Natural-gas-promoting booklets raise eyebrows in Massachusetts schools

The distribution of booklets promoting natural gas in a Cambridge, Massachusetts, elementary school aroused local concern, according to Grist (May 19, 2021). NCSE's Glenn Branch observed that the booklets — one entitled “Natural Gas: Your Invisible Friend" — are "very enthusiastic about natural gas," describing it as "clean and non-polluting," without acknowledging that it is a non-renewable resource that contributes to climate change.

The booklets were distributed by mistake, although it remains mysterious why they were present in the first place. A spokesperson for the utility Eversource, whose logo appeared on the booklets, said that the booklets are provided by request, while a representative of the district said, "There's no way anybody ... would have requested anything even remotely close to this."

Both Eversource and Culver Company, which produces promotional and educational materials such as the booklets distributed in the school on behalf of utility companies, were quoted as recognizing the importance of updating these materials. Culver promised that it would work to ensure that its content "better reflects communities' growing focus on a cleaner energy future."

The incident highlighted "the larger issue of teachers having to rely on free materials," Grist noted, quoting Branch as saying, "Teachers don't get the resources they need. Small wonder that they reach out to offers of free things and perhaps use them uncritically." Branch cited the Climate Literacy & Energy Awareness Network as a good source of resources for teachers. (NCSE has developed its own misconception-based lesson plans on climate change.)

Glenn Branch
Short Bio

Glenn Branch is Deputy Director of NCSE.