Gas Drillers’ Cozy Relationship With Universities by Richard Schiffman, January 14, 2013, Care2 Causes
Last week, the oil company Chevron took out a full-page ad in the Atlantic Monthly to say – seemingly innocuously – that hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, needs to be “good for everyone.” It was a part of Chevron’s ubiquitous “Human Energy Campaign,” which uses “real people” to soften its corporate image and argue its case. The multinational is currently ramping up the PR to coincide with the release (also last week) of Promised Land, a controversial new film directed by Gus Van Sant and starring Matt Damon, which highlights the tactics used by drillers to buy up farmland that sits atop the vast Marcellus shale gas fields. Chevron’s ad in the Atlantic is co-signed by Bruce Niemeyer, a vice-president of the corporation and Radisav Vidic, a professor of environmental engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. Professor Vidic’s office sits a stone’s throw from the Chevron Science Center, a 15-storey state-of-the-art chemistry laboratory and teaching facility made possible by the philanthropically-minded corporation. I asked him if he saw any conflict in interest in signing an ad paid for by an energy company, when academics are expected to be impartial arbiters. He replied by email:
“I don’t since I agree that the shale gas should be good for everyone or not developed at all.”
Vidic believes that fracking is safe and says that there are only two scientifically documented incidents where underground water was contaminated. He told me that neither he nor the Swanson school of engineering (a division of the University of Pittsburgh) has received any compensation for his participation in the Chevron ad. In addition to endowing science halls, Chevron and other energy companies have been sponsoring research on fracking at some of the nation’s leading universities, including several in Pennsylvania, a hotbed of natural gas drilling. But the question is increasingly being asked: can these industry-funded studies be trusted?
Most of the collusion between industry and our nation’s universities, however, still takes place above the ground – albeit usually under cover. When that cover gets blown, heads roll. [Emphasis added]
[Refer also to: Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Resources A California Perspective ]