BP AT PRINCETON & CCS
“Based at Princeton University, the Carbon Mitigation Initiative (CMI) is an independent academic research program sponsored by BP and administered by the Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI). CMI is Princeton’s largest and most long-term industry-university relationship. Established in 2000, the mission of CMI is to lead the way to a compelling and sustainable solution to the carbon and climate change problem.”
BP, one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies, gave over $31 million between 2000 and 2020 to Princeton's Carbon Mitigation Initiative (CMI), led by Professors Stephen Pacala, Jonathan Levine, and Amilcare Porporato (Ford Motor Company, one of the world’s largest car manufacturers, was also a founding member and sponsor of CMI from 2000-2009). According to the 2019 CMI Annual Report, "Commencing in 2000 with a 10-year contract, the program has since undergone three five-year renewals with BP (2010-15, 2015-20, and the latest in 2020-25)."
BP & House Committee
on Oversight and Reform
On September 14th, 2022 Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment, released a new memo of initial findings of the Committee’s year-long investigation into the fossil fuel industry’s campaign to mislead the American people about the industry’s role in climate change. They also released a trove of internal documents. According to the Committee, “[i]nternal emails and messaging guidance show that Big Oil’s climate pledges rely on unproven technology, accounting gimmicks and misleading language to hide the reality.” The press release highlighted the following about BP, one of Princeton's main fossil fuel funders:
Despite BP previously rebranding itself as “Beyond Petroleum,” internal documents highlighted how carbon capture and storage (CCS), one of the energy technologies touted by the company, could “enable the full use of fossil fuels across the energy transition and beyond.”
On December 9th, 2022 a second set of documents was released showing how the fossil fuel industry engages in “greenwashing” to obscure its massive long-term investments in fossil fuels and failure to meaningfully reduce emissions. Both Princeton and Princeton's partner BP are mentioned multiple times. For example:
p. 76 - "Campaign to Advance and protect the role of gas - and BP - in the future of energy conversation"
p. 79 - Princeton is listed as one of the campaign building blocks
View the BP documents in a searchable format here
Princeton is mentioned 9 times on pages 5, 79, 81, 84-85, 98-99, 104, 205-206
Under Poisoned Skies is a 2022 BBC documentary (available on YouTube) which exposes the deadly impact of BP's toxic air pollution on children and the planet and their under reporting of their emissions in Iraq from flaring. Read about the impact of the film at BP's most recent AGM. Read more about the people in the film here.
CARBON CAPTURE AND SEQUESTRATION (CCS)
Underperforming carbon capture projects considerably outnumber successful projects globally, and by large margins. But BP and Exxon have funded CCS projects at Princeton for over two decades now. CMI is still largely focussed on carbon capture :
"Another focus of CMI research in 2021 was carbon capture and storage (CCS), an important component in the transition to net-zero. Indeed, most models that show the economy achieving net-zero by 2050 rely heavily on this technology. CCS can be deployed by using hubs that carry CO2 from various capture sites via pipeline networks to a centralized injection site. One 2021 CMI highlight posits that CCS will be limited by large-scale geologic limitations on the rate at which CO2 can be injected. Another group of CMI researchers built a computer simulation tool to predict how geologic conditions can impact larger-scale geological carbon storage. Addressing the disconnect between CCS ambitions and constraints is crucial to successful CCS investment and policy decisions." CMI Annual Report 2021 Summary, page 5
These projects, all of which enable the continued use of fossil fuels, take resources away from research that could be having a positive impact on the climate crisis and ignore the increasing body of evidence that CCS is a delay tactic and a costly distraction.
10/2023 An Oil Giant Quietly Ditched the World’s Biggest Carbon Capture Plant Bloomberg
8/2023 Stop Giving Big Oil a Carbon Fig Leaf Project Drawdown
5/2023 The Carbon Capture Scam Food & Water Watch
9/2022 Carbon Capture: CCS | CCUS | CCU IEEFA
8/26/2921 Gassing Satartia: Carbon Dioxide Pipeline Linked To Mass Poisoning HuffPost &Climate Investigations Center
6/13/2022 Carbon leak in Satartia prompts federal focus on pipeline safety Mississippi Today
Direct Air Capture - DAC
DAC is a carbon removal technology like carbon capture and storage (CCS). But rather than capturing emissions from the source, like an industrial facility or power plant, DAC sucks carbon dioxide directly from ambient air. Like CCS, much of the captured carbon from DAC is intended for enhanced oil recovery (EOR), where oil companies inject CO2 into a depleted well to force hard-to-reach oil reserves to the surface to be burned, adding more carbon to the atmosphere, rather than removing it.
BP and Princeton:
a toxic relationship that has to end
The December 20, 2022 episode of the Drilled Podcast hosted by Amy Westervelt featured Rep Ro Khanna talking about the House Oversight Committee's Climate Disinformation Investigation and highlighted the problematic relationship between BP and Princeton - here's a transcript of one segment:
Amy Westervelt: I wanted to talk a little bit about the university funding stuff that showed up I think in the BP documents and just the way that they talk about how their funding of Princeton in particular and the carbon project there allows them to kind of gain insight into how their opponents are thinking about these things and also to influence the university and the research that’s coming out of there. This is something that is a fascination of mine, just why these companies invest so much in university research and especially in not just the scientific and technical research, but also public policy, to have influence there. I’m curious just what you think about and also the extent to which university research does really influence policy making?
Ro Khanna: Well, I’m concerned because the huge gifts to these research institutions could bias the research and what you have is a strategy by these big oil companies to fund research both at universities and non-profits and then have that research be seen as quote unquote “objective evidence” and we need a whole more investigation, beyond what our committee did, on what is the strategy of funding research and how objective is that research and how do you create walls of separation between the funding and the research, many of which break down.
Amy Westervelt: Yeah I’ve heard even some of the campus activists that are agitating for universities to not take any more of this money are asking for step one to just be transparency around it – you know that universities should disclose who they’re taking money from and what the terms of that money are.
Ro Khanna: That would be a start. Who are you taking the money from, what are the conditions. Look If they’re giving money to studying Shakespearean literature that’s one thing. But if they’re giving money to have particular research on carbon and climate that seems to be much more problematic. That needs to at the very least be transparent with clear walls of separation.
February 6, 2023 Princeton’s climate research: In the service of BP
February 1, 2023 BP’s CEO Plays Down Renewables Push as Returns Lag
January 25, 2023 BP sponsorship of Royal Opera House ends after 33 years