Posted by: ericgrimsrud | March 14, 2017

On the colonization of academia by the fossil fuel interests

In several of my posts I have expressed disappointment in the lack of climate change activism coming out of our colleges and universities and have suggested that this results from financial relationships between our academic institutions with the fossil-fuel-related industries that are far too close and far too lucrative. In those posts, I have included as an example even our oldest, most wealthy, and most respected private university, Harvard. If this is happening at schools as well-healed and highly regarded as Harvard, one can be certain it is also happening at almost all other institutions of higher learning which are even more desperate for funding of their graduate and undergraduate programs.

So a relevant question is: is this really happening at Harvard and others top schools, such as Harvard’s equally prestigious neighbor, MIT?  A recent article in the Guardian says that it is – and to an extend much greater that the public realizes – and provides some specific examples. The article can be seen at

The title of the article “The fossil fuel industry’s invisible colonization of academia” sums up its contents. Turns out Shell Oil directly funds a great deal of the research on climate change at Harvard while Shell and other oil companies do the same at MIT and Stanford. Thus, the publications produced by the recipients of these funds claim to be seeking something they call the “middle ground” or the “compromise” between the use of fossil fuels and the non-CO2 producing alternate means of energy production – even though no such intermediate state is generally thought to exist among most independent climate scientists. That notion is nothing more than a preference of the fossil fuel industries. Thus, undeserved credibility is provided to this dubious quest by the inclusion of Harvard personnel in it. In return, Harvard collects her reward, just as any prostitute does for services rendered. For the details of these transactions related in more politically acceptable terms, read the article referred to above.

Moreover, this article goes on to say that “the fossil fuel interests have colonized nearly every nook and cranny of energy and climate policy research in American universities, and much of energy science too. And they have done so quietly, without the general public’s knowledge.”

A lot of money can, indeed, be made by colleges and universities today by not taking their traditional responsibilities for the pursuit of truth too seriously and it appears that most of our nation’s colleges and universities are following the examples set by Harvard and MIT. This might also explain why small colleges, such St. Olaf College which I have frequently used as an example on this blog,  does not dare to divest its endowment funds from the fossil fuel industries.

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