Big Oil U Pilloried On “Boston Legal” Season Premiere;

Published on

$500 Million BP Deal at Berkeley Near Completion; Oil Dollars Flow to Colleges Across the USA

Santa Monica, CA — ABC’s popular TV show “Boston Legal” took its plot for the season premiere from the controversy surrounding Big Oil’s growing influence on the nation’s colleges and universities based on events at Stanford University and UC Berkeley.

“The show was extremely timely and relevant,” said John M. Simpson, consumer advocate for the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights. “It highlighted the very real dangers of Big Oil U just as the contract between BP and UC Berkeley for the $500 million Energy Biosciences Institute is about to be settled.”

In the TV drama lawyer Shirley Schmidt (Candace Bergen) is sued by Stanford after withdrawing a $3 million pledge to an alternative energy research program created at the university after learning that ExxonMobil donated $100 million. In real life, movie producer Steve Bing, who attended Stanford, made a similar protest by canceling $2.5 million of his $25 million pledge to the school when ExxonMobil touted its ties to Stanford’s Global Climate and Energy Project. The oil giant has given $100 million to that project. The courtroom drama also cites the $500 million deal at Berkeley and donations to Princeton.

“The problem with these programs is that cash-strapped universities are selling out academic freedom and becoming extension campuses of Big Oil U,” said Simpson. “The public used to turn to universities for unbiased research and truth. Without safeguards, research agendas will be set to match vested corporate interests and the corporations will control the rights to any patented inventions.”

At a minimum, FTCR said, safeguards must be in place to prevent an oil company donor from controlling the research program, winning exclusive patent rights from any research products, and “greenwashing” its image in a PR campaign about the partnership with the university.

“Big Oil has an image problem,” said Simpson. “We simply cannot allow them to fix it by turning our respected colleges and universities into ‘Big Oil U‘.”

Some institutions that have received Big Oil money:

BP‘s proposed $500 million deal with Berkeley’s Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI)
– ExxonMobil’s $100 million to Stanford’s Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP)
Chevron‘s $25 million to UC Davis‘ Bioenergy Research Group (BERG)
– ConocoPhillips’ $22.5 million to Iowa State University
BP‘s $15 million to Princeton‘s Carbon Mitigation Initiative
BP Foundation’s $7.5 million to Stanford University‘s Program on Energy and Sustainable Development
Chevron‘s $12 million to Georgia Tech‘s Strategic Energy Institute
– ConocoPhillips’ $1 million to Duke University’s Climate Change Policy Partnership (CCPP)
Chevron‘s undisclosed amount to Texas A&M University

FTCR and its Oilwatchdog project continue to compile institutions that have received oil money.

– 30 – is a project of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, a nonprofit, nonpartisan consumer watchdog organization. Its websites are: and

Consumer Watchdog
Consumer Watchdog
Providing an effective voice for American consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Non-partisan.

Latest Videos

Latest Articles

In The News

Latest Report

Subscribe to our newsletter

To be updated with all the latest news, press releases and special reports.

More articles