Rep. Jack Draxler (R) sponsored the act, which the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Interim Committee recommended Wednesday.
Draxler told Brandon Loomis of the Salt Lake Tribune that most Utah kids don't know that oil, gas and coal contribute to their education, and to the state's economy. "Most of them," he said, "don't know their iPods, their toothbrushes, their homes and their roads are all products of this kind of natural resource development."
The Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining supports the educational effort, which would draw from the Oil and Gas Conservation Account. That fund comes from industry taxes that rise and fall with mineral prices, and state law limits its annual surplus to $750,000. It's unclear how much the education effort would cost -- a separate allocation bill would set the amount -- though it would be drawn from any surplus collected beyond the cap.
The plan, it seems, is to show young Utahans how great oil is.
[Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining] policy coordinator Steve Schneider doubts most Utahns can understand how coal and petroleum operations disturb less than two-tenths of 1 percent of Utah's surface area.
Schneider argued that an education program could help change this perception.
Draxler said his idea is to add balance to an educational system which already emphasizes conservation and recycling.
Terry Marasco of the Utah Clean Air Alliance has his doubts, though, telling the Tribune that it appears the bill has a "lack of balance" when it comes to educating students about the environmental consequences of mining and natural resource extraction.