Friday, April 9, 2010

EPA Study and Big Oil U.

A conflict of interest?

From a report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, "As the scientific consensus surrounding climate change has solidified, the oil, gas, coal, and electricity industries have reluctantly recognized the inevitability of political action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. ... Some actually have begun funding university research aimed at developing technologies and exploring policies that address the global warming crisis.
"Since 1991, the major oil companies have committed to investing more than $792 million in at least nine major universities in the United States. Leading institutions like MIT, Stanford, Princeton, and the University of California
at Berkeley have major collaborative research agreements with the energy industry. This study identified five major limitations on academic freedom that are occurring in the nine programs. They include:
• Allowing company representatives on governing boards (6 universities)
• Giving industry sponsors first rights to intellectual property (5 universities)
• Allowing industry sponsors a role in deciding what research projects are funded (6 universities)
• Permitting industry review of research before it is published (5 universities)
• Allowing companies to delay publication of research results (5 universities)
"There is an inherent conflict between the interests of universities and the interests of corporations. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich noted recently, “Corporations obviously are interested in making proprietary, that is . . . having as their personal property, whatever intellectual capital is generated from their sponsorship, but academic freedom – indeed, the life of the mind – depends on the free flow of information.” Although universities and corporations often defend these programs on the basis that they have similar goals and complementary knowledge, the fact is that the interests of universities and corporations can diverge. University research is supposed to work toward the common good. Corporate research is primarily aimed at maximizing profits."
In the appendices to the report, Appendix B asks: "Do you allow company representatives on governing boards?" According to Appendix C, the answer is YES for six of the nine universities: Berkeley, Stanford, Rice, UC Davis, Georgia Tech, and Carnegie Mellon.

A number of these impartial? universities are represented on the EPA Science Advisory Board as Members of the Environmental Engineering Committee augmented for hydraulic fracturing review. In fact, David A. Dzombak, Carnegie Mellon University, serves as Chair.


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