Fossil fuel companies have funded research centers that focus on energy, the environment, and climate change at universities across the United States for years. The Center for American Progress documented ten such partnerships in 2010. Since 2014, ExxonMobil has spent at least $75 million to help establish 5 energy centers at 6 universities, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2014), University of Texas at Austin (2016), Stanford University (2018), and Princeton (2015).

In November 2022, Nature Climate Change published an article entitled "Favourability towards natural gas relates to funding source of university energy centres" which concluded that "fossil-funded centres are more favourable in their reports towards natural gas than towards renewable energy, and tweets are more favourable when they mention funders by name. Centres less dependent on fossil funding show a reversed pattern with more neutral sentiment towards gas, and favour solar and hydro power."


In September 2022, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) published an article entitled Stealing from the tobacco playbook, fossil fuel companies pour money into elite American universities which noted:


In 1998, the American Petroleum Institute, the largest US trade association for the oil and gas industry, laid out a plan to defeat government action on climate change through a multimillion dollar programme, to be enacted over several years. Part of this plan was to create a centre with a board of climate scientists that would have the mission of advancing scientific uncertainty. “... When this proposed policy leaked to the media, the American Petroleum Institute denied implementing it. But two years later, in 2000, British Petroleum and Ford motor company donated a combined $20m to Princeton to launch the first major programme at an American university to tackle climate change. In 2020, Princeton extended its partnership with ExxonMobil to advance new forms of research on carbon capture technology...

Fossil fuel funding at Princeton 

Since 2000, ExxonMobil and BP together have given over $35 million to the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment and the Climate Mitigation Initiative (CMI) at Princeton University. Over the last 5 years, the University has received $26.2 million in funding research from eleven oil and gas companies, with most of that coming from Exxon-Mobil and BP. Over the last 5 years, approximately 50 fossil-fuel related companies have recruited on campus.

In 2021, out of a total of $255,935,599 in sponsored funding, Princeton received $3,836,135 or 1.5% from 5 fossil fuel companies: 

BP International Limited                                   $2,088,995

ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Co.   $1,389,644

Shell Oil Company                                               $150,483

Syncrude Canada Ltd.                                            $61,937

TOTAL E&P Research & Technology USA, LLC $145,076

  • Over the last 5 years, approximately 50 fossil-fuel related companies have recruited on campus.

  • A number of Princeton trustees have links to fossil fuel companies.  

 Princeton Annual Funding Reports 

2021 - from page 26 - total value $3,836,135 

2020 - from page 25

2019 - from page 24

2018 - pages 32-33, 56, 60, 82, 95, 143

2017 - pages 31, 51, 52,58, 88, 89, 130





2012 - pages 148-150 

2010-2011 - pages 143-145 

"Money and Power at Princeton: What we see and what we don't."

Lynne Archibald, Naomi Cohen-Shields, Joseph Giguere, Alex Nguyen, and Tom Taylor (2/9/2021). Donors Fund Climate Denial: How Princeton’s Money Trail Undermines Its Own Research. Daily Princetonian.

Lynne Archibald, Naomi Cohen-Shields, Joseph Giguere, Alex Nguyen, and Tom Taylor (2/8/2021). What do you get for a donation to Princeton?. Daily Princetonian.

Sofia Hiltner and Lynne Archibald (2/7/2021). Where is our Princeton Forward?. Daily Princetonian.


Graphic design by Ashley Chung


Intentional efforts by a number of organizations have created barriers to meaningful climate action. From lobbying to creating junk science websites, a panoply of coordinated activities have sown the seeds of doubt in the minds of many and effectively wasted decades. Social scientists have begun to study these efforts, who funded them and how they continue to block and delay action on climate change and steer research away from anything that might jeopardize the hegemony of the fossil fuel industry. 



Geoffrey Supran and Algorithmic Transparency Institute, September 2022 Three Shades of Greenwashing

Global Registry of Fossil Fuels

Robert Brulle, April 2022 Advocating inaction: a historical analysis of the Global Climate Coalition

Divest Harvard, November 2021 Beyond the Endowment: Uncovering Fossil Fuel Interests on Campus 

Corporate Accountability, Global Forest Coalition & Friends of the Earth International, June 2021 The Big Con: How Big Polluters are advancing a net zero climate agenda to delay, deceive and deny

Influence Map How the oil majors have spent $1Bn since Paris on narrative capture and lobbying on climate

Robert Brulle 2020:Denialism: organized opposition to climate change action in the United States

Robert Brulle 2013: Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations

John Cook, Geoffrey Supran, Stephan Lewandowsky, Naomi Oreskes, Ed Maibach 2019: America Misled: How the fossil fuel industry deliberately misled Americans about climate change

Ben Franta 2021: Early oil industry disinformation on global warming

Barnard University 2018 Fossil Fuel Divestment and Climate Action Methodology

Oxford Martin Principles for Climate Conscious Investment 2018

Ben Franta 2020: The Pernicious Influence of Big Oil on America’s Universities

Ben Franta 2018: Early oil industry knowledge of CO2 and global warming

Naomi Oreskes & Erik M. Conway 2010: Merchants of Doubt

Geoffrey Supran & Naomi Oreskes 2017: Assessing ExxonMobil's climate change communications (1977–2014)

Center for American Progress, Jennifer Washburn 2010: Big Oil Goes to College

Center for Science in the Public Interest 2008 Big Oil U 

ExxonMobil 2019 Worldwide Giving Report  pages 9 -15, pages 19-22, pages 24-27

Climate Investigations Center

Climate Social Science Network

Institute at Brown for Environment and Society

Scholars at Brown for Climate Action Advancing Brown's Response to the Climate Crisis

Yale Program on Climate Change Communication