Educating the educators

By Tessa Sandstrom | March 16, 2014

Energy is all around us and impacts nearly every minute of every day of our lives.  It lights and powers our homes, heating them in the winter and cooling them in the summer. Energy powers our laptops, televisions and smartphones, so we can work and stay informed. It fuels trucks, trains and planes that bring food and products to stores or sometimes right to our doorsteps, and it fuels our cars to allow us to travel to work, school or a vacation destination.

We are all very aware of the importance energy, and we are all confident that when we go to flip the light switch, our lights will come on. This is because North Dakota is fortunate to have many safe and reliable resources of energy. But, it’s also that reliability and confidence that sometimes allows us to take that energy for granted and forget just where that energy comes from. 

Educating the public about our energy resources and the role they play in our everyday lives is an important part of both the North Dakota Petroleum Council and the Lignite Energy Council’s operations and goals. As technology and innovation change the way we develop our resources, both organizations recognize the need to continue educating the public about North Dakota’s energy and calm any fears or misconceptions about the new technologies or processes we use to develop our coal and oil resources. It can be a big job, however, and both organizations have turned first to educating our elementary and high school educators by inviting them to attend Teacher Seminars and learn about energy development in North Dakota. These courses have helped shed light on the industry and have offered teachers an opportunity to bring those lessons back to their students so they too can gain a better understanding of North Dakota’s role as an energy powerhouse for the nation.

Now, both councils are hoping to take their successful programs further and are working together to host a two-day energy education tour for professors of North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota in August. The idea for the energy forum and tour came from the Minnkota Power Cooperative in eastern North Dakota and the hope is that this tour will become an annual offering for university and college professors. Up to 20 professors will be members of this inaugural tour and will spend one day learning about the lignite industry and touring a power plant and lignite mine. They will spend the second day in western North Dakota learning about the Bakken and the state’s oil and gas industry.

As the industries grow, however, so do the stories, rumors, and misconceptions. Often, the facts are overshadowed by the sensational, and the Lignite Energy Council and North Dakota Petroleum Council hope these tours will help educate some of our state’s key influencers—its teachers and professors—and, in turn, give them the tools and firsthand experience and knowledge they need to help disseminate more facts and truth about these two very important industries.

The tour will be held Aug. 5-6, and will include one night in Medora where participants can relax and enjoy the Medora Musical, which is one of many attractions that has benefited from the benevolent donations given by the energy companies operating in the state. Interested professors can learn more and apply for the program at  

We invite and encourage NDSU and UND professors to join us on this inaugural tour and take advantage of the rare and exclusive opportunity to tour some of North Dakota’s state-of-the-art energy facilities, ask questions and learn from industry experts, visit a drilling rig, refinery and crew camp, and get an inside look at the industries and all they do to develop our energy resources responsibly. And in the meantime, we hope this tour will offer insight and help dispel the tall tales often told about “the West.”


Author: Tessa Sandstrom
Communications Manager,
North Dakota Petroleum Council