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NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 09: Mickey Mouse attends the grand opening of the Times Square Disney Store on November 9, 2010 in New York City.  (Photo by Janette Pellegrini/Getty Images) NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 09: Mickey Mouse attends the grand opening of the Times Square Disney Store on November 9, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Janette Pellegrini/Getty Images)  

Radio Disney caves to environmentalists, pulls out of science education program

Radio Disney has announced it has pulled out of a math and science education program sponsored by the oil and gas industry after cries of outrage from environmentalists.

The children’s radio station teamed up with the Ohio Oil and Gas Association as part of an educational program called “Rocking in Ohio.” The program was intended to promote the sciences and technology among kids, but environmentalists took issue with the program’s positive messaging on oil and gas drilling.

The “Rocking in Ohio” tour made 26 stops across the states and Radio Disney planned to bring the show to other states if it was a success. But stiff resistance from environmentalists forced Radio Disney to pull out of the program to avoid further controversy.

“The sole intent of the collaboration between Radio Disney and the nonprofit Rocking in Ohio educational initiative was to foster kids’ interest in science and technology. Having been inadvertently drawn into a debate that has no connection with this goal, Radio Disney has decided to withdraw from the few remaining installments of the program,” the company said in a statement to Al Jazeera America.

Environmentalists became angered that an oil and gas group was promoting science among children and that Radio Disney should not under “the guise of teaching kids ‘science’ — promote dirty energy that that gives kids asthma, pollutes our air and water, and fuels climate change,” reads an online CREDO Mobilize petition that now has more than 81,000 signatures.

The petition was started by Lisa Hoyos, a life-long environmental activist who co-founded the environmental group Climate Parents and “has been a campaigner in the labor and environmental movements for over twenty years, most recently serving as the CA Director of the BlueGreen Alliance, a national organization committed to scaling up the clean energy economy and growing quality jobs.”

According to Hoyos’s bio, she resides in San Francisco, California, not Ohio. Her petition helped spark calls for Radio Disney to abandon its support for the science education program.

“It’s troubling in the first place that they’re going into elementary schools, and it’s even more troubling that Disney is getting involved,” said Alison Auciello, an organizer with the Ohio branch of Food and Water Watch. “They’re not giving a balanced education on [oil and gas]. Public schools should also be inviting anti-fracking people into schools. That doesn’t seem to be happening at all.”

“I don’t think it’s doing the children or the state of Ohio any good,” said Robert Shields, chair of the Ohio Sierra Club. “Kids’ ability to reason is not yet quite established, so it feels to me that they’re getting some kind of propaganda.”

Ohio has been one of several states to benefit from the advent of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and horizontal drilling into shale formations. Booming oil and gas production has helped buoy the Buckeye State’s economy while the rest of the country was hurting.

Environmentalists argue that fracking pollutes drinking water and harms air quality. The educational program, funded by the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program (OOGEEP), however, did not actually even use the word “fracking” during the demonstrations.

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