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A Fossil Fuel Company Taught Primary School Kids How To Drill For Oil Using Vegemite And M&M’s

Year three students in Perth learned how "to become their own Exploration Company".

Woodside

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Australia’s largest natural gas producer Woodside Energy has angered the community after teaching year three students in Perth how to drill for oil using a Vegemite sandwich.

Woodside arranged an activity on Thursday at an unnamed public school as part of Science Week, where this year’s theme is ‘Food: Different by Design’.

“The children will get the opportunity to ‘make a reservoir’ using bread slices, Vegemite, and sprinkles,” a school permission slip for the task read. “They will then become their own Exploration Company, and try to find the best spots to ‘drill’ into the sandwich and find the oil (Vegemite)”.

Food For Thought

This isn’t the first time that Woodside has done activities like this with young students, and given it’s soon to be Australia’s largest publicly listed energy company after announcing a merger with BHP on Tuesday — they’ll only amp up their ambitions as they get larger and more powerful.

The program has been going on for multiple years, with Woodside training volunteers to “use these quirky foods to teach primary school students about oil and gas, and promote STEM to young people in a fun, engaging way”, as self-promoted in a 2017 Facebook post.

“Schools contact Woodside to book STEM in School sessions, choosing one of three activities to suit the intended age group. Some may have chosen to book these to coincide with National Science Week,” a Woodside spokesperson told Junkee. “These activities highlight the importance of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) in our society”.

Fossil fuel companies inject themselves into classrooms to build long-term trust and familiarity, and secure affiliation to impressionable children — much in the same way that corporate regulator ASIC called for a ban on Commbank’s Dollarmites program last year after finding they were insidiously trying to rope in lifelong customers.

Woodside is “openly and aggressively trying to encourage a new generation of students to choose oil and gas exploration as their career,” Renew Economy wrote about the Woodside Australian Science Project, or WASP, in operation since 2012.

Parents Fighting Back

At a time when young people are demanding they be protected, not exposed, to climate change triggers, Woodside’s actions are insensitive and out-of-touch.

The Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility asked Woodside and their competitor Santos to review their reputation advertising activities in March, requesting that their direct targeting of children be discontinued.

Similarly, a petition in July from the Australian Parents for Climate Action asked that schools be protected from fossil fuel lobbyists, after the Minerals Council of Australia sent a submission during a public consultation into the new national curriculum.

“Teaching children to glorify fossil fuels is akin to telling them that the world is flat: it is dangerous and embarrassing,” a Sydney-based parent wrote at the time.

An archived copy of a now-deleted demonstration of Woodside’s Vegemite experiment can be viewed here.