New Details Emerge Granting BP More Power Over University Research
Santa Monica, CA — The $500 million deal with BP signed today by University of California officials to create the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) at UC Berkeley compromises the university’s commitment to public education by allowing secret corporate research on campus and giving the oil giant the right to block any proposed EBI action, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) said.
The contract was ratified by the Office of UC President Robert C. Dynes without being submitted to the Regents for approval or for public comment. In a clear snub to the Regents and the public, announcement of the controversial deal, which includes the University of Illinois and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory as partners with Berkeley, came as the Regents were holding a regular meeting in Los Angeles.
“University of California bureaucrats are transforming the nation’s premier research university into Big Oil U‘s UC-BP campus without adequate public discussion,” said John M. Simpson, FTCR consumer advocate. “It is shameful. The Regents should have reviewed this. The public who are the shareholders of the UC system should have been able to comment.”
With the announcement from UC Berkeley came the release of the 114-page agreement with the oil giant. A key element of the deal is that BP will conduct secret research at the EBI. Berkeley and the partners will have absolutely no control over the BP efforts. Approximately $35 million a year will go toward what the university describes as “open academic research.” Another $15 million a year will go to the BP efforts housed adjacent the academic laboratories, but protected by “the use of keycard or other electronic access and monitoring system.”
“BP researchers will be able to suck up the best of what Berkeley’s scientists have to offer, retreat behind locked, guarded doors and pursue their corporate agenda with out giving anything back,” said Simpson. “Academic research is based on an exchange of ideas and information. This is a one-way street benefiting only BP.”
Another troubling aspect of the deal, hammered out behind closed doors over the last 10 months, is the EBI‘s Governance Committee, FTCR said. It gives BP more control of the EBI and research than envisioned in the original proposal. In that document the committee was made up of three academic representatives and two BP representatives.
In the signed contract, the committee is made up of four representatives appointed by Berkeley and four by BP. All action must be approved by a majority; in case of a tie — if the Berkeley chancellor and BP representative can’t reach an accord — the action is rejected.
“BP can thwart any action they wish,” said Simpson. “And given the despicable record of BP, which killed 15 of its workers in Texas and spilled oil all over Alaska because of unreasonable cost cutting, why should we believe the oil giant would act in good faith? They have demonstrated time and again that they act only in their own narrow interest.”
Apparently in reaction to concerns voiced by some faculty, students and other opponents of the deal, that BP would use the agreement to “greenwash” its deservedly sullied image by associating with UC-Berkeley’s name, the contract contains a provision requiring written approval before its name or trademarks are used in any advertisements.
“After they’ve transformed Berkeley into Big Oil U, who’d want to be associated with that image anyway?” asked Simpson.
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The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights is California’s leading non-profit and non-partisan consumer watchdog group. For more information visit us on the web at: www.ConsumerWatchdog.org and www.OilWatchdog.org.