A HISTORY OF INDUSTRY INFLUENCE
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).
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.
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).
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.
BP AT PRINCETON
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)."
CMI is described like this on the website:
“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.”
With funding from both a fossil fuel producer and user, “CMI is to lead the way to a compelling and sustainable solution to the carbon and climate change problem.”
THE CLIMATE DENIAL MOVEMENT
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.
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
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)
Jennifer Washburn 2010: Big Oil Goes to College
Scholars at Brown for Climate Action Advancing Brown's Response to the Climate Crisis
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MORE ON #breakupwithexxon
Joselow, Maxine 5/4/2021 Why Exxon hates the Rockefellers, its founding family, E&E News
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
MORE ON THE OIL & GAS INDUSTRY
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
Washington Post 9/14/20 States and cities scramble to sue oil companies over climate change
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
Washington Post 9/5/2020 Rockefeller heirs to Big Oil find dumping fossil fuels improved bottom line
The New Yorker 5/7/20 Big Oil’s Reign Is Finally Weakening
Environmental Research Letters 7/23/17 Assessing ExxonMobil’s climate change communications (1977–2014)
Guardian 3/13/17 The fossil fuel industry's invisible colonization of academia
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
Learn more about the fossil fuel industry's influence at Princeton with our three-part series: "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