Stanford Presses ExxonMobil on Global Warming

Stanford Presses ExxonMobil on Global Warming

U.C. Berkeley is the future home of a $500 million Energy Biosciences Institute, funded by BP. U.C. Davis received $25 million from Chevron to create its Bioenergy Research Group. But after a group of Stanford alumni felt their alma mater was providing a "fig leaf" to ExxonMobil, the university has said it will push the oil conglomerate to do more in the fight against global warming.

The Stanford Board of Trustee's Advisory Panel on Investment Responsibility announced yesterday that it would vote its shares in ExxonMobil stock in favor of an environmental shareholder resolution. The resolution, introduced by the Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell, N.J., and 41 co-filers, asks the ExxonMobil board to set concrete goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its operations and products.

Stanford alum Kirk Miller, the organizer of the alumni campaign, said of the announcement, "This strong step sends a clear message that Stanford will not allow itself to be used as a fig leaf by Exxon Mobil. The reality here is that Exxon Mobil is exploiting the Stanford name and Stanford's reputation to block shareholder proposals asking ExxonMobil to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

The dust-up at Stanford stems from the belief that Exxon is using its endowment of the GCEP as a way to greenwash its image on global warming. In addition to running print and television ads touting the company's ties to Stanford as a reason for shareholders to not support the resolution, an ExxonMobil proxy statement read: "ExxonMobil worked to establish and is providing $100 million to Stanford University's Global Climate and Energy Project -- a pioneering climate and energy research effort -- to accelerate development of commercially viable energy technologies that can lower GHG emissions on a broad scale."

John M. Simpson, who works with the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, one of the major advocates for Stanford backing the resolution, said, "It's refreshing to see them finally listening to their alumni and others concerned about ExxonMobil's blatant abuse of the school's image as a leading research institution."

Kirk Miller said, "We feel that Stanford's GCEP -- which includes other major funders such as Toyota and GE that are acting now on global warming -- is a genuinely important project focused on substance in fundamental science and engineering."

GCEP was launched in December 2002, supported $225 million over 10 years from four companies: General Electric, ExxonMobil, Schlumberger, and Toyota. ExxonMobil is the single largest donor to the program with a $100 million commitment to GCEP.

The resolution will be voted on by ExxonMobil shareholders at the company's annual meeting on May 30.