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Admitting Climate Change is Real Would be Bad for GDP, Says State Board of Education

Texas textbooks will likely have watered-down lessons on climate change thanks to criticism from the State Board of Education, who says negative depictions of the fossil fuel industry are bad for business.

“(The book) emphasizes the negative effects of fossil fuels. If that’s what’s presented to our children, that would have a negative effect on our state’s GDP,” board member Julie Pickren (R-Pearland), said about one of the textbooks according to the Houston Chronicle. “It is factually inaccurate to the way that the negative effects of fossil fuels are presented because it is stated as fact and it is theory.”

Pickren is wrong. All but a dwindling handful of climatologists agree that climate change is real, that it is primarily driven by manmade industry, and that carbon emitted by the burning of fossil fuels is the main cause. No major national or international scientific body disputes these facts.

The fact that fossil fuels have contributed to devastating climate change is one the oil and gas industry is extremely reticent to admit. Companies like Exxon Mobil have hidden the scientific findings of their own scientists since the 1970s. Researchers in the industry have consistently found that the oil and gas industry poses a dire environmental risk to the planet, but their employers have largely covered up the findings or presented them in a misleading fashion.

That campaign of disinformation appears to have worked, if the Texas State Board of Education is any evidence. The Board is made up entirely of Republicans, and 85 percent of all oil and gas political donations went to Republican candidates in 2020. In Texas, oil and gas make up 9 percent of the gross domestic product of the state. The industry remains a cornerstone of conservative political donations and business in the state.

However, climate change is racking up a large price tag in response. The warming of the planet’s oceans and the trapping of greenhouse gases are significantly changing the climate. Hurricanes are more common and stronger. The state sweltered under an immovable dome of heat all summer, skyrocketing energy usage and costs. Even the devastation of Winter Storm Uri is seen by climate scientists as having its roots in climate change. These events cost the state billions of dollars, most of it hitting the average Texan rather than the industries driving the events.

The love of the oil and gas industry extends to a hatred of green energy. Pickren suggested that the books should at least contain information about Chinese lithium mines to balance out the meanness aimed at oil and gas. Though Pickren did not cite a source, the idea that lithium battery mining is actually worse for the environment comes from the Institute for Energy Research. That institute is funded almost entirely by the oil and gas industry.

While lithium mining does have negative environmental impacts, and the cost of manufacturing electric cars is not yet carbon neutral, the mining is far cleaner than coal mining and experiences markedly fewer spills than oil and gas transportation.  

The state board will vote on whether to recommend the books later this week.  

Jef Rouner
Jef Rouner
Jef Rouner is an award-winning freelance journalist, the author of The Rook Circle, and a member of The Black Math Experiment. He lives in Houston where he spends most of his time investigating corruption and strange happenings. Jef has written for Houston Press, Free Press Houston, and Houston Chronicle.


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