Oil companies are dictating future energy options by choosing which academic research projects recieve funding.
A recent report by the Center for American Progress found that over the past decade, five of the world’s top 10 oil companies—ExxonMobil Corp., Chevron Corp., BP PLC, Royal Dutch Shell Group, and ConocoPhillips Co.—and other large traditional energy companies with a direct commercial stake in future energy markets have forged dozens of multi-year, multi-million-dollar alliances with top U.S. universities and scientists to carry out energy-related research.
The results of the report’s analysis of university-industry contracts raise troubling questions about the ability of U.S. universities to adequately safeguard their core academic and public-interest functions when negotiating research contracts with large corporate funders.
In nine of the 10 energy-research agreements analyzed, the university partners failed to retain majority academic control over the central governing body charged with directing the university-industry alliance. Four of the 10 alliances actually give the industry sponsors full governance control.
These findings are not surprising when the amount of money put down directly by Big Oil is taken in to account. 10 university-industry agreements together totaled $833 million in confirmed corporate funding (over 10 years) for energy research funding on campus.
As large as this figure is, it represents less than half of what Industry actually controls.
Because of the federal government’s growing preference for allocating federal R&D funds through corporate matching grants and other cost-sharing and cooperative-research arrangements, private industry now directly influences anywhere from 20 percent to 25 percent of university research funding overall. In this way, a significant share of U.S. taxpayer funding that starts out as “public” funding is effectively turned “private” by the time it reaches the university investigators in their academic labs.
According to a recent article in the Washington Post, attempts by federal regulators to enforce safety laws have been stymied by coal companies. In the wake of multiple deadly disasters and a general culture of sacrificing safety for profit, mine regulators have been issuing more citations and higher penalties for safety violations. However, instead of abiding by regulations and prioritizing worker safety, Big Coal has buried the regulators in paperwork by contesting the citations, creating a backlog of cases that could take years to resolve. See graph of coal companies with the most citations beig contested.
Massey Energy, owner of Upper Big Branch, is at the top among companies contesting safety violations issued by the MSHA. It is fighting 39 percent of the 5,880 citations and 83 percent of the $6.9 million in fines it received from January to July, MSHA records show.
Yet another tentacle of the "Kochtopus", the shadowy assemblage of front groups that helped kill this year's cap and trade bill, is attempting to strangle regional clean energy initiatives on the East and West Coasts. The Kochtopus is a network of astroturf groups funded by the Koch brothers, who have made billions of dollars from Koch Industries, an enormous dirty energy corporation.
Not content with retarding progress on climate change at the federal level, industry-funded astroturf groups have taken aim at a regional cap-and-trade system in New York and the nation's most ambitious state clean energy program in California.
This time it is the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity that is protecting the billionaire brothers' ability to pollute. Assisted by a conglomeration of 58 front groups called the State Policy Network, AFP and its allies have been clouding out the facts on climate change with lies and confusion.
Despite the amusing name, the Kochtopus is a very sophisticated and calculated propaganda apparatus that has seriously manipulated public opinion to the detriment of the American people and the planet. The front groups that comprise it have proven very effective to their corporate puppeteers, who will continue to fund and exploit them to prevent much needed regulation of the dirty energy industry. These groups must be recognized as pawns and charlatans before they further delay action against catastrophic global warming.
For more on this story, see the Huffington Post article by Robert Eshelman
Check out the L.A. Times' comparison of the business practices of Senate-hopeful Carly Fiorina, Barbara Boxer's challenger, and Koch Industries, whose PAC donated to Fiorina at a fundraiser last week. Koch, Valero and Tesoro are heavily invested in Proposition 23, the effort to suspend California's climate law, desperate to stall the transition away from polluting fossil fuels to clean energy.
Fiorina has also come out in support of Proposition 23, which would freeze the state's legal power to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and implement clean energy until the state's unemployment rate drops drastically and remains so for a full year. Such low and prolonged unemployment has only been seen three times in the last 40 years.
Perhaps if Fiorina hadn't fired 30,000 people and outsourced thousands of more jobs as the CEO of HP, the unemployment rate is California wouldn't be so high.
Be sure to also check out the video footage of Greenpeace (and a few other protestors) at the National Republican Senatorial Committee Headquarters last week, asking Fiorina if she will stop accepting campaign donations from major polluters.
John Pemberton, currently an influence peddler for Southern Company, was once a key player in utility regulation at the EPA. From 2001-2003 he served as chief of staff for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Air and Radiation where he helped manage the office’s efforts on several utility-related policy issues. A week after effectively repealing the Clean Air Act's "new source review" provision, which requires companies to install modern pollution control technologies in new plants and in old plants when they make modifications that significantly increase pollution, he resigned. He then joined Southern Company as a lobbyist, proving that there was a high level of collusion between Southern Company - one of the top five carbon emitters in the world - and influential members of EPA.
This kind of blatant revolving door politics can only be described as corruption.
The Huffington Post reported today that Koch Industries is being called out by the Democratic National Committee for spending millions on Republican political candidates while laying off over 100 employees.
The obvious, major irony here is just how big the oil industry plays the "job killer" card every single time anything threatens their monumental profits, exaggerating potential negative economic impacts while conveniently ignoring the benefits.
By the way, the new Forbes rankings are in--Charles and David Koch are now tied for the fifth richest Americans (each worth $21.5 billion) up from number nine (about 16 billion). Another slap in the face to laid off employees.
As Don Blankenship makes a fuss over federal investigation of an April mine explosion that killed 29 of his employees, six other Massey managers are now filing a lawsuit against the West Virginia Office of Miners Health, Safety and Training (OMHST) after being subpoenaed.
The Massey managers, including vice president of safety Elizabeth Chamberlin, claim the subpoena is an abusive response to their lack of cooperation with the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), which is still investigating the disaster. Massey is accusing MSHA of trying to pin blame on the company while avoiding their own responsibilities.
Blankenship continues to assert that some of the miners who died ignored signs of danger at their own peril. Perhaps Blankenship's orders to employees to prioritize productivity above certain safety measures was taken too far?
Check out the Charleston Gazette for more.
The Associated Press reports that Don Blankenship, the antagonistic CEO of the coal-mining and mountain-leveling company Massey Energy, is accusing the Mine Safety and Health Administration of leading a disingenuous investigation following the deadly explosion in Massey's Upper Big Branch mine in April.
Blankenship's denies that methane monitors in the mine were tampered with, despsite Congressional testimony from employees stating otherwise. The coal baron also asserts that combustible coal dust, which evidence shows was present in unsafe amounts before the explosion, was not the cause of the disaster. Instead, Blankenship insists that safety precautions were overwhelmed when methane leaked into the mine from a floor crack, which MSHA is not buying.
On safety regulation,
"[Blankenship] said more must be done to prevent explosions, but with the realization that not every blast is avoidable."
This is typical souless Blankenship talk--claiming more should be done while fighting tooth and nail to avoid just that, with a dash of shocking honesty that he fully expects to oversee deadly accidents in the future. After he himself has told employees to forgo certain safety precautions in order to maximize coal production, more deaths certainly seem inevitable.
The Upper Big Branch mine explosion, the Deepwater Horizon blowout, the Texas City Refinery explosion, and other similar disasters of varying scale are normal business for the fossil fuel industry. Working with heavy machinery always has a danger component, and adding combustable material to the mix amplifies the likelihood and intensity of disasters.
Fossil fuel use is not an inevitable, indefinite future pathway. We know an Energy [R]evolution is possible, and we can't expect any fossil fool CEO to ever act on it, even if they admit it in the first place. From the Proposition 23 battle, the grief over EPA's ability to regulate coal ash and greenhouse gases, and Blankenship's continued heartlessness, it is clear that polluters are not going to step out of the way--it is up to people to demand that the dated era of fossil fuels transitions into a contemporary clean energy economy. Enough have died at the hands of the fossil-industrial complex.
The American Petroleum Institute is so bent on protecting the pollution industry that it is willing to cast public health aside in favor of saving a buck.
Politico's Morning Energy today reported that API and the Manufacturers Alliance are complaining about EPA moves to strengthen the Clean Air Act's standards, which must be based solely on heath considerations, according to the Supreme Court. For API to speak out against an improved Clean Air Act shows a callous disregard for those who have been sickened or killed from pollution-induced health problems, such as asthma or heart failure.
Politico's Josh Voorhees wrote,
"The Manufacturers Alliance’s Donald Norman and API’s Howard Feldman will warn that the agency’s regulations would be too expensive for industry and put almost the entire country into nonattainment for federal air quality limits, including rural areas where no one lives. EPA’s rules are due in mid- to late October."
In a blog response, the National Resources Defense Council notes that the industry's typical "economic disaster" prophesy is likely blown out of proportion, as such economic scare-claims [pdf] over environmental regulation have historically been.