a radical environmentalist agenda”.
Also contested was the inclusion of lessons on evolution – the theory addressing the origins of human existence which the scientific community supports and religious groups reject.
The decision comes despite pleas from the National Science Teaching Association to not “allow misguided objections to evolution and climate change” to affect the adoption of new textbooks.
Good luck with that. You are in Texas.
In other news, the natural gas companies are paying builders big money to include gas appliances, fearing that the rise of cheaper electrical solutions will cause consumers to step away from fossil fuels.
Dozens of US gas utilities, serving more than 35 million customers, offer builders and contractors incentives to keep fossil fuels in buildings, the Guardian has found.
Washington state’s NW Natural offers builders $2,000 for each new single-family home they equip with gas appliances, while Texas’s Corpus Christi Gas offers $1,000. And in Minnesota, CenterPoint Energy participates in a program that offers paid vacations to builders who outfit homes with gas.
Meanwhile, gas utility trade groups are training members to sell builders on the continued use of the planet-heating fossil fuel, including through trainings at conferences and webinars. “Stress the lifestyle benefits that come with a natural gas home,” one instructor said in a recording of a training session heard by the Guardian.