EXXONMOBIL AND PRINCETON
Between 2015 and 2020, ExxonMobil gave $6.4 million to the Andlinger Center. Its research contract was renewed on July 2, 2020. The same day, Exxon released a video celebrating its partnership with Princeton.
While Princeton and ExxonMobil have been “working together” to create new energy technologies, ExxonMobil has been undermining any attempt to deploy them on a national scale. During the partnership, Exxon spent millions lobbying against climate change policy efforts, spent less than 1% of its budget on clean energy, and rejected a carbon neutral target (see slideshow).
From 2017 to 2021, Vijay Swarup, Exxon Mobil's Vice President of Research and Development, was on the Andlinger External Advisory Council. despite the fact that he was responsible for attacking the academic work of Harvard researchers Naomi Oreskes and Geofrrey Supran.
Michael Oppenheimer, a Princeton climate scientist, said he was disappointed the university’s trustees did not enact a divestment broad enough to also evict businesses such as BP, but that it is difficult to criticize researchers for getting funding where they can. “They have to live with whatever decisions they make. I try to not judge others,” he said. “Personally, I would never take a penny from Exxon due to their disinformation on climate change. You can talk to the devil sometimes, but you don’t have to take to take money from the devil, and the devil is Exxon.”
Exxon in the classroom: how big oil money influences US universities, The Guardian 3/27/2023
Fossil Fuel Funding
Steve Pacala , Chris Greig , Jesse Jenkins , Eric Larson Transitioning to a Net-Zero Emitting Energy System Princeton Alumni Weekly.
Archibald, Lynne 3/23/2021 online, May 2021 in print Fossil Fuels Funding Research at Princeton Princeton Alumni Weekly.
Taylor, Tom 4/12/2021 How much is Princeton’s contract with Exxon worth? Why does it matter? Daily Princetonian
Turk, Graham 7/5/20 All hands on deck of a sinking ship? , Daily Princetonian
Loo, Lynn 7/2/20 Urgency of climate change demands all hands on deck to transform the energy system, Daily Princetonian
Takeuchi, Mayu 6/29/20 Taking Responsibility: Fossil Fuels, Divestment, and Environmental Racism, Nassau Weekly
Hiltner, Anna 6/25/20 Princeton must #BreakupwithExxon: an open letter to Andlinger from Divest Princeton, Daily Princetonian
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 ExxonMobil, one of Princeton's main fossil fuel funders:
Although Exxon spent at least $68 million advertising its research into algae-based biofuels, notes from an investor presentation obtained by the Committee show this technology is “[s]till decades away from the scale we need.”
One Exxon public affairs manager warned that implying in an advertisement that algae can be deployed on a mass scale would be misleading, and “might create some angst with the research folks who know that.”
Internal documents show that Exxon and Chevron sought to water down statements by the industry-led Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) to “remove language that potentially commits members to enhanced climate-related governance, strategy, risk management, and performance metrics and targets” and to avoid any “explicit commitment for OGCI companies to align their advocacy with their climate related positions”—including advocacy for the Paris Agreement.
Internal documents show that in 2019, Exxon scrubbed a public statement about an executive’s speech at a private conference to remove a reference to a plan to increase production in the Permian basin by “1000% within 5 years.”
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.
View the Exxon documents in a searchable format here.
Ben Franta Interview
To discuss the Andlinger Center’s renewed partnership with ExxonMobil, Divest Princeton invited Dr. Ben Franta, an expert on climate science, climate disinformation, and fossil fuel producers at Stanford, to explain his research and answer questions about divestment.
Dr. Franta's presentation analyzes the ways in which the Andlinger Center has been co-opted by the fossil fuel industry, which has learned a great deal from Big Tobacco.
Engine No. 1 in May 2021 shocked the oil-and-gas industry when Exxon shareholders, frustrated by weak returns and Exxon's flagging attention to climate concerns, elected three of its four nominated directors to Exxon's board.
Engine No.1 Presentation - highlights
July 25, 2021 Following ExxonMobil revelations, Princeton must act
Joselow, Maxine 5/4/2021 Why Exxon hates the Rockefellers, its founding family, E&E News
Wall Street Journal 12/9/2020 Exxon Under Pressure From New Activist Fund
Bloomberg 12/9/2020 Exxon Holds Back on Technology That Could Slow Climate Change
Bloomberg 10/5/20 Exxon’s Plan for Surging Carbon Emissions Revealed in Leaked Documents
New York Times 7/16/20 David Kaiser, Rockefeller Heir Who Fought Exxon Mobil, Dies at 50
Washington Post 5/28/2020 ExxonMobil declines to set long-term climate goal, bucking oil industry trend
October 29, 2020 Vice How Exxon Silences Staff Alarmed by the Climate Crisis, According to a Former Employee
Washington Post 9/5/2020 Rockefeller heirs to Big Oil find dumping fossil fuels improved bottom line
Environmental Research Letters 7/23/17 Assessing ExxonMobil’s climate change communications (1977–2014)
Reuters 3/23/2016 Rockefeller Family Fund hits Exxon, divests from fossil fuels
Union of Concerned Scientists 7/8/2015 Former Exxon Employee Says Company Considered Climate Risks as Early as 1981