Jennifer Washburn, a fellow at the New America Foundation has written an opinion piece for the Mercury News about the increasing conflicts of interest at America’s best universities. It is worth reading. We’ve excerpted below a section about Exxon Mobil’s unusual relationship with Stanford, and the propaganda generated with Stanford’s seal — literally — of approval.

In 2002, Stanford signed a 10-year, $225 million deal with Exxon and other energy companies to fund a Global Climate and Energy Project, or GCEP. At the time, Exxon Mobil was pushing the U.S. government to reject any mandatory curbs on greenhouse gases; it also continued to question whether human use of fossil fuels causes global warming, despite an overwhelming scientific consensus to the contrary. Instead, it called for more research.

Shortly after the deal was signed, Exxon ran advertisements on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times celebrating its research alliance with the “best minds” at Stanford. One ad suggested that the scientific debate about global warming is ongoing: “Although climate has varied throughout Earth’s history from natural causes, today there is a lively debate about . . . the climate’s response to the presence of more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”

Remarkably, this ad was signed by Lynn Orr, the professor heading up GCEP, and it carried the official Stanford University seal.

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