After being ridiculed and garnering much media attention, Talisman Energy USA, Inc. has decided to stop distributing its coloring book created to teach children about natural gas drilling. Anti-fracking activists claim that the book is outright propaganda that tries to cover up the dangers associated with fracking, which is a method Talisman Energy uses to extract natural gas.
According to Natalie Cox, spokeswoman for Talisman Energy, the book has been available for about two years. Talisman Energy distributed the 24-page coloring books at community outreach events in Pennsylvania and New York, where the company operates wells. Featuring Talisman Terry, the friendly fracosaurus, the coloring book explained to children how natural gas is drilled.
Only recently has the coloring book received attention from anti-fracking activists.
“We’re going to take our company’s focus to where it should be. We’re not going to continue to dispute the intent of a children’s coloring book,” says Cox. “There’s two sides to every story, but it’s not something that we’re going to be disputing… it’s an activity book for young children.”
Arguably, the most damage was done by Stephen Colbert. In a 5 minute segment aired on the Colbert Report, he pointed out Talisman Energy committed numerous violations, including improper disposal of drill cuttings and fuel spills. Colbert says the natural gas company released the coloring book to improve its public image in light of these violations and its overall bad track record.
He furthermore poked fun at Talisman Energy, noting how happy and positive fracking is portrayed in the book. In a before and after depiction, everything seemed slightly more vibrant and cheerful after the gas is drilled. Not present before drilling, a rainbow and a soaring bald eagle appears in the scene showing the land after drilling.
At the end of the segment, Colbert claims to have discovered “bonus” pages in the coloring book, in which Terry the fracosaurus becomes depressed and lights himself on fire in a shower using water contaminated with natural gas from irresponsible fracking operations.
Talisman Energy’s track record includes a number of incidents involving public land, such as dumping toxic fluids into a ditch near a creek, a used fracking fluid spill, and a diesel fuel spill that contaminated 132,000 gallons of water and 3,800 tons of soil.
Some argue that the anti-fracking crowd is making too much out of a children’s coloring book. As Cox says, “I can’t stress this enough: It’s just a coloring book. It’s for kids at an age when they color, ages 2 to 7. When I was young, I got a coloring book at the doctor’s office. It didn’t explain open-heart surgery. It was supposed to make you not scared to go to the doctor.”
Lori Campbell, a children’s literature professor at the University of Pittsburgh does believe the overly happy and smiling imagery of the coloring book tries to cover up the ugliness of fracking. But at the same time, she believes that, as a common problem with literature, “sometimes a tree is just a tree” and people are just blowing it out of proportion.
Other natural gas companies have targeted audiences of children for public relations purposes. The natural gas company Encana produced a video where an engineer talked to children about drilling for natural gas. A colorful cake was even used to illustrate how the company extracts natural gas. The cake was layered much like the earth: a green top layer, a groundwater layer, several layers of earth, and a layer of natural gas. As the engineer explained how fracking worked, it’s reasonable to say that the children in the video appeared to be more interested in eating the cake.
Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/danielfoster/3830262932