What does it mean when leading universities accept millions of dollars from fossil fuel companies?

Bryan Alexander
6 min readMar 6, 2023

How do we think about large fossil fuel companies donating funds to universities? How might our attitudes change as the climate crisis worsens?

These questions came to mind as I read a new report from Data for Progress. DfP found that the leading carbon energy firms gave nearly $700 million to a small group of American universities from 2010–2020.

Here I’d like to summarize the report, then explore implications.

tl;dr — six energy companies “donated or pledged at least $677,373,368 between 2010 and 2020 to 27 universities.”

In more detail:

The companies in question are “ExxonMobil Corporation, BP America Inc., Chevron Corporation, Shell Oil Company, ConocoPhillips, and Koch Industries.” Their leading recipients “were the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and George Mason University.”

That nearly $700 million is likely an undercount:

Due to a lack of transparency across higher education, including instances where companies rescind or cut portions of university donations, it is unlikely that the funding listed below captures the full extent of fossil fuel industry funding at these universities.

The Berkeley-BP connection is striking:



Bryan Alexander

Futurist, speaker, writer, educator. Author of the FTTE report, UNIVERSITIES ON FIRE, and ACADEMIA NEXT. Creator of The Future Trends Forum.