The state of Utah has put its own spin on the message behind Earth Day. While the national ecology teach-in day usually means bike rides and recycling campaigns, in Utah the message this year is: "Where would you be without oil, gas and mining?"
Utah's Division of Oil, Gas and Mining just got done promoting a contest for students in grades K-6 that was designed to "improve students' and the public's awareness of the important role that oil, gas, and mining play in our everyday lives" with participating students designing their own posters on that message. The poster contest has been sponsored by Society of Petroleum Engineers and is now in its second year.
When asked about the objective of the state's student contest, Jim Springer, the Division of Oil, Gas and Mining's Public Information Officer, told The Huffington Post that alternative forms of energy are worthwhile, but the reality is that Utah's economy is based on fossil fuel for now. "Even around Earth Day, we need to think about the responsible development of oil, natural gas [and other fossil fuels]. Without them, we don't have the economy, we don't have jobs, we don't have modern society," Springer said.
"Without fossil fuels, we don't have the economy, we don't have jobs, we don't have modern society" - Jim Springer
The contest has launched a wave of debate and protest about the reality of Utah's economy and government policies. Parents, activists and concerned citizens have voiced shock and outrage at the competition's premise. Grassroots environmental group Utah Moms for Clean Air has launched an alternative competition for K-6 grade students. The contest's theme is "Explore the Economic, Environmental and Health Costs of Fossil Fuels on Utah." The deadline for that contest is April 19.
Coal, petroleum and natural gas account for 98 percent of Utah's energy consumption, according to a 2011 report published in the Hinckley Journal of Politics. Coal supplies nearly half of energy consumed in the state, and has been described as the "backbone" of Utah's economy. "It's certainly safe to say that Utah is the most fossil fuel-dependent state in the nation," Matt Pacenza, Policy Director of HEAL Utah, told The Huffington Post. "There is almost no renewable electricity made in Utah that's used in Utah."