Fracking Greenwash: Revenge Of The Frackademics


  • Second frackademic scandal in UK
  • Following Durham University one
  • Pro-fracking report by Grantham Institute
  • Cuadrilla Chairman Lord Browne on board
  • Several other members have fracking links
  • Funded by ex-Shell investment strategist
  • Heavily invested in fracking companies
  • Including UK fackers Cuadrilla and IGas
  • Supports pro-fracking spin in US

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Multi-millionaire investment strategist Jeremy Grantham, co-founder of investment management firm Grantham Mayo Van Otterloo (GMO), who finances the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment

When is a group of leading climate change researchers not a group of leading climate change researchers? When they are a actually bunch of economists paid by a multi-millionaire investment strategist to promote fracking, of course. But we are getting ahead of ourselves already. Over the last couple of months there has been a up tick in the amount of pro-fracking propaganda in the UK mainstream media, especially from the more liberal end of the political spectrum. This is not particularly surprising given recent events. The government announcement in December that they are putting their weight squarely behind unconventional gas will have certain contributed to more resources being available for such efforts. Cuadrilla Resources, of Lancashire earthquake infamy, have also hired Bell Ponttinger the UK’s largest public relations firm, to shill for them. An analysis of the strategies behind this PR offensive will require an article in itself, or probably several. Suffice it to say, for the moment, that where once industry executives and politicians were doing their own fracking PR, and mostly making a pig’s ear of it, now a whole army of public relations experts, academics and media figures are lining up to take their cut, for selling fracking as safe, green and good for your wallet.

A typical example of this trend was a comment piece in the Guardian last week titled Fracking: the monster we greens must embrace. The article is hardly a ringing endorsement for fracking but it uncritically regurgitates a load of pro-fracking spin, cloaking in an environmental language. Dividing, confusing and undermining the opposition is the name of the game here. It isn’t necessary to get everyone to love fracking, just sow enough doubt over how bad it will be to undermine resistance to it. Following close on the heels this piece were reports on an academic study touting the supposed climate benefits of fracking, in the Guardian, Scotsman etc. Some perusal of the actual report shows that it has been knocked up by a bunch of economists from an institute at the London School of Economics (LSE), which is funded by a multi-millionaire investment strategist and ex-Shell economist, with links to the fracking industry. An institute which has the chairman of arch-fracker Cuadrilla Resources on its advisory board, no less. It usually pays to check exactly who the authors are with such reports, because while a paper on evolution from a biologist might be highly illuminating, one by a theologist is less likely to be that informative.

Dilly Creek fracking operations, in northeastern British Columbia, of Nexen Inc. (largest shareholder in UK fracking company IGas Energy), one of a number of fracking companies in which Jeremy Grantham is heavily invested

Dig deep enough into any big pro-fracking spin effort in the UK and you will usually find the extremely well connected Lord Browne of Madingley, Chairman of Cuadrilla Resources and ex-CEO of BP, pulling the strings. In this case you don’t have to dig that much because Lord Browne, who recently bragged that he would invest whatever it takes in fracking, is on the advisory board of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, the institute in question. A pattern is beginning to emerge here. The “independent” report that was rolled out last April to try to justify the resumption of fracking was written by the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering. Lord Browne is a fellow of the Royal Society and a former president of the Royal Academy of Engineering. It is not hard to imagine that Lord Browne has been calling a lot of favours to support his present business ventures. In the case of the Grantham Institute however, he may not have had to try very hard. The malign influence of Lord Browne is not the only thing rotten at the Grantham Institute.

The Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment was created in 2008, with a £12 million grant from multi-millionaire investment strategist Jeremy Grantham, who continues to sit on their advisory board. Grantham is a co-founder of global investment management firm Grantham Mayo Van Otterloo (GMO), who manage $106 billion for their clients. He is a member of the firm’s board of directors and their chief investment strategist. In addition to very large investments in oil majors heavily involved in fracking, Chevron and ExxonMobil, GMO also has investments in smaller fracking comapanies like Marathon Oil, Encana, Apache, Nexen, and Devon Energy. Nexen are the largest shareholder of UK fracking company IGas Energy who are exploring from Shale Gas and Coal Bed Methane (CBM) near Manchester. Nexen have just been bought by chinese oil giant CNOOC, whom GMO also have a stake in. CNOOC also have interests in Cuadrilla through Hong Kong investment company Kerogen Capital. GMO are also invested in PetroChina, another chinese oil giant with interests in fracking. One of GMO’s clients is former Haliburton CEO and US vice-president Dick Cheney, who was instrumental in facilitating fracking in the US. Grantham has also been recently advocating investing in natural gas.

Jeremy Grantham has been described as the world’s most powerful environmentalist. His $400 million Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, through which he funds not just the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, but a number of other organisations which include the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC). The Environmental Defense Fund has been very supportive of the fracking industry, with its chief counsel, Mark Brownstein, laying out its official support blog post last September. However the EDF’s Senior Policy Advisor, Scott Anderson, a former oil and gas industry lawyer, has been promoting safe fracking since at least 2010. The EDF has recently been involved in setting up the Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD) to promote fracking, in conjunction with Chevron, Shell and CONSOL Energy. The Nature Conservancy is the world’s richest environmental organisation, which owns large tracts of land worldwide and is a major driving force behind carbon offsetting. TNC concept of “conservation” is hyper industry-friendly and its conservation exploits include drilling for gas under land it owes in Texas, donated to it by an oil company in order to protect endangered birds. TNC receives a significant amount of funding from major oil companies such as BP, Chevron and Exxon as well as smaller fracking companies such as Chesapeake Energy and Devon Energy. The TNC has been promoting fracking in the US and apparently will allow fracking of forests that it controls.

Web of influence for fracking PR (note that this is highly incomplete). Links denote funding, control or partnerships.

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Nodes are coloured depending on whether they are companies, academic institutions, non-governmental organisations, government, trade associations or people. Hover over nodes to see who they are and click on them for more informaion.

A number of the members of the Grantham Institute’s advisory board also have links to the fracking industry. Vikram Singh Mehta is a former Chairman of the Shell Group of Companies in India. Dr Tidu Maini is a prominent Indian-born businessman and academic, with close links to the Qatari royal family and a former vice-president at fracking giant Schlumberger. Gerard Lyons is chief economic adviser to pro-fracking mayor of London Boris Johnson and also has links to the Qatari royal family. The advisory board also includes the CEOs of two of the largest and most corporate connected “environmental” organisations in the US. Fred Krupp is President of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). The EDF’s corporate partners include US private equity firms the Carlyle Group and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR). KKR is heavily involved in financing fracking, while the Carlyle Group has a stake in Cuadrilla Resources through a joint venture with Riverstone LLC. Fred Krupp is on the board of directors of industry PR organisation the Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD) and on the Obama administration’s industry stacked panel on fracking. Another Grantham Institute advisory board member is Carter Roberts, President of the extremely corporate friendly World Wildlife Fund (US), which has links to HSBC, the bank most responsible for funding fracking in the UK. Finally the chairman of the Grantham Institute is Lord Stern who, in addition to being heavily involved in profiting from climate change, works for fracking bank, HSBC.

As with most fracking PR so far, it is still being imported in bulk from the US with little or no alteration. This particular round of fracking greenwash appears to be a delayed echo of the hype that surrounded the attempts by the Obama administration to appoint arch-frackademic Dr. Ernest Moniz as Energy Secretary in the US. Jim Bernhard, who was until recently CEO of the Shaw Group, was previously in the running for the Energy Secretary post, before Ernest Moniz was selected. Coincidentally, or not, the Shaw Group, which provides construction services to the fracking industry, is also a company in which Jeremy Grantham has recently invested. However it is not just greenwash that is being imported from the US, but the methods by which it is administered. In the last year, academic institutions there have been plagued by a series of frackademic scandals when links to the fracking industry have been exposed. The frackademics at the Grantham Institute are far from an isolated example of this trend crossing the Atlantic. Only last week a report promoting fracking by academics at Durham University was exposed as having a large number of fracking industry links. There are enumerable channels through which this fracking spin could have travelled, but it is interesting to note that three of the key individuals linked to the Grantham Institute and Durham scandals, Jeremy Grantham, Prof. Sir David King and Lord Browne of Madingley were all speakers at Re|Source 2012 a gathering of the business, government, academic and military elite at Oxford University last summer, where US frackademic, and now Energy Secretary nominee, Prof. Ernest Moniz, also spoke. The conference was particularly noteworthy at the time for insane drivel being spouted by Lord Browne about shale gas being ‘effectively infinite’, but perhaps, as with most things, we should have paid more attention to what people were doing rather than what they were saying.

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