Frackademia Exposed: Federally Funded, Industry Driven

From Food and Water Watch:

By Katherine Cirullo
September 17th, 2013

Recently, Steve Horn of the DeSmog Blog uncovered shocking information that leaves us shaking our head at our nation’s leaders and our once trusted scholars. Embedded in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 is section 999, which describes the U.S. Department of Energy-run Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America (RPSEA). We knew previously that oil and gas companies and industry executives have funded and advised academic research on fracking, but the U.S. government has a major role in these projects, too. Federal funding of oil and gas industry controlled “frackademia” leaves us concerned for the future of fracking, and for our air, water and public safety.

In May, Food & Water Watch released an extensive review of frackademic projects. Research revealed the projects were insufficiently controlled by universities, lacked peer review and were developed by advisory boards with undue pro-industry agendas.  Ties between research and “Big Oil and Gas” companies have led to the promotion of shale gas development under the guise of credible academic research.

In June, we blogged about a slightly different form of frackademia: Universities have been scrutinized for their intention to lease campus land to the industry for “fracking research” in exchange for lowered tuition rates and research funding. Obvious conflicts of interest in these cases have led student activists and community members to speak up for their school’s academic integrity, as well as for the health and safety of the community. As a result, some project proposals have been put on hold.

Research that is tainted by the oil and gas industry’s profit-driven model is inherently unsound and not credible. But even more troubling is that “frackademic” research actually exists by law. RPSEA is a program that has been implemented for the past several years under the auspices of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Since 2006, this frackademic program has existed under federal law, receives federal funding and is led mainly by industry and government officials.

RPSEA is a non-profit organization composed of dozens of top U.S. energy entities, 22 top academic research institutions and just a small handful of independent research laboratories. RPSEA receives about $100,000 in annual funding under the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Mind you, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 is the very same act that exempts fracking from the Safe Drinking Water act. In addition to the annual $100,000, RPSEA receives an income fund from any federal royalties obtained from onshore and offshore oil and gas leases on federal land. Furthermore, in 2006, the U.S. Department of Energy selected RPSEA as recipient of a ten year, $50 million research program aimed to “develop new technologies and produce more abundant and affordable domestic energy supplies.”

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