American Coal Foundation
The American Coal Foundation is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit funded by coal and mining interests that creates and distributes educational materials, like school curricula, to teachers in an effort to positively influence children's perception of the extractive energy industries.
ACF's elementary school lesson plans include an activity called "Cookie Mining," where students participate in a simulation of the mining process using chocolate chip cookies and toothpicks. Other subjects covered include "clean coal" and mining reclamation.
Controversy over materials: coal curriculum
In May 2011, it was reported that the American Coal Foundation paid Scholastic to help produce and place in classrooms maps and worksheets called the "United States of Energy," with much of the information from the National Mining Association, a coal-lobbying group. One widely distributed chart did not mention damage from mining or pollution. The Coal Foundation had been distributing materials on its own, then partnered with Scholastic so that 66,000 fourth grade teachers received materials to build into lesson plans.
In the Appalachian mining communities of Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia, mining companies sponsor Coal Education Development and Resources (CEDAR), which offers teachers booklets and DVDs produced by coal-burning utility AEP and mining giant Peabody Coal. One emphasizes how Kentucky has benefited from coal mine reclamation, with little mention of any negatives of strip mining. And on the issue of coal's carbon dioxide emissions, CEDAR offers teachers a video, titled "The Greening of Planet Earth" that asserts: "As more and more scientists are confirming, our world is deficient in carbon dioxide and a doubling of atmospheric CO2 is very beneficial."
On May 13, 2011, Scholastic, Inc., issued the following statement regarding its partnership with the American Coal Foundation: "This week, Scholastic came under criticism for an 11" x 16" poster map which displays different sources of energy – coal, nuclear, hydroelectric, solar, wind and natural gas – not so much for the content of the poster but primarily for its sponsorship by the American Coal Foundation. We acknowledge that the mere fact of sponsorship may call into question the authenticity of the information, and therefore conclude that we were not vigilant enough as to the effect of sponsorship in this instance. We have no plans to further distribute this particular program."
The New York Times noted that materials from the American Coal Foundation fail to mention the downsides of burning coal, particularly its negative effects on the environment and human life, such as the removal of Appalachian mountaintops; the release of sulfur dioxide, mercury and arsenic; the toxic wastes; the mining accidents; and the lung disease.
The organization also stated that the publisher would be undertaking a thorough review of its policy and editorial procedures on sponsored content in the future.
American Coal Foundation
101 Constitution Avenue, NW
Suite 525 East
Washington, DC 20001-2133
Articles and resources
- American Coal Foundation Lesson Plans - Elementary, organizational web site, accessed May 17, 2011
- American Coal Foundation Lessons by Subject, organizational web site, accessed May 17, 2011
- Jeff Young, "Scholastic distributed coal propaganda in schools" PRI's Living on Earth, May 16, 2011.
- Tamar Lewin Coal Curriculum Called Unfit for 4th Graders, New York Times/Education, May 11, 2011
- Chris Morran, "Scholastic Pulls Big Coal-Sponsored Kids Guide To Energy", The Consumerist, May 17, 2011.
Related SourceWatch resources
- Coal Industry PR in Schools
- Front groups
- Tobacco Industry Youth Smoking Prevention Programs (early youth education program by industry)
- Coal industry front groups
- America's Power
- America's Power Army
- Americans for Balanced Energy Choices
- Audio news releases
- Clean Coal
- Clean Coal Marketing Campaign
- Clean Coal Technology
- Fake news
- Mining industry
- National Mining Association
- U.S. coal industry lobbyists 2008