Energy

Signers Of An Anti-Exxon Letter Benefited From Big Oil Cash In The Past

(REUTERS/Mal Langsdon)

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Chris White Tech Reporter

The climate scientists who wrote a letter Monday urging a prominent science association to reject all funding from Exxon Mobil work for organizations that have greatly benefited from the oil company’s cash.

The universities employing climate scientists James Hansen, Michael E. Mann, Kerry Emanuel, and oceanographer Charles Greene — all of whom signed the anti-Exxon letter addressed to the American Geophysical Union (AGU) — are employed by organizations whose coffers were filled by Exxon money.

Columbia University, the academic institution employing Hansen, was the recipient of a nearly $220,000 donation in 2014, according to Exxon Mobil’s 2014 Worldwide Contributions report.

The numbers are similar for the institutions staffing Mann, Emanuel and Greene.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which pays Emanuel for his services, is deeply intertwined with Exxon Mobil. MIT forged the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) in 2014 aimed at improving renewable energy sources and developing more efficient ways to produce fossil fuel energy.

“Partnerships with industry are critical to our ability to create positive change,” MIT President L. Rafael Reif said at a ceremony in 2014 tying the school and the company together.

He went on to say MIT learns from industry “customer needs, problems in the field, and opportunities for new technologies. … We transform what we learn into new solutions, ready to move from the lab to the market.”

MITEI also allowed Exxon to invest $25 million in MIT research over a 5-year stretch, all for the purpose of paying for student renewable energy research.

Aside from the MITEI deal, MIT raked in more than $350,000 in contributions during 2014 from Exxon under the company’s Education Matching Gift Program.

Pennsylvania State University, Mann’s employer, scored in excess of $300,000 from the oil giant in 2014.

But the biggest beneficiary to sign the anti-Exxon letter was Cornell University, which employs Greene. It received more than $450,000 from Exxon in 2014, according to the report.

The kerfuffle began after scientists, among others, pleaded with AGU to reject funding from Exxon, arguing any affiliation with the mega oil company would taint the group’s scientific integrity. AGU’s meetings are some of the largest science gatherings, drawing more than 25,000 people from all different science fields.

Hansen, Mann and the others were responding to reports issued by InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times allegedly showing that the oil company knew global warming was happening for decades, but refused to publicly acknowledge studies showing the existence of man-made global warming.

“In part [thanks] to Exxon, the American public remains confused and polarized about climate change,” the letter read. “And thanks in part to Exxon, climate science­-denying members of Congress and lobby groups operating at the state level remain a major obstacle to US efforts to mitigate climate change.”

AGU, for its part, refused to bend to the letter, instead striking a defiant tone, telling the signers in a blog post Sunday their research shows no wrongdoing on the part of Exxon.

“One of these inquiries came in the form of a letter from a representative of the Union of Concerned Scientists AGU received last year. Because we take such concerns seriously, the Board conducted its own research and discussed the issue at great length during the September 2015 meeting,” the blog post reads.

It adds: “At that time, we decided that ExxonMobil’s current public statements and activities were not inconsistent with AGU’s positions and the scientific consensus.”

“[O]ur research did not find any information that demonstrates that they are currently involved in” any of the allegations, InsideClimate News reports.

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