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Oklahoma, Colorado And Arizona Push ALEC Bill To Require Teaching Climate Change Denial In Schools

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"Oklahoma, Colorado And Arizona Push ALEC Bill To Require Teaching Climate Change Denial In Schools"

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By Steve Horn Via DeSmogBlog

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) - known by its critics as a “corporate bill mill” – has hit the ground running in 2013, pushing “models bills” mandating the teaching of climate change denial in public school systems.

January hasn’t even ended, yet ALEC has already planted its “Environmental Literacy Improvement Act” - which mandates a “balanced” teaching of climate science in K-12 classrooms - in the state legislatures of Oklahoma, Colorado, and Arizona so far this year.

In the past five years since 2008, among the hottest years in U.S. history, ALEC has introduced its “Environmental Literacy Improvement Act” in 11 states, or over one-fifth of the statehouses nationwide. The bill has passed in four states, an undeniable form of “big government” this “free market” organization decries in its own literature.

ALEC’s “model bills” are written by and for corporate lobbyists alongside conservative legislators at its annual meetings. ALEC raises much of its corporate funding from the fossil fuel industry, which in turn utilizes ALEC as a key - though far from the only – vehicle to ram through its legislative agenda through in the states.

A Frankenstein Co-Created with Heartland Institute

A DeSmogBlog investigation last year found that the Environmental Literacy Improvement Act’s orgins date back to 2000.

The Act’s creation is directly connected to the ongoing efforts of another corporate-funded group, the Heartland Institute – of “Heartland Institute Exposed” fame – a group well plugged into the climate change denial machine.

ALEC’s Natural Resources Task Force, now known as its Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force, adopted this model at a time when the Task Force was headed by Sandy Liddy Bourne. Bourne, who served in this capacity from 1999-2004, would eventually ascend to the role of Director of Legislation and Policy for ALEC in 2004.

Upon leaving ALEC in 2006, Bourne become Heartland’s Vice President for Policy Strategy. Today she serves as Exectutive Director of the American Energy Freedom Center, an outfit she co-heads withArthur G. Randol. Randol is a longtime lobbyist and PR flack for ExxonMobil, a corporation which endowed the climate change denial machine for years.

Heartland’s website still lists Bourne as one of its “experts,” stating that “Under her leadership, 20 percent of ALEC model bills were enacted by one state or more, up from 11 percent.”

Importantly, Heartland is still a member of ALEC’s Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force that originally passed the Environmental Literacy Improvement Act.

According to internal documents leaked to and published by DeSmogBlog in Feb. 2012, Heartland obtained funding for a “Global Warming Curriculum for K-12 Classrooms” project beginning in 2012. This cirruculum aims to teach that there “is a major controversy over whether or not humans are changing the weather.”

If this sounds similar to ALEC’s model bill, it should, given the fact that the two outfits share funding from the same honey pot. In fact, Heartland actively promotes the ALEC model on its website.

Model Bill Introduced in OK, CO, and AZ

Oklahoma and Colorado came first and within just over a week, Arizona followed suit in proposing the ALEC climate science “mis-education” bill.

Oklahoma: Sooner Rather than Later

On Jan. 18, the Sooner State’s legislature took the lead for 2013 in pushing the ALEC climate change education model in the form of HB 1674, the “Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act.”

HB 1674 calls for the teaching of “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories,” including of global warming, saying it’s a theory steeped in “controversy” - not that the actual scientific record thinks so.

This is necessary, the bill states, “to help students develop critical thinking skills they need in order to become intelligent, productive, and scientifically informed citizens,” going on to explain that it’s important to explore “differences of opinion on scientific issues.”

The ALEC model similarly calls for the teaching of “critical thinking so that students will be able to fairly and objectively evaluate scientific…controversies.” The model also mandates creation of “an atmosphere of respect for different opinions and open-mindedness to new ideas” in the scientific sphere.

The OK bill is sponsored by Rep. Gus Blackwell (R-61), unsurprisngly a dues-paying member of ALEC. According to a Dec. 2012 report published by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) titled, “Buying Influence,” Blackwell has paid for his attendance at least one ALEC meeting with taxpayer money.

National Institute on Money in State Politics’ data demonstrates that Blackwell’s largest pool of campaign funding for his 2012 electoral victory came from the oil and gas industry, which gave him $28,800. This includes taking $7,500 from shale gas industry giant Chesapeake Energy, $2,350 from ConocoPhillips, and $1,000 each from Koch Industries and coal industry giant Duke Energy, among others. All of these corporations also fund ALEC.

Colorado’s Same Day Affair

One sure sign of a coordinated, ALEC-lead effort is the fact that Colorado’s state legislature introduced the ALEC model on the same day as did Oklahoma’s. The two states, it’s worth noting, share a border on Oklahoma’s panhandle.

On Jan. 18, 2013, eight representatives and four senators introduced HB 13-1089, coining the bills the “Academic Freedom Acts.”

Paralleling the language in the ALEC model and the Oklahoma bill, the HB 13-1089 aims to “Inform students about scientific evidence and to help students develop critical thinking skills,” also recognizing that the teaching of the concept global warming “can cause controversy.”

One of the senators co-sponsoring the bill, Rep. Scott Renfroe (R-13) is an ALEC dues-paying member. He’s also attended at least one ALEC meeting paid for by Colorado taxpayers, according to the CMD’s “Buying Influence” report.

Of the $91,000 dollars he raised for the 2012 election, over $5,000 of it came from the oil, gas and electric utilities industry, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics. This includes taking money from Chesapeake Energy, Anadarko Petroleum, Williams Companies, and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association.

The Arizona (Sun) Devils are in the Details

Eight days later, ALEC’s model bill made its way to Arizona, a state sharing a “corner border” with Colorado.

Arizona’s SB 1213 was introduced on Jan. 26, 2013 by six senators that, as it turns out, are all dues-paying ALEC members. Five of the six have attended conferences totally on the taxpayer dime,according to CMD’s report.

SB 1213 incorporates the “critical thinking skills” operative language, the “scientific controversies” operative language and the  “teaching…global warming” can “cause controversy” operative language.

In short, SB 1213 is the same exact copycat ALEC model bill that’s been proposed in both Oklahoma and Colorado.

ALEC Celebrates Groundhog Day 2013

Groundhog Day is on Feb. 2 and fittingly, ALEC and its corporate patrons continue to sing the same tune, simultaneously promoting frackingblockading a transition to renewable energy and pushing bills mandating teaching climate change denial on par with actual science.

“It’s the same old schtick every year, the guy comes out with a big old stick, raps on the door,” actor Bill Murray said in the classic film “Groundhog Day.” “They pull the little rat out, they talk to him, the rat talks back, then they tell us what’s gonna happen.”

Replace “guy” with “corporate lobbyist” and “legislators” with “rats” and that’s ALEC in a nutshell, serving as a mere microcosm of the current American political system at-large.
Desmogblog (http://s.tt/1zbJI)

– Steve Horn’s piece is reprinted from DeSmogBlog

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16 Responses to Oklahoma, Colorado And Arizona Push ALEC Bill To Require Teaching Climate Change Denial In Schools

  1. Ric Merritt says:

    It seems to be a losing battle, but I would be so pleased if you (and everybody, dream on) would stop using “conservative” to mean “right-wing”.

    The opposite of “conservative” is “reckless”. The opposite of “liberal” is “illiberal”. Many people, myself among them, are conservative and liberal.

    Most folks can’t even understand the difference, and I know you are among those who can at least tell what I am talking about.

  2. Mike Roddy says:

    This approach has been going on for a while now, and was actually pioneered by the timber industry. Weyerhauser produced lesson plans for biology curricula that attempted to show how clearcuts made the forest better.

    It’s quite insidious, and should be stopped. Polluting corporations should be banned from influencing public education in any form. The fact that this has been occurring shows negligence on the part of school administrators. Companies like Exxon and Koch have jumped in because there are no specific prohibitions, and school administrators were lax. This has to change.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      It’s a sad reflection on the state of society in the crumbling capitalist dystopias that their ruling elites are so deranged that they are forcing mass moroncy on the populace. The rejection, the forcible repudiation, of the so-called ‘Enlightenment Values’ of truth in discourse, the use of evidence produced by science to inform action and the primacy of honesty and morality in public affairs has been a really dramatic turn of events. The Right in the West, as their dreadful world vision of unbridled greed and unlimited contempt for others has produced the moral and spiritual debacle that all decent religions and philosophies have all predicted it would, has simply gone ape-shit and raised the stakes to the limit, and bet the house (our planet) on the victory of greed and misanthropy over humanity. This is, they are signalling, a fight to the bitter end, and we’d better be prepared to take it up to them, or evil will prevail.

  3. Mark Shapiro says:

    Joe and friends,

    Need an example of someone who gets both AGW and messaging? Here’s Stephen Colbert and “The Word” . . .

    occupyamerica.crooksandliars.com/diane-sweet/stephen-colbert-rips-cnns-erick-ericks

  4. What very sloppy headline writing. The sloppiness extends to the article.

    Neither the government of Colorado as a whole nor the state legislature is pushing the ALEC bill. Some legislators have introduced the bill. Please correct that uncalled-for slur.

    • Bob Geiger says:

      David is correct, and the same criticism applies to the article’s treatment of Arizona and Oklahoma. State legislatures do not introduce bills, legislators do. This is shoddy journalism.

  5. Merrelyn Emery says:

    “What’s good for business is good for America” – never a bright idea to believe your own PR, ME

  6. Good info, but I agree the headline is misleading. I have recommended Think Progress to friends as a source of factual news on progressive issues, but recently it has several times veered into ideological hype, with misleading headlines.

  7. Raul M. says:

    When the specialists said to mine the unstable gas fields, I thought they were talking of the methane hydrates primed to destabilize to the air. But making it so the shale gas leaks to the air only makes it worse for the calm air senario.

  8. BillD says:

    As a scientist, I have trouble understanding the point of legislation about what schools can or should teach. Usually states have educational standards that teachers are supposed to follow. Maybe the state legislators should just come out and say that they prefer standards based on political ideology, rather than facts and science. Unfortunately, I don’t think that my state (Indiana) has a public school standard on climate change. I do know that we have an excellent standard on evolution in biology. Still it seems strange when legislation is proposed that directly contradicts state standards. I guess that even in the most conservative states, it’s difficult to propose standards for K-12 that directly contradict what what students will learn at the university.

    • “As a scientist, I have trouble understanding the point of legislation about what schools can or should teach.”

      It’s about money. Look who is sponsoring ALEC and Heartland. The fossil fuel industry wants to muddle the issue about climate change for as long as possible so it can keep raking in money at the expense of the environment.

      This has nothing to do with “education.”

  9. Martin Zehr says:

    It would be nice to run from battle to battle with equal ability to put out brush fires. But public school curricula needs to be put on the list of priorities appropriately without obsessing that we must “save their little minds”. Few have gone as far as the EU in transitioning to non-carbon based fuels. Priorities, children, means: ” 1. Precedence, especially established by order of importance or urgency”

  10. Scott says:

    I think the Republicans will keep us safe, in Texas, from the ALEC bills. The 2012 Texas GOP platform seeks to remove critical thinking from the public school curriculum in Texas (http://chronicle.com/blogs/innovations/what-were-they-thinking/33367).

    It is entirely possible they will forget about their platform or misinterpret it, of course.

  11. Ozonator says:

    Is Sandy Liddy Bourne any relation to Dan Borne, President of the Louisiana Chemical Association, voice of LSU Tigers (stadium public address announcer), and yet another reason why Louisiana is at the top of many many bad lists?

    • Green Warrior Bunny says:

      I don’t know, but here’s a starting point: SourceWatch states that Liddy Bourne “…is the daughter of former Nixon aide and convicted Watergate criminal G. Gordon Liddy, who spent more than 52 months in prison for his part in the Watergate burglary…[and her] speech at the Heartland Institute’s 2008 International Conference on Climate Change was titled, ‘The Kyoto Legacy; The Progeny of a Carbon Cartel in the States.”
      Desmogblog (http://s.tt/199ih)

  12. dhough6 says:

    Although I am sure ALEC is in support of these bills, they are actually modeled after bills written by the creationist Discovery Institute. This is their preferred strategy since the Kizmiller trial.