BP has been taking some heat from faculty and students at UC Berkeley who don’t like the idea of the university’s $500 million partnership with the energy giant to develop bio-fuels. The real question is who owns the product of the research. What are the details of the deal? BP and Berkeley administrators need to put everything on the table in plain sight while there is still an opportunity to object.
As the $100 million Stanford-Exxon deal shows, letting an oil company control the direction and the results of university development of alternative fuel gives the company a powerful incentive to win brownie PR points with the public and still have the capacity to bottle up alternatives to the lucrative fossil fuel trade.
In Berkeley’s case, it’s not just that the epicenter of the counter-culture is embracing Big Oil. It’s that the University of California is a public entity. Stanford may be able to make a deal with the devil, but such a Faustian bargain is not okay on the taxpayer’s dime at one of its premier universities.