Texas Railroad Commissioner Publishes Science Books on Climate Change

Texas Railroad Commissioner Publishes Science Books on Climate Change

A top state oil and gas regulator is urging the State Board of Education to reject new science textbooks for use in schools statewide, saying they “could advance a radical environmental agenda.”

Railroad Commissioner Wayne Christian’s letter represents the most significant opposition to the textbooks before the board’s final vote next week. Academics have praised the books’ language for accurately describing the causes and effects of climate change.

Read more: Advocates are urging the Texas Board of Education to approve new textbooks describing climate change

The Republican-led board, which vets the state’s textbooks, has long played an outsized role in the national textbook industry, where publishers source their materials for acceptance in the huge Texas market.

In a letter to the board on November 1, Christian criticized the books’ depiction of fossil fuels.

“Despite what the mainstream media suggests, the climate change debate is still far from settled, as none of the catastrophic events predicted (sic) have occurred in the past 20 years,” he wrote. “These catastrophists are using the carbon dioxide bogeyman and the threat of apocalypse to scare people into submission.”

There is scientific consensus that burning coal, oil and natural gas contributes to global warming. The past eight years have been the hottest on record, and people around the world have seen extreme heat, storms and droughts that scientists say are becoming more severe due to climate change.

The 15-member State Board of Education will decide next week whether or not to certify the textbooks as valid teaching for the state’s science standards, which they set in 2020. The board is scheduled to hear public testimony on the textbooks on Tuesday before voting.

Local school districts are responsible for selecting and purchasing textbooks, but they often choose from a board-approved list.

Christian is one of three members of the state Railroad Commission, which, despite its name, oversees the state’s powerful oil and gas industry. He served in the Texas House before running for this position, and owns a financial services company.

In Christian’s letter, he praised the positive impact the fossil fuel industry has on the Texas economy and the people who work those jobs. For many years, fossil fuels have boosted economic growth around the world, lifting a billion people out of global poverty, he said.

“I would encourage the board to choose books that promote the importance of fossil fuels for energy production and reject books that promote the ‘green energy’ and net-zero emissions agenda,” he said, attributing those ideas to the “woke environmental agenda” that has been pushed. By people or organizations such as President Joe Biden, Al Gore, the United Nations or the World Economic Forum.

The letter was addressed to Board Chairman Kevin Ellis, a Republican from Lufkin, who did not respond to a request for comment.

Related: PragerU’s conservative courses have not been approved for Texas schools, contrary to the board member’s claim

Despite a shift to the right by the state board this year, including headlines this summer about a rumored plan to introduce conservative PragerU courses in schools, there was almost no opposition to science textbooks during the board’s summer meetings.

But Emily Witt, spokeswoman for the Texas Freedom Network, a left-leaning education advocacy group, said conservative lawmakers and advocates in recent months have begun speaking out against them.

Witt said Christian’s letter set off “alarm bells” for TFN, reminiscent of last year: when TFN supported draft versions of new social studies standards, before a wave of right-wing activists attacked them as “woke,” “Marxist” and “anti-American.” The board of directors shelved it.

“Something at least starts with teaching the truth about any number of subject areas, and then the SBOE rips that apart,” Witt said. “It’s really frustrating… The next step is to just adopt textbooks that teach kids the truth about climate change and evolution and other science stuff.”

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