Radio Disney pulls pin on program that promotes fracking

Radio Disney has pulled out of an educational program sponsored by Ohio’s oil and gas industry after it was accused of using school students to peddle “propaganda” around fracking.

The Rocking in Ohio program went on a tour of 26 school and science centres in the U.S state last month and involved interactive demonstrations and games with children on how oil and gas pipelines work.

The initiative was conducted by three staff members from Radio Disney’s Cleveland branch and according to Al jazeera America was entirely funded and sponsored by the state’s oil and gas representative body the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program.

In each demonstration a Radio Disney DJ directed children as they competed to build pipelines from plastic straws. The first team to get three pingpong balls through the makeshift structures won the game.

However after a storm of protests aimed at the program, including on online petition with over 75,000 signatures, Radio Disney has pulled the plug on the partnership.

"The sole intent of the collaboration between Radio Disney and the nonprofit Rocking in Ohio educational initiative was to foster kids' interest in science and technology. Having been inadvertently drawn into a debate that has no connection with this goal, Radio Disney has decided to withdraw from the few remaining installments of the program," the company said in a statement sent to Al Jazeera.

The decision came after environmentalists accused organisers of using the program to promote the use of fracking, a controversial method to access gas and oil  in the state of Ohio which holds rich reserves.

"It's troubling in the first place that they're going into elementary schools, and it's even more troubling that Disney is getting involved," said Alison Auciello, an organizer with Food and Water Watch in Ohio.

"They're not giving a balanced education on (oil and gas). Public schools should also be inviting anti-fracking people into schools. That doesn't seem to be happening at all."

OOGEEP says the word fracking was never used during the programs and according to its website holds teacher workshops, science fairs, student safety seminars and curriculum advice for schools in the state.

The oil and gas industry has been dogged with controversy in both the U.S and Australia as environmentalists question the safety of hydraulic fracturing.

A review by the Ohio Government in 2012 revealed several small earthquakes in the region in 2011 were probably caused by fracking.

According to Reuters the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which regulates the oil and gas industry, said while extremely rare fracking had "induced seismic activity" late last year.

In its report the organisation called on the Ohio Government to pass a new law prohibiting drilling at the Precambrian rock level, which begins at 2,799 metres.

Closer to home, Oil and gas company Metgasco was slammed last year for a letter sent to north coast schools in NSW offering to send its staff members in to talk to students.

The letter, sent in July, also offered to donate a new documentary produced in the U.S about the energy industry.

Anti-CSG campaigners slammed the letter and say student debates around energy issues should be handled in a classroom environment.

Aiden Ricketts, from CSG Free Northern Rivers, said the letter represents an unacceptable PR tactic by Metgasco.


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