The Education Ministry is suggesting that geography teachers teach their students about energy in Israel using videos produced by industry powers that depict the use of oil and natural gas in a positive light.
According to the scientific consensus, however, the world must stop using fossil fuels that contribute to climate change, though the ministry's website characterizes the causes of the climate crisis as still up for debate.
The videos are available on the website, where geography teachers for grades 10 through 12 are offered teaching materials and suggested class activities, including a video produced by Delek Drilling that students can use to design presentations on “how to discover a gas or oil reservoir.”
The video shows cartoon characters raising glasses of wine and celebrating. “Come on, let’s get the gas and oil out already," one character says. “If an exploratory drilling attempt finds gas or oil, we can be happy,” says another.
This video was produced by the U.S. company Noble Energy and its Israeli partner Delek Group, which together hold a 47 percent stake in the Tamar gas field and 85 percent in the larger Leviathan. It fails to mention that fossil fuels are contributing to climate change and thus all its effects: heat waves, fires, floods, droughts and rising sea levels.
The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change declared a “code red for humanity” in a report released Monday warning that if the world does not significantly reduce the use of fossil fuels, between 2041 and 2060 the earth will warm by 2 degrees Celsius. This is a point of no return that world leaders pledged to make every effort to avoid when they signed the 2015 Paris Agreement.
The end of the video declares that it is possible to "manage the production [of oil and gas] in an intelligent, safe and considerate manner," and that "the road is full of challenges, but with resolve and perseverance, gas and oil can be produced reliably for the benefit of the people and industry."
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However, most world leaders have pledged to gradually stop investing in polluting fuels and switch to renewable energy.
"Natural gas is a clean and cheap source of energy," another video claims. Produced by Noble, now a unit of the U.S. energy giant Chevron, the clip describes how natural gas is produced.
The video does not mention that natural gas is based mainly on methane, whose global warming potential over 20 years is 84 times greater than that of carbon dioxide. According to the UN climate report, about a third of global warming is caused by methane emissions.
On Thursday, Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg urged the Academy of the Hebrew Language to use the term “mineral gas” instead of “natural gas.”
“The term ‘natural gas’ contributes to public confusion and ambiguity about the quality of energy sources,” Zandberg wrote. “The public understands that coal and oil are mineral fuels whose production and combustion cause pollution …. On the other hand, the term ‘natural gas’ creates the false impression that its production and combustion are not polluting, as if it were clean energy.”
“The gas companies are deceiving Israeli children under the auspices of the Education Ministry and its silence,” added Yoni Sapir, chairman of the environmental group Homeland Guards, which promotes the use of renewable energy.
“Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton must instruct the ministry’s employees and school principals to immediately remove the biased and misleading content,” he added, noting that the videos fail to acknowledge the methane and other global warming emissions from gas production and refining processes.
For its part, the Education Ministry said that some of the activities on the site have undergone a long approval process, including scientific advice from Tel Aviv University and pedagogical advice. The ministry says the overall goal is to present both sides of the energy debate to let students reach their own conclusions through critical thinking.
“The Education Ministry considers it of the utmost importance to adapt curricula to the changing reality,” the ministry said. “Since the UN report this week that presents a statement of scientific consensus on the climate crisis, the ministry has been updating learning materials accordingly and making the necessary changes.”
Later the ministry tweaked its response, saying it would "study the new report and update the curriculum based on its findings."