Energy Center Keeps Funding Secret

Environmental groups want to know who’s funding Columbia University’s Global Center on Energy Policy — and its director doesn’t want to tell them.

Energy policy is ground zero for virtually everything we care about. The Global Center on Energy Policy (GCEP), a research center within Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, lists an impressive group of energy policy experts as non-resident fellows and an ambitious research program. Many, if not most, of the people associated with the center have deep backgrounds in various aspects of energy policy — perfectly legitimate core expertise for informing public officials charged with making decisions about the country’s energy, climate, economic, geopolitical, environmental and other policies. And the research papers, op-eds, Congressional testimony and other public statements GCEP-affiliated experts produce undoubtedly have an impact.

To suggest that the energy industry has been known to finance scholars who agree with its views is only to state the obvious. Below is the environmental groups’ December 17 letter to the president of Columbia University, Lee Bollinger, requesting that he compel GCEP to disclose its funders. As Fed Up New Yorkers went to press, the groups had not received a reply.

Dear Dr.  Bollinger:
We noted your recent request to Columbia’s School of Journalism Dean Steve Coll to review the allegations in a Nov. 22 letter by ExxonMobil PR executive Ken Cohen that Columbia University journalists unfairly reported the company had misled the public about climate change.

We think it was generous of you to task Dean Coll with this review in the spirit of complete transparency.

In that same spirit, we want to bring to your attention the long-standing resistance to just such transparency by Columbia’s Global Center on Energy Policy (CGEP) and its Founding Director Jason Bordoff.

Now that POLITICO has revealed that ExxonMobil donated, through its foundation, $25,000 to CGEP in 2014, we ask that you insist the Center report its funding sources and amounts since it was created.

We know that The Center on Global Energy Policy, formerly known as the Center for Energy, Marine Transportation and Public Policy, received at least $875,000 from ExxonMobil before its rebranding several years ago.

We send this request to you after Checks and Balances Project sent letters of inquiry in September 2014 and January 2015 to Mr. Bordoff that met with no response. DeSmog has also sent multiple rounds of information requests to the CGEP, also without response.

Our interest in the Center’s funding was triggered when we learned that it was the landing pad for two U.S. State Department players involved with the now-discredited Environmental Impact Study that pronounced there would be no appreciable pollution impact from the Keystone XL Pipeline:

  • Keith Benes, now “Program Director, International Climate Policy,” at Global Center on Energy Policy was the civil servant driving the EIS process that was the subject of two probes by the Department’s Inspector General.
  • Ambassador Carlos Pascual, now a CGEP Fellow, was the U.S. State Department’s Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs at the time the flawed EIS was touted.

You will, I trust, find it relevant that at least nine of 19 people on the Center’s Advisory Council are closely linked to the fossil fuel industry:

  • John Knight, EVP Statoil
  • Ed Morse, Citi Commodities, former president of Petroleum Intelligence Weekly
  • Bill White, former Houston mayor, on numerous public energy company boards
  • Paul Joskow, member of Exelon board, previously TransCanada
  • Mike Tusiani, global energy broker
  • Lady Barbara Judge, former board member of coal company Massey Energy
  • Daniel Yergin, Pulitzer-winning author of oil industry bestseller and industry consultant
  • Zachary Schreiber, chief investment officer, PointState Capital
  • Michael D. Tusiani, chair of Poten & Partners, a major oil and LNG shipper.

Given your clear commitment to upholding the Columbia University values of balance and accountability, I am sure that we are bringing this to your attention for the first time. That’s why we respectfully request that you ask Mr. Bordoff for the same level of transparency that you insisted on from the School of Journalism. Will you compel Mr. Bordoff to release the names of CGEP’s funders and amounts donated since its inception?

Scott Peterson, executive director, Checks and Balances Project
Ken Cook, co-founder & president, Environmental Working Group
Ross Hammond, US Campaigns director,ForestEthics
Mike Tidwell, director, Chesapeake Climate Action Network
Jane Kleeb, founder, Bold Nebraska
Tyson Slocum, director, Public Citizen
RL Miller, cofounder, Climate Hawks
Vote Columbia Divest for Climate Justice


For more on Frackademia see:

"Conflicts, Bad Science in ‘Frackademia’ Studies"

"Corporations Buying 'Science' to Counter Critics"


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