The Fossil Fuel Industry and U.S. Universities: A History


Fossil fuel companies have funded research centers that focus on energy, the environment, and climate change at universities across the United States for years. The Center for American Progress documented ten such partnerships in 2010. Since 2014, ExxonMobil has spent at least $75 million to help establish 5 energy centers at 6 universities, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2014), University of Texas at Austin (2016), Stanford University (2018), and Princeton (2015). 


Since 2000, ExxonMobil and BP together have given over $35 million to the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment and the Climate Mitigation Initiative (CMI) at Princeton University. 

ExxonMobil at Princeton 

Between 2015 and 2020,  ExxonMobil gave $6.4 million to the Andlinger Center. The contract was renewed on July 2nd, 2020. That same day Exxon released a video about the partnership. #breakupwithexxon #exxonknew #greenwashing


While Princeton and ExxonMobil have been “working together” to create new energy technologies, ExxonMobil has been undermining any attempts to deploy them on a national scale. During the partnership, Exxon spent millions lobbying against climate change policy efforts, spent less than 1% of its budget on clean energy, and rejected a carbon neutral target (see slideshow).


In light of the renewal of the Andlinger Center’s partnership with ExxonMobil, Divest Princeton invited Dr. Ben Franta - an expert on climate science, climate disinformation, and fossil fuel producers at Stanford - to talk about his research and answer questions about divestment and research funding by the fossil fuel industry at Princeton. Dr. Franta's presentation analyzes the way in which the Andlinger Center has been co-opted by the fossil fuel industry using the playbook of Big Tobacco. 

BP at Princeton

BP, one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies, gave over $31 million between 2000 and 2020 to Princeton's Carbon Mitigation Initiative (CMI), led by Professors Stephen Pacala, Jonathan Levine, and Amilcare Porporato (Ford Motor Company, one of the world’s largest car manufacturers, was also a founding member and sponsor of CMI from 2000 to 2009). According to the 2019 CMI Annual Report, "Commencing in 2000 with a 10-year contract, the program has since undergone three five-year renewals with BP (2010-15, 2015-20, and the latest in 2020-25)." 


CMI is described like this on the website: 

“Based at Princeton University, the Carbon Mitigation Initiative (CMI) is an independent academic research program sponsored by BP and administered by the Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI). CMI is Princeton’s largest and most long-term industry-university relationship. Established in 2000, the mission of CMI is to lead the way to a compelling and sustainable solution to the carbon and climate change problem.”


With funding from both a fossil fuel producer and user, “CMI is to lead the way to a compelling and sustainable solution to the carbon and climate change problem.”

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