The Institute for 21st Century Energy has a plan for educating Americans about energy. Given the rampant ignorance on the subject, this appears to be an admirable goal. The plan is to reach six million students, parents, and teachers nationwide this school year. According to the Energy Institute press release, the program features a supplemental print and digital program on energy issues that aligns with science, math, and social studies curricula and will reach an estimated 100,000 classrooms by the end of the school year. “At the conclusion,” the release says, “students and teachers will have the opportunity to enter a nationwide contest to demonstrate their understanding of energy and newly learned skills.” The press release says the aim of the contest is to challenge students to hone real-world skills to help them think critically about energy and make informed decisions. Contest winners will be announced in the spring. What a great idea! It could be like the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Karen Harbert, Energy Institute president and CEO, launched this national initiative on October 20 at a school assembly near Pittsburgh, PA, where Harbert unveiled new energy learning resources to 250 West Greene Middle-Senior high school students. “Now, more than ever, we must arm future generations with the skills and critical thinking needed to plan for, build, and manage our country’s energy systems,” Harbert said. “By engaging today’s students at a time when our skilled energy workforce is aging and America’s global competitiveness is being challenged, we are really reaching tomorrow’s leaders with facts that we believe will empower them to take an active role in shaping America’s energy future.” The program, called “Shedding Light on Energy,” was launched in response to a need for energy resources for middle school science teachers and students. The Energy Institute found that much of the curriculum available to teachers is outdated or inadequate and that education on energy issues has become a low priority. ”Shedding Light on Energy” is a three-pronged program that includes classroom materials, posters, teacher lessons plans, and student experiments and. All lessons are based on government data sources, including the US Energy Information Administration’s “Annual Energy Review.” A dynamic online interactive website, hosted by, will launch later this fall. The site will allow students to tour an energy theme park filled with quizzes, maps, games, and an extensive set of energy resources. Students also will get to meet energy professionals online and hear about future career opportunities. Plans are in place to update teacher resources throughout the school year. Future subjects will include how energy is transported to homes and businesses and a special focus on new and emerging technology. The first set of materials will reach classrooms this week. In my opinion, this program is past due, and I am happy to see that the Energy Institute is launching this program. The average American is woefully ignorant of the nation’s huge energy demand and what that means in terms of imported oil. They don’t grasp the near impossibility of energy independence. They have no concept of how much they depend on production from the Gulf of Mexico and have no appreciation for the tremendous advances in technology that have allowed operators to produce hydrocarbons in harsh environments or in deepwater or HP/HT conditions. Maybe these educational tools will give Americans insight into the enormous value of shale gas and a means of becoming familiar with the technologies used to produce it. The oil and gas industry, despite its efforts, hasn’t managed to make inroads in educating the country about energy. Much of that failure (if I can be so bold as to call it that) stems from distrust of the industry. Though I doubt the US government has the unwavering trust of many Americans, it is quite possible that Americans will trust the information that the Energy Institute is sharing. And that could be a huge step in the right direction. I don’t know about you, but I plan to keep the URL handy and visit the site when it’s up and running to see what it’s all about.