Fracosaurus Joins a Long Line of Coloring-Book Propaganda

Last Updated Jun 21, 2011 5:45 PM EDT

The lowly coloring book -- that gloriously simple child-silencing invention -- has become the go-to propaganda device for the fossil fuels industry. The latest character and coloring book to enter the kiddie brainwashing fray is Talisman Terry the Fracosaurus, a fictional dinosaur created by Talisman Energy to teach children about the wonders of natural gas.

The natural gas drilling company developed the coloring book last year. But it's received some new attention since it started showing up at community picnics in northeastern Pennsylvania. Talisman's target is no accident. The company has identified the Marcellus shale play in New York and Pennsylvania a major area of investment in 2011. Its main focus is in Pennsylvania, where it holds 223,000 net acres with approximately 2,000 net drilling locations.

There's no mention in the coloring book of hydraulic fracturing, the controversial technique used to unlock gas trapped in shale rock that has been blamed for contaminating residential water wells. No need to confuse the kiddos. But even without the word "fracturing," Talisman is clearly addressing the concern of adults and kids alike about what happens when natural gas drillers come to town. In Talisman's world: Natural gas is good -- amazing, even -- and once the drilling is complete your town will return to its utopian state. See that, kids? Even the sun and wild animals are smiling.

Carbon-based coloring books catch, um, fire
Talsiman isn't the only natural gas company hoping to quell controversies via kid-friendly mascots. Chesapeake Energy (CHK), the company that suspended fracturing in Pennsylvania after a well blowout spewed 30,000 gallons of drilling fluid, has Chesapeake Charlie, a fun, natural-gas-loving beagle. Charlie also has his own coloring book and recently made an appearance at the Chesapeake-hosted Day of Family Fun in Charleston, W.Va.

Then there's the Friends of Coal, a volunteer organization that's essentially an extension of the West Virginia Coal Association. Two years ago the group put out a "Let's Learn About Coal" coloring book for kids.

Some savvier organizations skip the whole free coloring book ploy and go straight to the classroom, where they offer teachers in poor districts access to free educational materials. The American Coal Foundation recently teamed up with Scholastic's InSchool Marketing division to produce a pro-coal curriculum and distributed the free material to thousands of fourth-grade teachers. Scholastic has since stopped sending out the coal curriculum.

To be clear, coal, natural gas and oil companies aren't the only ones issuing coloring book propaganda. The country is rife with all kinds of ridiculous kid-themed paraphernalia. The CIA has coloring pages on its website, a St. Louis publisher developed a Tea Party Coloring Book for Kids, and the North Carolina Association for BioMedical Research published the story of Lucky Puppy, who saved was by medication that had been tested on mice.

Surely, though, corporations and industry organizations can get more creative than stuffed animals, mascots and coloring books. Kids recognize these as the cheap marketing ploys that they are. If these companies really cared, they'd invest a little more into the effort. How about a coal theme park where kids, donning hard hats and lights, can explore a mining adventure land? Or a fossil fuels-themed Playstation game? I mean come on, this is the 21st century. Kids can't be manipulated with dime-store candy anymore.

At least the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity provided a web-based piece of propaganda with its singing lumps of coal Christmas caroling video.