Sept. 15 (UPI) -- According to an investigative report published Thursday in the British Medical Journal, fossil fuel companies have provided money to elite American universities to fund research that weakens messages on climate change and protects the interests of fossil fuel providers.
The report found that energy companies have used a similar strategy to tobacco companies in prior decades -- to protect their interests by becoming a primary funder of research.
The British Medical Journal report said that in 2000 British Petroleum and Ford Motor Company donated $20 million to Princeton to launch the first major program at an American university to tackle climate change. In 2020, according to the BMJ investigation, Princeton extended a funding partnership with ExxonMobil.
In 2021 Stanford University students sent a petition and letter to the university president protesting the fossil fuel industry funding for university research.
That letter argued that "accepting funding from the fossil fuel industry poses an inherent conflict of interest" and threatens researchers' academic integrity." The students said in the letter that Stanford has accepted tens of millions of dollars from fossil fuel companies since 2011 to fund university research.
Stanford grad student Ben Franta told the BMJ that fossil fuel company research funding is aimed at protecting the industry's interests.
"Often the reasons are to obtain the trust of scientists, to paint themselves as part of the solution to the broader public, to keep an eye on what research is being done -- even to influence what research gets done, what doesn't get done," Franta told the BMJ.
According to the BMJ research, much of the fossil fuel industry university research funding focused on carbon capture technology as a means to combat global warming while still burning fossil fuels. But researchers found that while scientifically feasible, it didn't work economically because capturing 3% of global carbon "requires about the same amount of electricity as the U.S. generated in 2020."
Stanford engineering professor Mark Jacobson described research into carbon capture as a smokescreen distraction from true solutions.
"Renewables are the only option," He told the BMJ. "We need to focus on what works."