MIT's Fracking Report Backs Its Donors: Gas Companies

I almost gagged on my coffee when I finally got around to reading the corporate sponsored pro-fracking propaganda by MIT on natural gas, entitled, "The Future of Natural Gas." Isn't this academic institution embarrassed to sell its reputation to corporations?

I guess not, because right on its website, MIT advertises its enormous corporate funding for research and its proud affiliation with the oil and gas industry. Read its philosophy for yourself:

Since its founding, MIT has actively sought industry partnerships and brought its students into real-world projects with corporations. In FY 2010, MIT's industry-sponsored research totaled $111 million. More than 800 firms now work with MIT, both in Institute-wide programs such as the Industrial Liaison Program and the MIT Energy Initiative and in smaller collaborations... More than 180 companies partner with the program to improve their access to MIT and advance their research agendas. Launched in 2006 to pursue innovative technologies for sustainable energy, the MIT Energy Initiative fosters collaboration between industry and MIT researchers from across the campus. More than 50 corporate members support multidisciplinary research programs, contribute seed money, and provide support and research opportunities for MIT students.

Now really, do you trust the objectivity on natural gas of the "founding members" of MIT's Energy Initiative: BP, Shell and ENI (the Italian energy giant)? All three multinational corporations have an economic interest in expanding the use of fracking to extract hard to reach deposits of natural gas across the country. Here in the United States, BP -- not known for their corporate responsibility -- is the 4th largest natural gas producer. Shell is the 9th largest U.S. Producer, and activists in South Africa are fighting Shell's attempt to frack in one of the driest places on earth. ENI is attempting to frack 760 square miles of Poland.

Most of the "sustaining members" of the MIT energy initiative have an economic interest in drilling for natural gas too. ABB is a leader in supplying electrical system solutions for drilling rigs, drilling ships, jack-ups and semi-submersible drilling rigs. A division of Bosch provides equipment for oil and gas fields. Siemens provides systems to treat fracking wastewater. We could go on and on.

"The Future of Natural Gas" proudly acknowledged that the American Clean Skies Foundation was a funder, along with other fossil fuel oriented companies (Hess Corporation, Gas Technology Institute, and Exelon). This foundation was formed by Aubrey McClendon, the billionaire CEO of Chesapeake Energy Corporation, the second largest producer of natural gas in the United States in 2010. He has been a slick promoter of fracked gas, using a combination of tried and true influence pedaling tactics -- from campaign contributions to truth-challenged PR campaigns.

Anthony Meggs, one of three co-chairs of the study, was formerly the Head of Technology for BP. While there, he worked to rebuild the technical capacity of the company by creating a Technology Advisory Council that included Ernest Moniz, a second co-chair of MIT's study. It would take pages to disclose the study participant's ties to the oil and gas industry.

Needless to say, the recommendations of this report appear to bolster the interests of the multinational energy companies who stand to benefit from natural gas drilling over the well being of public health, air and water quality and the future of the planet. It's time to challenge industry sponsored reports like this and not let them get away with manipulating the truth or pedaling industry PR as sound science.