We recently coined a new term: Frackademia: noun – An academic aligned with frackers
Frackademia in the news today:
Bloomberg: Frackers Fund University Research That Proves Their Case
By Jim Efstathiou Jr. – Jul 22, 2012 11:00 PM CT
Public Accountability: Contaminated Inquiry: How a University of Texas Fracking Study Led by a Gas Industry Insider Spun the Facts and Misled the Public
July 23, 2012
Frackademia is in the news again today. To redeem its reputation, the University of Texas chose a Frackademic for the panel to decide about the Frackademic study that I like to call the Fracking is not the worst thing about fracking study.
Public Accountability Initiative
The University of Texas at Austin has taken an important step in initiating a review of its fracking report. The report misled the public about the environmental risks associated with fracking and was led by a professor who failed to disclose his energy industry ties. The university’s proactive approach to addressing this breach of the public trust should be commended.
There are, however, serious questions about the independence of the expert panel the university has named. Given the conflict of interest at the root of this report’s problems, it is extremely troubling that the university chose an energy industry insider to chair the panel. Norman Augustine served for nearly 20 years on the board of oil and gas company ConocoPhillips and its predecessor company, Phillips Petroleum. During that time, he was awarded millions of dollars in stock and cash compensation, some of which he continues to receive in retirement in the form of annual payments of deferred compensation.* Mr. Augustine’s relationship to the gas industry is strikingly similar to that of the original study’s author, Chip Groat, who has earned close to $2 million as a director of drilling company Plains Exploration and Production (PXP).
ConocoPhillips is also one of the University of Texas Energy Institute’s top publicly-named named donors, having given a five-year, $1.5 million grant for energy research in 2010.
Unfortunately, the university’s choice of Mr. Augustine throws the independence of this review into question before it has even begun.
* Note: It appears that Augustine continues to receive annual deferred stock awards from ConocoPhillips to this day. ConocoPhillips’s 2009 proxy states that Mr. Augustine elected to defer $3.1 million in stock awards to a Vanguard account, which was to be paid out in ten annual installments beginning in July 2009 – meaning that he is still receiving these payments. See the footnote on page 62 of ConocoPhillips’ 2009 proxy: http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1163165/000119312509067954/ddef14a.htm