September 26, 2007
CONTACT: John M. Simpson, (310) 392-0522, ext. 317, or (310) 292-1902, cell
Big Oil U Pilloried On "Boston Legal" Season Premiere;
$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.
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OilWatchdog.org is a project of the Foundation for Taxpayer and
Consumer Rights, a nonprofit, nonpartisan consumer watchdog
organization. Its websites are: www.OilWatchdog.org and www.ConsumerWatchdog.org.