$500 Million BP Deal Near Completion As Big Oil Pumps Money Into Colleges
Berkeley, CA — Oil giant BP must not be allowed to use a $500 million research deal to turn Cal Berkeley into “UC-BP,” the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) warned today as it distributed T-shirts to students at a campus rally protesting the plan.
The shirts carried the slogan “I didn’t enroll in UC-BP” and were provided by FTCR’s Oilwatchdog.org project.
FTCR’s John M. Simpson was among those speaking out against the latest incursion by “Big Oil U.” He said that UC Berkeley must not allow one of the nation’s leading public universities to be used by an oil company to unfairly bolster the company’s public image. In addition BP must not be allowed to set the research agenda or control research discoveries made in the public interest, FTCR said.
Simpson spoke at a news conference at Kroener Fountain on the UC campus before a demonstration in connection with an energy conference co-sponsored by the proposed BP-funded Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI)
“Universities have an obligation to act in the public interest and this is doubly true with a public institution,” said Simpson. “We can’t allow Big Oil, or any other private interest, to subvert the basic mission of a university to meet a narrow corporate agenda.”
Under the deal proposed last February, UC Berkeley is planning a $500-million research program with BP to develop alternative fuels. The deal would create the Energy Biosciences Institute. The BP/Berkeley deal envisions 50 BP scientists doing proprietary — or secret — research on campus. The final terms of the deal are still being negotiated. A contract could be signed by Oct. 15, university officials now say.
FTCR said safeguards must be in place to prevent BP from controlling the research program, winning exclusive patent rights from any research products, and “greenwashing” its image in a PR campaign about the partnership. FTCR is also critical of the secret way the deal’s negotiations have been handled by the university administration.
The threat to academic freedom and unbiased research at America’s universities that is posed by Big Oil was the plot of the season premier of “Boston Legal” last week. Although the ABC Television show’s plot focused mainly on the situation at Stanford where ExxonMobil has provided $100 million, “Big Oil U‘s” inroads at Berkeley and Princeton were also mentioned.
“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.”
– 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 gave an undisclosed amount to Texas A&M University
FTCR and its Oilwatchdog project continue to compile institutions that have received oil money.
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