Greenpeace ‘sting’ reveals U.S. university researchers willing to flatter coal and oil companies for a big fee

Greenpeace ‘sting’ reveals U.S. university researchers willing to flatter coal and oil companies for a big fee

By our special correspondent Eric J. Lyman (@EricJLyman)

PARIS – An investigation by a leading environmental group has exposed what it says is proof that research organizations at U.S. universities were willing to write and publish research papers inaccurately expounding on the virtues of coal and oil.

The research paper from Greenpeace used climate campaigners who posed as representatives of fossil fuel companies and approached professors from Penn State and Princeton Universities to ask them to write research papers indicating those fuel sources were not harmful to the environment.

“The professors agreed to write the reports and said they did not need to disclose the source of the funding,” Greenpeace said in a release, which was distributed on the sidelines of the Paris climate summit.

According to copies of the e-mails provided by Greenpeace, one professor, Penn State sociologist Frank Clemente said he could produce an eight- to ten-page report “to counter damaging research linking coal to premature deaths” for $15,000.

A Princeton professor emeritus, William Happer, said he would charge $250 per hour, or an estimated $8,000 for a full paper. “I don’t think there would be any problem stating that ‘The author received no financial compensation for this essay,’” Happer wrote, according to the e-mails.

Behind Energy contacted the communications officers for both universities seeking comment. Penn State did not reply, and a Princeton spokesman e-mailed to say the university would not comment.

Environmental groups said they were not surprised by Greenpeace’s findings.

“This report is consistent with the kind of conduct we’ve seen from the efforts of fossil fuel companies to cloud the integrity of the climate change debate,” said Ken Kimmell, president of the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists.

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