A Government Website for Kids Scrubbed Its Climate Warnings
In recent weeks, “Energy Kids” has reworked and cut information about fossil fuels’ environmental impacts.
Almost 20 years ago, the U.S. Energy Information Administration had an idea: Make an educational website for children about energy sources and the science behind them.
In short order, the EIA created “Energy Kids,” which now features energy-themed Sudoku and crossword puzzles, colorful pie charts, and a know-it-all mascot called Energy Ant. Images of a school bus parked between a coal plant and an oil rig adorn the bottom of the web page, along with drawings of wind turbines, solar panels, and an energy-efficient lightbulb.
During the Obama administration, Energy Kids even won multiple international awards for its content and design, as well as one from a digital publishing company that hailed it as “the best of the best in open and engaging government.”
The Trump administration, it seems, wasn’t altogether impressed with the site or its awards. In recent weeks, language on the website describing the environmental impacts of energy sources has been reworked, and two pie charts concerning the link between coal and greenhouse gas emissions have been removed altogether.
On a page dedicated to coal, the following sentences were deleted: “In the United States, most of the coal consumed is used as a fuel to generate electricity. Burning coal produces emissions that adversely affect the environment and human health.”
The two pie charts that were axed showed that although coal generated only 42 percent of total U.S. electricity in 2014, it created 76 percent of total carbon-dioxide emissions linked to electricity generation.
“Impact” seems to have been a word the new administration disliked in particular.
The sentence “Reuse and recycling can also reduce coal’s environmental impact” was changed to “Reuse and recycling can also reduce the environmental effects of coal production and use.” “Underground mines have less of an impact on the environment compared to surface mines” became “Underground mines generally have a lesser effect on the landscape compared to surface mines.” “Impacts of coal mining” was changed to “Effects of coal mining,” and “Reducing the environmental impacts of coal use” became “Reducing the environmental effects of coal use.”
In a section on oil, the sentence, “There are environmental concerns associated with hydraulic fracturing” became “Hydraulic fracturing has some effects on the environment.”
On a separate kids’ page for greenhouse gases, a paragraph detailing the U.S. share of global carbon-dioxide emissions was also deleted:
“The United States, with 4 percent of the world’s population, produced about 17 percent of global carbon-dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels in 2011, the The Government's "Energy Kids" Website Has Scrubbed Climate Warnings - The Atlantic: