Too cool for school

My comment piece on the "Cool fuel" supplement in the The West Australian. Oil and gas industry promotion masquerading as science. Welcome to WA!

"Cool fuel" was the groovy title of the Ed! supplement about natural gas in the 5 April edition of The West Australian that gets distributed to all our schools.

To be sure natural gas is "cool" when liquefied. But nowhere among the topics covered such as "Careers in LNG", "Power to You" and "West is best" is there any mention of natural gas as a significant contributor to catastrophic global warming. No mention of the fact that because of fugitive emissions in the production cycle natural gas is up there with coal.

The closest it gets to acknowledging global warming is when it waxes lyrical about gas being the "cleanest burning hydrocarbon". Then comes this pearl of wisdom, "Natural gas is basically everything we want in a fuel, apart from the fact that it's a non-renewable energy source."

Outraged climate change campaigners contacted the editor to protest this gas industry promotion masquerading as science education. When they asked that the paper explain the real contribution of gas to climate change they were told that this could only happen if it were "unbiased".

The brainwashing doesn't stop there. This puff piece was timed for a big gas industry conference in Perth this month called LNG 18. Coinciding with the school holidays there will be a whole program of interactive natural gas exhibits around town, facilitated by Scitech and sponsored by the State Government and City of Perth.

Anyone who's been to Perth's Science Discovery Centre will know how good it is. It's particularly disappointing that Scitech, the not-for-profit science education organisation that runs it, has let itself be used as a gas industry prop in this way. But they're not alone.

A few years ago the Vice Chancellor of the University of Western Australia appeared in a four page wrap around Chevron advertisement. Presumably that's what the VC of a "public" university is expected to do when an oil and gas multinational pays for a new building. In WA an intolerable conflict of interest for what is supposed to be an independent research institution is...simply tolerated!

So many of our educational institutions, arts festivals and not-for-profit organisations are dependant on sponsorship from the mining or offshore oil and gas companies that people come think of this as a good thing. Isn't it nice of BHP, Woodside, Rio Tinto, Chevron and FMG to throw us a few crumbs from the super profits they make from exploiting the resources that we should collectively own! They're like the lord of the manor throwing pennies in the dirt for us grateful peasants.

What about taxing these companies like we should be doing and using the revenues to fund things without their interference! Such elementary democracy is revolutionary subversion in Western Australia.

Karl Marx observed that the dominant ideology in any society is the ideology of its ruling class. Here in WA the big fossil fuel companies are like the seamless fusion of church, state and economy in medieval times.

Gas is the divine "transition fuel". The only thing missing from Ed! was what to do with the modern day Galileos. Why not burn the heretics in Forrest Place under a sacred natural gas flame which "only releases carbon dioxide and water vapour when burnt"!

But being the dominant ideology doesn't make it the only ideology. We need to build a peoples movement that can break the power of the fossil fuel corporations that are threatening to destroy every ecosystem on the planet. We need to promote a different idea: that another world is possible.

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