When students in California return to school this fall, they will have a brand new environmental curriculum — developed, in part, by oil giant BP. The Sacramento Bee reported today that BP helped California’s public schools form an environmental curriculum to be used by over 6 million public school students (kindergarten through 12th grade) in 1,000 districts. The Bee reports that state officials included BP on a technical team that “was responsible for developing the program’s guiding principles.”
Even before the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, which BP officials admit was the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, the company had a terrible environmental record: over the past five years, BP paid $373 million in fines to avoid prosecution after admitting to breaking U.S. environmental and safety laws.
The same company involved in forming California’s environmental curriculum also has a long record of dishonest greenwashing. As Lisa Graves, executive director for the Center for Media and Democracy, which monitors “greenwashing” techniques, told the Bee: “I’d hate to see how a section in future textbooks mentioning the BP oil spill will look. … I think it’s very worrisome because their fundamental goal is to profit from energy and not to teach children.”
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BP’s dishonesty was on full display during the Gulf disaster, as the company tried to spin the environmental catastrophe that unleashed 206 million gallons of oil into the ocean. Just today, BP released a report deflecting blame for the oil spill onto various other companies. The Wonk Room’s Brad Johnson has been tracking some of BP’s most egregious statements:
– Five months and one day before its Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, BP’s top Gulf of Mexico official testified its practices were “both safe and protective of the environment.”
– In the immediate aftermath of the explosion, BP officials called the disaster “inconceivable,” “unprecedented,” and completely unforeseeable: “I don’t think anybody foresaw the circumstance that we’re faced with now,” said one spokesman. This was despite the fact that blowouts are unfortunately common in offshore oil drilling.
– Then-CEO Tony Hayward said on May 19 that “the environmental impact of this disaster is likely to be very, very modest.”
– On June 9, Hayward said that a new fund the company set up “will have a significant positive impact on the environment in this region.”
– BP’s new CEO, Robert Dudley, has repeatedly said dispersants the company used in the Gulf were “like dish soap.” The dispersant used, Corexit, is a combination of petroleum distillates, propylene glycol, and dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate which is banned in the United Kingdom.
Nevertheless, California officials defended BP’s involvement in interviews with the Bee, saying that the company’s involvement was “minor” and that it was “important to get all sides of the environmental debate involved in developing the classroom materials.” The problem is that the side BP generally represents is not based in fact.