In 2007, the University of California at Berkeley entered into a $500 million 10-year research contract with the oil behemoth British Petroleum. This agreement is called the EBI (Energy Biosciences Institute) contract. In approving the largest university privatization arrangement in history, UCB ignored the criticism of faculty, students and community members who raised issues about BP’s horrendous safety record, the contract’s narrow GMO-oriented energy focus, blatant conflicts of interest, and major threats posed to academic integrity and diversity. The privatization sell out is no surprise. For years, the UC has been making deals with multinational corporations, allowing BP, Monsanto, Novartis, Bechtel, and dozens of others to hijack public universities for private gain. The costs are being socialized, while the benefits are privatized.
BP’s $500 million dollar contract allowed BP to create its own private lab within a publically-funded building on campus, accessible only to BP employees. The contract means that BP gets to choose which biofuel research projects are funded, hence setting the UC’s Energy Biosciences Institute’s agenda. Worst of all: BP gets to keep its favorite 35% of biofuel patents created by UCB researchers. UC Berkeley, once the nation’s leading research university, has been reduced to a mere mouthpiece for corporate interests.
An alarming example of this came just one month after the BP oil spill in 2010, when Terry Hazen, a UC Berkeley ecologist, announced that his team had discovered a new microorganism that was eating the spilled oil, and that the oil in the gulf “went away fairly rapidly after the well was capped.” Because of his UCB credentials, Hazen’s bullshit was published in the academic journal Science, and was subsequently spread by the mainstream media. Hazen’s report failed to include that his research was funded by BP.
BP used phony “Save the Planet” banners as a Trojan horse to sneak into the university. It is insane to portray BP as a philanthropic champion of sustainable energy Now that BP has bought their way into the heart of the public education system they are plundering its resources, corrupting its community, and disrupting real progress toward sustainability.
BP already had a well-documented history of human rights and environmental abuses before the contract was signed in 2007, but the 2010 oil-spill clearly demonstrated their willingness to take excessive risks, ignore safety measures, utilize highly toxic dispersing agents for “clean-up,” lie in order to reduce fines and liability, and coerce media outlets and politicians into downplaying this horrible disaster. BP deserves the corporate death penalty, and it is insane to trust these criminals with the future of the university’s sustainable energy research program. The BP-funded research agenda focuses on unsafe genetically modified organisms, while ignoring alternative biofuels such as hemp, which was strongly recommended for study by the California legislature in a 1999 resolution, yet no study has yet been undertaken.
The Occupy movement proved that people can fight back against corporate manipulation of education, the economy and the environment. The BP-UCB partnership perfectly exemplifies how these threats become more dangerous when combined with public space, and thus serves as a natural focal point for activists who want to create wide-ranging change right now. It is time for a new movement at UC Berkeley and beyond — a movement where we put our words into action.
The BP-Berkeley deal was approved only because its advocates lied about the implications and intentions of the contract, and the public lacked enough information or time to effectively mobilize a defense against this destructive plan. Though the contract is more than halfway executed, it is not too late to retroactively nullify this agreement on the basis of its fraudulent nature.
We call on everyone who cares about the future of this planet to help expose the EBI contract as a corrupt greenwashing scam, retroactively reject its legitimacy, and ensure that this form of destructive privatization does not continue to occur.
The Coalition Against Privatization’s goals are simple:
Remove BP from the UCB campus
Make all information generated at public universities free and open to the public
Chase the corporate monsters off of our campus and universities everywhere
The public university could be a public resource, bringing brilliant minds together to solve the greatest problems of our time. It is time to reclaim the academy in the name of all life on this earth.
To support the @bpOffCampus movement, visit bpoffcampus.org.