Utah Using Earth Day To Promote Oil, Gas, And Mining To Kids

"How do YOU use oil, gas, and mining?" A 6th graders entry into the state of Utah's Earth Day poster contest.

“How do YOU use oil, gas, and mining?” A 6th grader’s entry into the state of Utah’s Earth Day poster contest. From the Utah Government Services Division of Oil, Gas, and Mining’s website.

“Reduce, reuse, and recycle the same old pro-dirty energy propaganda” … Apparently, that is the State of Utah’s new Earth Day Motto, if the poster contest sponsored by their Department of Oil, Gas, and Mining is any indication of the state’s stance on fossil fuels. Earth Day first launched in 1970 to show support for environmental protection, and falls on Monday, April 22nd. Brian Maffly from the Salt Lake City Tribune reported last week that the theme for this year’s contest is the same as last year’s: “Where Would WE Be Without Oil, Gas, and Mining?” The poster competition was open to all elementary school students throughout the state, grades K-6, and ended March 20th.

Elementary school students in grades K-6 were invited to draw 11×17-inch or larger posters describing the benefits of fossil fuels, and to turn in their entries by March 20th. The State-Wide Winners for each grade will each win $500 for their schools, and be honored — along with their parents and teachers — at an Earth Day Awards Luncheon. In addition, the Grand Prize Winner’s artwork will be featured as the Department of Oil, Gas and Mining’s official 2013 not-Earth day poster for distribution to “schools, mining companies, oil & gas companies, industry groups, and other outlets statewide.”

In case the theme leaves any doubts about the true nature of this contest, Entry Instructions provided to the school districts announced the judging criteria:

The Division of Oil, Gas, and Mining staff will judge the posters based on depiction of the theme, visibility of the theme, demonstration of how products from mining and oil & gas extraction are essential to our daily lives, artistic merit, and originality.

And — SURPRISE! — the Entry Instructions document’s list of sponsors for this travesty reads like a rogue’s gallery of dirty energy interests:

Society of Petroleum Engineers, Rio Tinto/Kennecott Utah Copper, Wheeler Machinery Company, Bill Barrett Corporation, Anadarko, Petroleum Corporation, U.S. Magnesium, Wind River Resources, Simplot Phosphate, Newfield Exploration, the Utah Mining Association, Arch Coal, Inc., the National Energy Foundation, Savage Companies, Arch Coal Sufco Mine, Summit Energy Management Corporation, Canyon Fuel Skyline Mine, and Enpro, LLC

No wonder the Environmental Protection Agency recently ranked Salt Lake City, UT as amongst the worst U.S. metropolitan areas for air pollution, as reported by AI‘s T. Steelman on March 8th. Yep, the Bee Hive State’s capitol city’s air quality ranking is way down there with Los Angeles, CA. To make things worse, Salt Lake City’s neighbors — Logan, Provo, and Brigham City respectively — took the top three spots on the EPA’s worst air quality list back in January, according to Kimball Benion’s article in the Salt Lake City Tribune.

It didn’t take long for parents to react with outrage, even in a red state like Utah. Colby Poulson, the father of a kindergartner at Eagle Bay Elementary School in Farmington, UT wrote in March 16th letter to the Salt Lake City Tribune:

Why is the state backing an “Earth Day” contest that celebrates fossil fuels, while completely ignoring the adverse effects that their use and extraction can too often have on our air quality, water quality, public lands and the other organisms we share the world with? Shouldn’t Earth Day be about championing things that can help reverse the negative impact of our dependence on fossil fuels?

Frankly, I’m disgusted that the state is backing propaganda like this in our schools.

Meanwhile, Utah Moms for Clean Air responded by launching a “Love Your Mother” counter-poster contest, with the counter-theme, “Explore the Economic, Environmental and Health Costs of Fossil Fuels.” Their contest also offers cash prizes, and is open to elementary school students, grades K-6, throughout the state of Utah. Their deadline is April 17th. For further instructions, visit the Utah Moms for Clean Air web site’s main page and scroll down. Unfortunately, their cash prizes aren’t quite as lavish as those offered by state fossil fuel interests. Governor Gary Herbert will be signing award certificates for winners of the pro-dirty energy contest, but hasn’t yet indicated whether he’ll do the same for children who win the “Love Your Mother” contest. Guess which of the two major American political parties Herbert belongs to? Hint: It starts with an “R.”

Jim Springer, public information officer for the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining, defended the poster contest to Associated Press reporter Annie Knox, in the Deseret News:

“The simple fact is that our modern society doesn’t exist without these things. As much as some people may dislike fossil fuels, they’re here to stay for quite some time to come.”

Even a significant number of progressives — including this writer — acknowledge that fossil fuels are a necessary evil until cleaner energy technologies fully evolve. But that doesn’t make it appropriate for oil, gas, and coal mining interests to celebrate these necessary evils by having school children create propaganda for them.

And just in case you still think this is an article from The Onion, here’s the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining’s postcard, announcing their not-Earth Day poster contest:

The announcement reads as follows:      Announcing the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining's 2013 Earth Day poster contest.     Theme: Where would you be without oil, gas and mining?     To receive all updates, contact Ruby Jo Anderson @ (801) 538-5352 or rubyjo@utah.gov     or like us on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/utahoilgasandmining

Utah’s Earth Day Poster Contest, from the Department of Oil, Gas, and Mining’s facebook page.


The Entry Instructions also listed the contest’s sickeningly Orwellian goals:

  • To improve students’ and the public’s awareness of the important role that oil, gas, and mining lay in our everyday lives.
  • To highlight how modern mining and petroleum extraction techniques and reclamation methods minimize environmental impacts while providing society with the raw materials required to have our high standard of living.
  •  To allow teachers to combine natural resources, science, and social studies education with individual creativity and artistic skill for an activity that meets several learning objectives in the science and social studies curricula.


Elisabeth Parker Elisabeth Parker is a writer, Web designer, mom, political junkie, and dilettante. Come visit her at ElisabethParker.Com, “like” her on facebook, “friend” her on facebook, follow her on Twitter, or check out her Pinterest boards. For more Addicting Info articles by Elisabeth, click here.