10 Petro-Universities and the Production of Knowledge for the Post-carbon Future
For more than six decades, the University of Alberta has been instrumental in developing Alberta’s renowned oil and gas industry, from the education of its workforce and leaders to geological discovery to technological innovation.
University of Alberta media release, 19 March 2008
The oilsands industry would not exist without this university.
Doug Goss, former chair, University of Alberta Board of Governors, October 2014
Universities have great potential to provide the ethical leadership and diverse forms of knowledge needed to help our societies transition to ecologically sustainable paths of development. Yet the capacity of universities to fulfill these roles is obstructed in multiple ways.
First, universities are embedded in regional, national, and global political economies whose dominant logics and actors exert pressures on universities to serve their ends. Publicly funded post-secondary institutions are, to a substantial degree, policy takers, subject to the ideological discourses and developmental priorities of governments. Governments, in turn, typically set goals related to university-based research and development (R&D), as well as to programs of education, in accordance with the interests of the economic actors who have the most structural power and political influence. When little light exists between governmental vision and corporate interests, as in neoliberal regimes, the mandate of the university to serve the public good is squeezed from every side. This happens through processes that have been labelled the “corporatization of universities,” a phenomenon characterized by:
- the alignment of university research and teaching priorities with the current priorities of market actors
- the marginalization of non-commodifiable knowledge
- the shift from self-government by academics to an executive style of management by professional(ized) administrators
- the involvement of corporate representatives in university governance bodies (boards of governors, boards of centres or institutes)
- the privatization of knowledge (through intellectual property agreements and funder agreements)
- the shrinking share of public funding in university budgets.
While these general structural trends have affected universities everywhere, differences among regional and national political economies help us to understand the conflicts and tensions operating within particular universities as well as the opportunities open to them to push for greater autonomy in serving the public good. In this chapter, I examine the implications of Alberta’s (and Canada’s) carbon-extractive political economy for the production of knowledge in Alberta’s leading research universities.
Universities situated in the extractive nodal points of fossil-capitalist networks are expected to perform functions that correspond to specific industry needs. A handful of reports have documented industry influence in universities located in the carbon-extractive jurisdictions of Canada (CAUT 2013), the United Kingdom (Lander 2013; Muttitt 2003), and the United States (Gustafson 2012; Lockwood 2015; Washburn 2010). These authors have noted how these universities act as training centres for graduates who go to work for the fossil fuel companies. They have described the awarding of honorary degrees to senior executives from fossil fuel companies as a form of “greenwashing.” In addition, they have begun to document the research collaboration agreements made between university researchers and fossil fuel corporations, asking questions about academic freedom and intellectual property rights. These relationships are important, and all may be observed in Alberta’s post-secondary education institutions. However, some aspects of fossil capital’s shaping of knowledge production have received little attention.
First, the influence of fossil fuel companies over what universities do has been associated with corporate donations or endowments to universities. These ties are very important, but in the case of Alberta, at least, an equally important means of influence is the determination of government research-funding priorities. In this sense, influence is less visible, or more indirect: it is mediated by governments through discourses of “innovation” and funding decisions. Governments, corporations, and university administrators collaborate in constructing the public interest in ways that conform to the short- and medium-term interests of fossil capital. This collaboration is facilitated by these actors’ close and frequent interactions (and employment mobility) within industry-government-university networks.
Second, “external” pressures and incentives restructure universities internally. The resulting changes in stratification and power relations within the university have important consequences for how (and by whom) the university’s mission is defined and for its capacity to serve the public good.
Third, while a number of studies have identified negative consequences for public health of a “too close” relationship between university scientists and private corporations (for example, in the areas of medical research, pharmaceuticals, and agrochemicals), very few studies of corporatization touch on the consequences of research-funding priorities for universities’ production of knowledge that is critical to ecological transition—knowledge related, for example, to renewable energy, energy efficiency, water conservation, sustainable agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and urban design, low-carbon transportation, democratic planning processes, institutional reform, economic regulation to achieve sustainability targets, or the media and cultural practices that shape public opinion about such things as the feasibility of post-carbon transition.
As the analysis in this chapter reveals, Alberta’s major research universities have not taken a leadership role in producing the knowledge needed to advance our transition to a post-carbon, ecologically sustainable economy. While other universities in Canada and elsewhere have begun to play important roles in leading sustainable development initiatives, Alberta’s major universities have missed out on opportunities to do so and are, in fact, obstructed by the extractive-industry interests that have become entrenched within state innovation agencies and the universities themselves. To support these claims, I present evidence from research that reconstructs the universities’ priorities in relation to energy and environmental knowledge production and technology development. The importance attached to different types of research was measured in multiple ways: the numbers of researchers associated with these areas; the amounts of provincial and federal government research funding they receive; the establishment of research chairs, centres, and networks; corporate endowments; and the discourse of senior university administrators, corporate executives, and government policy makers.
Government Funding of R&D at Alberta Universities: A Fossil-Fuelled Future, or Green Transition?
To map any changes in funding priorities against developments in provincial or federal policy or in the economics of fossil fuel extraction in Alberta, funding flows to the Universities of Alberta and Calgary were tracked over a period of nearly two decades, from the late 1990s (when investment in the oil sands began to take off) through to 2016–17. Setting aside the very large portions of government funding, both federal and provincial, directed to these universities’ medical faculties, as well as the comparatively small amount of federal funding directed to the social sciences and humanities, the study zeroed in on financial support for science and technology. This support took the form of:
- awards from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) in all program areas except for graduate student scholarships, as well as funding for Canada Research Chairs and Industrial Research Chairs
- awards from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) in all areas related to energy research and development and environmental sciences
- grants made by federal ministries and by Sustainable Development Technology Canada
- funding from the Alberta Science and Research Investments Program (ASRIP)
- disbursements from the Climate Change Emissions Management Fund (CCEMF) since its establishment in 2009–10
- funding from the Alberta Innovates corporations (2010–16) for university-based research, research chairs, and research centres
- numerous royalty credit or other funds administered by provincial ministries for investment in R&D.
It is impossible to present all the findings of this research here, but some highlights will help to explain my conclusions.1
Essentially, the goal was to see what kinds of R&D had been funded, and in what amounts, over roughly the past two decades and whether significant changes had occurred in the priorities of funding agencies. Projects that received funding were initially classified according to whether their primary orientation was toward the production of energy or toward some aspect of environmental science. They were then sorted into subcategories. An energy project could be coded “fossil fuel–related” (FFR) or as “renewable energy,” “biofuel,” “fuel cell,” “energy efficiency/conservation,” “nuclear,” “fusion,” or “uranium.” Within the FFR subcategory, energy projects were then further coded on the basis of specific areas of fossil fuel R&D. These subcategories were carbon capture and storage, coal, reservoir exploration, extraction, hydraulic fracturing, processing (upgrading and refining), petrochemical production, and transportation (including pipelines), plus two others that are discussed further below: remediation and greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation. Projects in the second main category, environmental science, were likewise sorted into categories: agriculture-related, forestry-related, ecosystems/conservation biology, climate change science, and “other environmental” (for example, toxicology, soil and plant science, air quality, municipal water treatment). Finally, for the relatively rare project funded by these sources that focused on sustainability (such as the development of sustainability indicators or of sustainable agricultural or forestry practices), we used the label “sustainable development.”
Much of what governments characterize as “environmental” or “clean technology” R&D falls into the category of FFR research. Some of this research is directed toward the development of technologies intended to reduce GHG emissions. One example is carbon capture and storage, which aims to sequester emissions from coal-fired power plants or oil sands upgraders—although such technologies are now widely regarded as too costly to be implemented on the scale needed to stop global warming. Others are the use of CO2 injection as a method of enhanced oil recovery (EOR) and the addition of solvents (natural gas liquids) to the steam used in steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) extraction, which reduces the amount of both water and energy required to thin and extract the bitumen. Also in the FFR category is R&D related to the remediation of the environmental harms caused by fossil fuel extraction. Examples of research in this area are projects that concern the reclamation of contaminated soil, the detoxification of tailings ponds, and the restoration of land to usable condition.
Mitigation and remediation technologies are, of course, necessary and important. Yet those related to fossil fuels exist to offset the effects of an extractive model of development that needs, ultimately, to be replaced. In this sense, they are not “future energy system” technologies. Moreover, in the context of government commitments to maintaining oil sands operations for as long as possible, and in the absence of a green transition plan that phases out the extraction and consumption of fossil fuels apart from essential uses, the “clean energy technology” focus of funding has primarily served the purpose of legitimation. That is, governments routinely point to their investments in these areas to support claims that the fossil fuel–based economy can be made “sustainable.” Such claims have become central to government and corporate efforts to obtain “social licence” for their continuing investments in fossil fuel extraction and exports.
Meanwhile, the alternatives to dependence on fossil fuels are typically left out or downplayed in the framing of policy choices. Little attention is given to the comparative lack of government investment in areas of research such as renewable, low-carbon energy technologies (wind, solar, geothermal), passive heating and cooling, energy conservation, low-carbon public transportation, ecological urban design, sustainable agriculture, water conservation, ecological economics, and integrated transition planning—research needed to put us on a path to ecologically sustainable development.
In Canada, federal funding for university-based research is disbursed via three agencies collectively known as the Tri-Council: the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). Our research focused solely on funding distributed through NSERC. Multiple searches of the NSERC awards database using different keywords and names of researchers gleaned from other sources eventually yielded a total of 356 faculty researchers at the University of Alberta (UAlberta) and the University of Calgary (UCalgary) working in the energy production or the environmental science domain over the period from 1999–2000 to 2015–16. Associated with these researchers were 4,567 projects that were coded and analyzed. Of the 356 researchers, 60 percent (210) worked primarily on energy projects, and, of these, 76 percent (159 of 210) worked on FFR projects.
Given its larger size, UAlberta had more researchers working on projects in the energy domain (134) than did UCalgary (83).2 However, UCalgary had a slightly higher percentage of researchers working in the energy domain (61 percent, compared with UAlberta’s 58 percent) and a substantially higher percentage of researchers working on FFR projects (60 percent, compared with UAlberta’s 49 percent). Of the 356 researchers in total, 52 percent (185) were engaged in projects related to fossil fuels. Only 15 percent of energy researchers at the two universities worked in the non-FFR areas of renewable energy, biofuels, or energy efficiency/conservation combined. FFR research was also significant for researchers in the environment category, with 18 percent of these researchers (26 out of 146) participating in projects related to some aspect of FFR remediation.
Over the entire period, we found only thirty-one researchers (8.7 percent of the total) whose research pertained to sustainable agriculture, sustainable forestry, waste management, municipal water treatment, or water conservation. Most strikingly, only a single project (on integrated pest management) satisfied our criteria for research on sustainable agriculture. A snapshot of the distribution of researchers by research category taken in 2015–16 also found a huge imbalance between the number of researchers at the two universities who were engaged in some kind of FFR R&D (151) and the number working on projects related to sustainable agriculture, sustainable forestry, waste management, municipal water treatment, or water conservation research (19). In a province where sustainable food production may become a key part of a future low-carbon economy and where both climate change and other factors increasingly put water supply and quality at risk, the absence—as late as 2015–16—of NSERC-funded research in the areas of sustainable agriculture and water management is remarkable.
To shed light on the question of changes in energy research priorities over time, we assessed of the distribution of researchers at three different points: in 1999–2000, in 2009–10, and in 2015–16. Overall, the number of researchers in the energy domain has more than tripled since 1999 (from 56 to 174). Figure 10.1 shows the percentage of each category of energy researchers as a share of the total number of NSERC-funded researchers in our study at each point in time. We see that while modest increases have occurred since 1999–2000 (and especially since 2009–10) in the percentages of researchers working on FFR remediation and GHG mitigation and on renewable energy, these researchers are at all points greatly outnumbered by those working in other FFR areas of R&D (56 percent of researchers in 2015–16).
The number of NSERC-funded environmental researchers more than doubled from 47 in 1999–2000 to 105 in 2009–10, before finally levelling off at 113 in 2015–16 (74 of them at UAlberta and 39 at UCalgary). In proportional terms, however, the opposite trend was observed: whereas environmental researchers constituted 37 percent of all NSERC-funded researchers at the two universities in 1999–2000 and 39 percent in 2009–10, the figure declined to 30 percent in 2015–16.
Over this period, an increasing share of NSERC funding went to environmental researchers working on projects related to fossil fuels, with the percentage growing from 9 percent in 1999–2000 to 14 percent in 2015–16. After researchers working on various environmental science questions, fossil-fuel researchers became the second-largest group in 2015–16. In contrast, the proportion of environmental researchers working on some aspect of climate change declined from 10 percent in 1999–2000 to 6.5 percent in 2015–16 (their number dropping from twenty to sixteen).
The number of researchers working on questions related to forestry, agriculture, water, and waste management was comparatively small. Although those conducting forestry-related research grew in number from seven in 1999–2000 to sixteen in 2015–16, the number working on agriculture-related projects stood at five in both 1999–2000 and 2015–16. Similarly, in 2015–16, we found only five NSERC-funded scientists working on water quality and conservation problems.
We then examined research priorities within the two universities by calculating the amounts of funding awarded within the different categories. With regard to energy-related research, our data showed that, over the period under study, NSERC awarded a total of $165.8 million to UAlberta and UCalgary for research related to fossil fuels, whether the research concerned the exploration phase or the extraction, processing, or transportation of these fuels. This figure amounts to 67 percent of all funding for energy-related research (which totalled $207.7 million). If we add research related to remediation and GHG mitigation to the FFR category, NSERC funding for this category amounted to 84 percent of all energy-related research funding over this period. The cumulative amounts for each category are shown in figure 10.2.
In figure 10.3, we see that funding for FFR research other than that related to remediation or GHG mitigation increased steeply from 1999–2000 to 2015–16, with NSERC awards growing from an initial $4.9 million to a height of $16.2 million in 2014–15, before falling slightly to $15.7 million the next year. FFR funding for research into remediation and GHG mitigation remained comparatively minor for roughly the first decade of this period, averaging $886,493 per year until 2009, when it rose abruptly, reaching a peak of $8.3 million in 2012–13. This spike in funding (also visible in figure 10.4), which lasted through 2012, aligned with a provincial investment in carbon capture and storage and with efforts by the government of Premier Edward Stelmach to legitimize the oil sands as a source of “clean energy” (see Adkin and Stares 2016, esp. 201–8). Thereafter, funding for remediation and GHG mitigation plummeted to $2.9 million in 2013–14 and has not exceeded $2.7 million since then. Funding for renewable-energy research has seen only a modest increase and has remained below $2 million per year, while funding for research into fuel cells had a boost in 2007–9 but then declined. The major beneficiary of NSERC funding has been R&D related to bitumen processing—concentrated in the UAlberta engineering faculty—followed by R&D on unconventional oil and gas extraction (EOR, SAGD, fracking), an area in which UCalgary seeks to be a leader.
NSERC funding of environmental research over the same period totalled $74.4 million, or just over a third of the amount spent on energy research. The percentage of NSERC funding awarded to the environmental sciences reached its peak in the period from 2002–3 to 2006–7; this percentage has since declined, from a high of about 28 percent in 2006–7 to about 22 percent in 2015–16. We further examined the allocation of funding to non-energy technology research projects that we grouped under the label of “sustainable development.” These included: sustainable agriculture, sustainable forestry, waste management, municipal water treatment, water conservation, and “other sustainable development” projects such as those that related to land use or indicators of well-being. Over the entire period, the awards to such projects totalled $8.4 million (in 2015 constant dollars). As a percentage of all NSERC funding to the two universities for energy or environment-related research, funding for (non-energy-related) “sustainability” research accounted for between 1 and 5 percent, depending on the funding year.
Canada Foundation for Innovation
The Canada Foundation for Innovation was created in 1997 to fund infrastructure for R&D conducted in post-secondary education institutions and research hospitals. Its mandate was amended by the Conservative government in 2010 to place more emphasis on R&D with potential commercial value and on the development of “industrial clusters,” in partnership with provincial governments and other funding agencies (CFI 2012, 8). Over the first two decades of its existence, the CFI invested more than $7 billion in research infrastructure (CFI 2017, 6).
From the CFI awards database, we selected and coded all awards made from 1998–99 to 2016–17 to the Universities of Alberta, Calgary, and Lethbridge. Health and medical funding takes the largest share (55 percent) of all CFI funding to the three universities, while energy-related research accounts for only 9.2 percent. Within this relatively small share, however, fossil fuel–related R&D again predominates in terms of the number of awards as a percentage of all energy awards: 61 percent at UCalgary and 84 percent at UAlberta. Fossil-fuel-related research also accounted for the largest shares of CFI funding for energy research at the two universities: 77 percent at the University of Alberta and 85 percent at the University of Calgary. In comparison, funding for R&D related to renewables amounted to only 22 percent of energy-domain funding at UAlberta and 6.3 percent at UCalgary.
Over the entire period, awards for environmental initiatives accounted for 8.3 percent of UCalgary’s CFI funding and 7.1 percent of UAlberta’s (as well as 6.2 percent of CFI funding at the University of Lethbridge). At UAlberta, environment-related research did better than energy-related research, which garnered 6.3 percent of CFI funding over this period. The same is not true for UCalgary, however, where energy projects secured 15.3 percent of CFI funding compared with environment’s 8.3 percent.
Of the 833 CFI-funded projects that we coded, only eight (0.9 percent) fell into the “sustainable development” category. Together, these accounted for $1.2 million, or 2.7 percent of CFI spending.
Alberta Science and Research Investments Program
Excluding projects in areas of research other than energy, environmental sciences, agriculture, forestry, or social sciences, we found a total of 159 projects funded from 1997–98, when ASRIP was founded, to 2014–15.3 Of the $95 million (in constant 2015 dollars) disbursed in these five areas over the period, more than half (52 percent) went to energy-related projects, followed by environment (28 percent) and agriculture (19 percent)—although only two of these projects met our criteria for sustainable agriculture. The single largest recipient of energy-related funding was fossil fuel extraction (56 percent), followed by GHG mitigation and remediation (16 percent). In third place was funding for renewable energies (15 percent). The total expenditure for environment-related research was only about $26 million, compared with $49 million for energy-related research. Only 1 percent of ASRIP funding went to forestry, and we found only one project in the social sciences.4
In terms of trends in ASRIP funding to these five areas over this period, four findings stand out. First, from 1997–98 through to 2009–10, environment-related projects gained in importance, receiving their largest share of funding in the period from 2005–6 to 2009–10. After that, however, their share of ASRIP funding shrank drastically, from 48 to 20 percent. Second, funding for agriculture-related research plummeted from $13.2 million in the three years from 1997–98 to 1999–2000 to a mere $300,000 in the five years from 2010–11 to 2014–15. This decline was equivalent to a fall from 61 percent of total funding (for our five domains) to a minuscule 1 percent. Third, the share of energy-related projects increased, by contrast, from 28 percent to 79 percent. Fourth, within the domain of energy research, ASRIP funding for both renewables and fuel cells research increased substantially after 2010, accounting for 30 percent and 26 percent, respectively, of all energy-area spending between 2010 and 2015. Still, FFR-related research took the largest share of funding in this period, at 43 percent.
In 2009–10, the Alberta government established four Alberta Innovates (AI) Crown corporations, which replaced the Alberta Ingenuity Fund system of research institutes, the Alberta Research Council, and other bodies. Of these four, AI–Technology Futures (AITF) received 42 percent of all government budget allocations between 2010 and 2016 and was the most important funder of energy-related R&D, followed by AI–Energy and Environment Solutions (AI-EES). Over this period, AITF—now InnoTech Alberta, in the wake of government restructuring in 2016—funded six research centres, two “accelerator” programs (one in nanotechnology, at UAlberta, and the other in energy, at UCalgary), and multiple university-based research chairs, with expenditures for research chairs alone totalling over $71 million. Although detailed information about the projects funded by AI is not presently available from the Alberta government, it appears that most of this AITF funding was directed toward R&D related in some way to fossil fuels. Similarly, it appears that only a small portion of AI-EES grants to universities went to environmental research that was not related to the oil sands or to other FFR areas. Agricultural research received about $4 million from AI–Bio-Solutions over this period, or 3.7 percent of the agency’s funding to universities.5
Research Centres and Institutes
Over the past two decades, the Government of Alberta has provided funding to only two institutes conducting environment-related research. From 2002–6, the Alberta Ingenuity Fund provided $5.3 million to the Alberta Ingenuity Centre for Water Research (Alberta Ingenuity 2006, 27). The centre had university-based “scientific directors” and secured funding from 11 other sources—most importantly, the CFI. In 2007, this centre was replaced by the Alberta Water Research Institute (AWRI), also funded from the Alberta Ingenuity Fund, with an initial funding base of $30 million over seven years. Its Management Advisory Board was chaired by Lorne Taylor, who served as minister of Alberta Environment in the Conservative government of Ralph Klein. While the AWRI had a wide scope of concerns, at least two of the projects it funded were related to research on the oil sands tailings ponds.6 In 2010, when the Stelmach government replaced the Alberta Ingenuity Fund institutes with the Alberta Innovates corporations, AWRI became part of AI-EES.
The second environmental institute that received funding from the Government of Alberta is the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute, created in 2010 as part of the Joint Canada-Alberta Implementation Plan for Oil Sands Monitoring. It is supported by InnoTech and its partners over the years have included Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries, oil companies, Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA), the Petroleum Technology Alliance of Canada, as well as both UAlberta and UCalgary.7 For the most part, the relatively few environmental institutes at Alberta’s universities have generally relied on their own institutions and on private endowments for their operating funding.8
In contrast, twelve research centres or institutes in the energy domain have been established at UAlberta, benefitting from varying combinations of federal government, provincial government, and energy industry funding. Seven energy-related centres have been based at UCalgary, although two of these date to the 1970s. Seven more government-operated R&D centres that host university-government-industry research partnerships operate in the province.9 Of these twenty-six energy research centres, one—the Alberta Carbon Conversion Technology Centre—was created in 2018 to advance the commercialization of technologies that make use of captured CO2, while seven others have been engaged in energy economics or energy systems research (rather than in technology R&D). None, however, has been known for producing research that supports phasing out the oil sands and/or a rapid transition to carbon-neutral economy. The remaining eighteen centres have been dedicated primarily to fossil fuel R&D—particularly R&D related to the oil sands.
Consortia, Networks, and Research Initiatives
Like research centres and institutes, research consortia and networks play an important role in the integration of graduate students and post-doctoral fellows into research groups with close relationships to fossil capital. Most of the research carried out in the twenty-five energy research consortia we identified is related to the fossil fuel industry. Consortia and networks include government departments or innovation agencies, corporations, and university researchers in varying combinations, with funding or support in kind coming from any of these sources. In-situ heavy oil research, for example, has been a core research program of the Alberta Research Council and its successors since 1984, involving collaboration between company and government-employed researchers. Other consortia are based in the universities of Alberta or Calgary and are supported by corporate and government funders. The partners in the Reservoir Simulation Research Group and the Tight Oil Consortium at the University of Calgary, for example, have included Alberta Innovates, Alberta Advanced Education and Technology, the CFI, NSERC, and individual corporations. Industry associations, like the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) and the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA), also participate in these networks and consortia.
UCalgary’s Global Research Initiative (initially named the Unconventional Hydrocarbon Resources GRI, now renamed the Sustainable Low Carbon Unconventional Resources GRI), was established in 2016 with $75 million from the Tri-Council’s Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) and has partners in China, Israel, and Mexico.10 The University of Alberta received a CFREF award in the same year for its Future Energy Systems Research Initiative (FESRI). Since the applications for these multi-million-dollar projects have not been made public, we do not have access to their budgets or details of the kinds of R&D they proposed to prioritize. The primary research areas of the Calgary GRI have been described, on university websites, as being heavy oil and bitumen, tight oil and gas, and CO2 conversion. The FESRI was initially described as having a focus on making unconventional hydrocarbon resource extraction more energy-efficient, on pipelines, and on remediation of tailings ponds and reclamation of mined lands. It also aimed to “build on U of A strengths in advanced materials, smart electrical grids and bioprocessing to help move Canada to a low-carbon energy economy” (Folio Staff 2016). As a Tri-Council-funded initiative, FESRI was to allocate a portion of its budget to research in the social sciences and humanities.11 In 2018, following the successful CFREF bid, senior administrators at the University of Alberta approved the creation of a “signature area of research and teaching excellence” in “Energy Systems.”12 The largest component of this signature area is the FESRI, which has been disbursing funding to projects ranging from engineering and science R&D on in situ extraction and upgrading of bitumen to Arts-based research on economic or cultural questions related to energy.13
As was the case with research centres and institutes, we found that environment-related research consortia or networks were typically small in scale and reliant upon internal funds. Several proposals to create a Signature Area of interdisciplinary research and teaching in the area of social and ecological sustainability were submitted to the Signature Areas Selection Panel at the University of Alberta in January 2017 and November 2018, but these were rejected.14 While it is clear that both universities are home to faculty members who are concerned with environmental issues, at neither university is there a sustainable development initiative with external funding on the scale routinely provided to energy-area initiatives.
Research chairs, like centres and consortia, are funded by multiple governmental and private sources and play a large part in defining the profile of faculties, schools, and universities. They typically come with considerable resources for operating laboratories or other research facilities, hosting conferences, and paying salaries to post-doctoral fellows and graduate student research assistants. Our study reconstructed the appointment of research chairs at the two universities since 2000 in the areas of either energy or environmental studies. These chairs can be grouped into three categories: positions for which the federal government provides funding, a category comprising Canada Excellence Research Chairs (CERCs) and NSERC-funded Canada Research Chairs (CRCs) and Industrial Research Chairs (IRCs); the provincially funded Campus Alberta Innovates Program chairs; and chairs or professorships endowed by private corporations.
Federally funded chairs. Federal funding for research chairs in energy-related areas and in environmental studies flows to universities through the three channels mentioned above. The CERC program, initiated by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government in 2008, provides funding for major research initiatives that typically involve a team of researchers, whereas CRCs and IRCs are intended to support the work of individual researchers. The CRC program, in which all three Tri-Council agencies (including NSERC) participate, aims to draw particularly prominent or promising researchers to Canadian universities. NSERC’s IRC program seeks to “support the establishment of applied research leaders and promote their role as catalysts in the advancement of business-focused applied research programs.”15 IRCs are jointly funded by NSERC and one or more partners.
- The CERC program provides universities with up to $10 million over a period of seven years to pay not only the chair holder’s salary but also the salaries of other members of the research team and to fund the direct costs of the research program. In the first round of CERC awards, made in May 2010, UAlberta secured one CERC in the energy field—the Chair in Oil Sands Molecular Engineering—while UCalgary secured a CERC Chair in Materials Engineering for Unconventional Oil Reservoirs.
- From 2000 to 2016, thirteen CRCs were appointed at UAlberta in the energy domain and six in the environmental domain. Ten of the thirteen energy CRCs worked on fossil fuels. Of the approximately $17 million awarded to these nineteen CRCs, 63 percent went to the chairs in FFR R&D, whereas only 6 percent went to renewable-energy-related research, and a mere 3 percent to fuel cell research.
- Over the same period, UCalgary secured twelve energy CRCs and five environment CRCs. Of the twelve energy CRCs, six were in FFR R&D, three in renewable energy, one in fuel cell research, and two in other areas. FFR R&D captured 40 percent of the funding for these seventeen CRCs, while renewables got 7 percent, and fuel cell research 15 percent.
- Of the twenty-two IRCs awarded to UAlberta in the energy and environment domains, twenty were in energy and all of these were FFR, accounting for approximately $28 million in funding. The two environment IRCs were in land reclamation and wildlife protection in the oil sands region.16
- At UCalgary, there was a total of seventeen IRCs in energy- or environment-related areas over the same period. A full sixteen of these were in the energy domain, and all but one were in FFR R&D. These fifteen FFR IRCs captured approximately $18.8 million in NSERC funding, or 96 percent of NSERC’s funding for these seventeen IRCs. The sole environment IRC was in municipal water engineering.
In short, thirty-five of the thirty-six energy-domain IRCs established at these two universities since 2000 have been in areas related to fossil fuels. To illustrate the extent of industry-university relationships involving engineering faculties, table 10.1 lists the industry partners for these IRCs.
Oil, gas, coal, petrochemicals
Alberta Sulphur Research Ltd., Albian Sands Energy Inc., Angstrom Power Inc., Aramco Services, Athabasca Oil Sands Corporation, Baker Hughes, Baker Petrolite Canada, Barrick Energy Inc., BP Americas, Brion, Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors, Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance, Cenovus Energy Inc., Champion Technologies Ltd., Chevron Canada Resources Ltd., CMG Reservoir Simulation Foundation, CNOOC Ltd., CNRL, ConocoPhillips Canada Resources Corporation, Devon Canada Corporation, Dow Chemical, Enbridge Pipelines Inc., Encana, Enerplus Corporation, Enmax Corporation, EPCOR Utilities, ExxonMobil Upstream Research Company, Husky Energy Inc., Husky Oil Operations Ltd., Imperial Oil, Intertek Commercial Microbiology, Japan Canada Oil Sands Ltd., Laricina Energy Ltd., MacKay Operating Corporation, Maersk Oil, Matrikon Inc., Nalco, Nalco Canada Company, Nexen Inc., Nova Chemicals, Oil Search Ltd., Pason Systems, PEMEX Exploración y Producción, Penn West Petroleum Ltd., Petrobank Energy and Resources Ltd., Petro-Canada, Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada, Schlumberger Canada Ltd., Shell Canada Ltd., Shell Global Solutions, Statoil Hydro Canada Ltd., Suncor Energy Inc., Syncrude Canada Ltd., Talisman Energy Inc., Teck Metals, Total E&P Canada Ltd., TransCanada Pipelines Ltd., WSP Canada Inc., Yara International ASA
West Fraser Mills Ltd., Weyerhaeuser Canada Ltd.
AECOM, Alberco Construction Ltd., Clark Builders, Colt Engineering Corporation, Construction Owners Association of Alberta, Falcon Fabricators and Modular Builders Ltd., Finning Canada Ltd., Flint Energy Services Ltd. Graham Industrial Services Ltd., InSituForm Technologies Ltd., JV Driver Projects Ltd., Kellogg Brown & Root, Landmark Master Builder, Ledcor Group of Companies, Ledcor Industrial Ltd., Licerbie & Hole Contracting Ltd., North American Construction Group Inc., PCL Constructors Inc., PME Inc., Standard General Construction, Waiward Steel Fabricators Ltd.
Apex Engineering, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., IOWC Technologies, Outotec Canada Ltd., QuestAir Technologies Inc., Sherritt International Corporation, Virtual Materials Group Inc.
Source: NSERC Awards Database, https://www.nserc-crsng.gc.ca/ase-oro/index_eng.asp.
The CAIP chairs. In 2011, the Alberta government launched a research chair program in support of four “strategic priority areas” for the province’s economy: energy and the environment, food and nutrition, neuroscience/prions, and water. The chairs were to be awarded to the four “comprehensive” post-secondary institutions—the Universities of Alberta, Calgary, and Lethbridge, and Athabasca University—and to be funded for seven years in the amount of $300,000 to $650,000 per year. As of May 2017, eighteen CAIP chairs had been appointed at the four universities. All appointments were made in the science and technology fields, with the exception of one award to the School of Business at UAlberta. Three of the four CAIP chairs appointed in the “energy and environment” category have applications for the oil industry. The designation of a “water” category may indicate a renewed governmental interest in water issues; of the eighteen chairs appointed between 2012 and 2015, nine were in this area.
Endowed research chairs. We identified sixteen chairs at UAlberta and UCalgary in energy or environment domains that were endowed during the period under study. The engineering schools have been the main beneficiaries of these endowments. In the UAlberta Faculty of Engineering alone, ten chairs or professorships have been endowed in the area of energy research, all of them related to fossil fuels extraction and processing. The corporations or industry associations that fund the energy chairs include Suncor, Encana, Petroleum Society, Husky Energy, ConocoPhillips, Dow Chemical, Nexen, Alberta Chamber of Resources, Xstrata Canada (now Glencore Canada), Teck, Cominco Ltd., Syncrude, Hatch, Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA), Cenovus Energy, and Enbridge. Government partners include Alberta Innovates and Natural Resources Canada. In the domain of environmental research, we identified five chairs at UAlberta; none were found at UCalgary.
Endowments for facilities, student programs, scholarships, and lecture series. In addition to funding chairs and professorships, corporations in the energy sector and closely allied firms in the construction, manufacturing, and petrochemicals sectors have made endowments to university faculties for buildings, lecture halls, laboratories, and scholarships. University faculties have internship programs with the companies, bring in company executives and scientists to give lectures, and host career fairs. ConocoPhillips, for example, finances geoscience field schools at UAlberta, as well as the Engineering Safety and Risk Management Program. In recognition of its ongoing support, the Faculty of Engineering has named a science laboratory, a conference room, and a lecture theatre after the company (Graham 2014).
In 2014, Shell Canada gave $600,000 in support of the Shell Enhanced Learning Fund at UAlberta, which enables students interested in sustainable energy and the environment to take field trips, attend conferences, and pursue special projects (Williamson 2016). Shell’s donation also supported the programs of WISEST (Women in Science, Engineering and Technology). Commenting on Shell’s relationship with the engineering school in 2016, the company’s university and college relations advisor noted that “the programs UAlberta offers have direct relevance to Shell Canada’s core business in Alberta’s oil sands” (Williamson 2016). Also in 2014, Enbridge was identified as the single largest employer of engineering co-op students, providing about a hundred four-month work terms per year as well as scholarships (Cairney 2014, 10). Other corporations, including Encana, Cenovus, and Syncrude, have provided funding for scholarships, while Syncrude is also a sponsor of the WISEST programs.17
In the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, lecture series have been sponsored by the Institute for Oil Sands Innovation, ICI Canada, and Schlumberger. Faculty of Engineering alumni often maintain connections with the school, giving lectures, taking up posts after retiring from their corporate jobs, or becoming benefactors. Energy corporation executives have received honorary doctorates from both universities and are often the bridges to corporate donations.18
Involvement of Fossil Capital in University Governance
Names on buildings are the most visible signs of industry influence within the universities. However, corporations exercise direct influence through representation on the management boards of centres and research consortia, and in these venues universities guard information carefully. In its 2013 report on collaborations between Canadian universities and corporations, the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) examined the constitution of four research collaborations at Alberta universities that have been co-funded by companies operating in the oil sands: the Alberta Ingenuity Centre for In Situ Energy, the Consortium for Heavy Oil Research by University Scientists (CHORUS), and the Enbridge Centre for Corporate Sustainability (now simply the Centre for Corporate Sustainability), all based at UCalgary, and the Centre (later Institute) for Oil Sands Innovation at UAlberta. CAUT identified a series of problems, including corporate dominance on management boards, the absence of provisions for the protection of academic freedom, the unavailability of information regarding funding arrangements and the selection criteria for projects, agreements that allowed corporate funders to withdraw support on short notice, and conflicts of interest on the part of university administrators (with regard to the Enbridge centre).19
More visible roles for the industry in university governance take the form of appointments of corporate executives to university boards of governors, senates, or chancellorships. At UAlberta, for example, appointees to the board of governors since 1996 have included Eric Newell, chair and CEO of Syncrude Canada from 1989 to 2003 and previously an executive with Imperial Oil and Esso Petroleum Canada; Gerard Protti, executive VP of corporate relations at Encana from 1995 to 2009, “executive advisor” to Cenovus Energy, and founding president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers; and Gordon Winkel, a vice-president at Syncrude who retired in 2010 to join the university’s Faculty of Engineering, where he became the chair of the Engineering Safety and Risk Management Program. Also on the list are Ken Chapman, formerly executive director of the Oil Sands Developers Group; David Ferro, who served as health and safety supervisor at Suncor from 2002 to 2004; and Martin Kennedy, director of public and government affairs at Epcor and the former vice president of external affairs at Capital Power Corporation.
At UCalgary, Bonnie DuPont—a vice-president at Enbridge until 2010—served on the board of governors from 2006 to 2016 and as its chair from 2012 to 2016. Enbridge’s CEO, Al Monaco, also served on the board, as well as on the Dean’s Advisory Board to the Faculty of Medicine. Other board members with employment connections to fossil fuel companies have been Rob Allen (Oil and Gas Canada), Kris Frederickson (Suncor; MEG Energy), Lawna Hurl (Chevron Canada), Alison Taylor Love (Enbridge), and Firoz Talakshi (Canadian Petroleum Tax Society).
Two former Syncrude executives have been credited with fusing the mission of the UAlberta Faculty of Engineering with the heroic project of developing the oil sands. One is Eric Newell, who not only served on the board of governors from 1996 to 2002 but was appointed university chancellor in 2004. According to an article in the university’s Folio newsletter, Newell recognized that developing the oil sands would require not only skilled trades workers but also a supply of engineers and scientists. Upon becoming CEO of Syncrude in 1989, Newell thus “embarked on a mission of education that would rock every post-secondary school in the province—none more so than the University of Alberta” (Brown 2014). The other is Jim Carter, Syncrude’s president from 1997 to 2007. Carter also served for twenty-five years at the Alberta Chamber of Resources, where, as chair of its mining industry advisory committee, he worked closely with UAlberta’s Faculty of Engineering to build both its enrolment and a global reputation. When Carter stepped down from that position in April 2016, he was praised by the organization’s executive director, Brad Anderson, for his determination to build “the best mining engineering department in the world right here” and by the dean of engineering at the time, Fraser Forbes, who commented, “He was instrumental in the rescue of our program in the early 1990s, when it was slated to be canceled. Jim brought the mining industry together to build a support community for our program, which has only strengthened over the last three decades” (both quoted in Lamphier 2016). According to the Canadian Petroleum Hall of Fame, during his time with the Alberta Chamber of Resources, Carter “created the Oil Sands Technology Roadmap, which envisions a third wave of oilsands development.”20
A View from the Inside
The findings reviewed above indicate the enormous influence of fossil fuel industry interests in shaping the priorities of government research funding (and hence the nature of the knowledge and technologies produced) and in blurring the lines between the public/academic and private/corporate spheres regarding the goals of knowledge production. There is, however, an additional consequence for the university as an institution with a leading role to play in advancing sustainable development. The flow of external resources to the sectors of the university that carry out FFR R&D and “employee training” fuels their growth—in faculty numbers, research chairs, student enrolments, new buildings, and new research facilities. At the same time, the sectors that are home to critics of fossil capitalism, advocates of post-carbon transition, or simply defenders of the value of liberal arts education are constrained by limited access to external funding and reliance upon provincial government grants and student tuition for their revenue. With a Progressive Conservative provincial government in power for the entire period of our study and a federal Conservative government in office from 2006 to 2015—both committed to expansion of bitumen exports—one announcement of new funding for FFR R&D followed another. And with each new centre, consortium, research chair, or capital endowment, the faculties of engineering, in particular, expanded in size and influence.
On his LinkedIn page, David Lynch claims that during his tenure from 1994 to 2015 as dean of engineering at UAlberta,
the total engineering undergraduate and graduate student enrolments doubled and quadrupled, respectively, to a total of over 6,000 students with over 18,000 engineering graduates, over 270 new engineering professors were hired, over 50 Chair positions (endowed, industrial and government funded) were established, and five new buildings were constructed containing over 130,000 sq.m. of space for engineering education and research along with the major renewal of an existing building. I was directly involved in securing over $900 million through donations and grants to support these developments and a further $700 million in incremental research funding was obtained as a result of these expansions of faculty, graduate students and facilities.21
According to its website, the Faculty of Engineering is presently home to roughly two hundred professors and fifteen hundred graduate students and attracts more than $65 million in external research funding annually, with $1.5 million in scholarships available to students.22 The expansion of corporate investment in the oil sands over the same period accounts for a substantial portion of the growth in the number of professors and students in the Faculty of Engineering. In May 2016, the faculty’s website reported that more than eighty faculty members and some eight hundred graduate students and other researchers were employed in R&D related to the oil sands. The Faculty’s international profile was linked to its specialization in heavy oil extraction and processing, with the website highlighting its top ranking in the world in oil sands research publications.23 Meanwhile, other faculties (the Faculty of Arts, in particular) have undergone repeated rounds of funding cuts, despite their large and increasing undergraduate enrolments.
In the sustainable development discourse of government ministers, corporate CEOs, and university administrators (see, for example, Cannon 2015), the university is among the titans whose technological knowledge will make never-ending extraction and consumption of fossil fuels possible in a carbon-constrained world. In this story, those with the requisite knowledge are the engineers, with other sectors of the university trailing along in descending order, sometimes offered bit parts—such as the 6 percent of UAlberta’s Future Energy Systems research initiative’s $75 million budget that was to be set aside for social sciences and humanities research on energy futures.24 A broad interdisciplinary approach to the complexities of planning and building an ecologically sustainable society in Alberta has never been on the table.
What has this shift of power to the Prometheans meant for the university’s sustainable development roles? I can offer some observations from “the inside” of the University of Alberta, where I have been employed since 1991. During this time, efforts to secure university support for the now-defunct Environmental Studies and Research Centre, a leading role for the university in interdisciplinary water research, a CAIP Chair in Food Security, and a Signature Area in ecological and social sustainability have all failed. An interdisciplinary Bachelor of Arts degree in environmental studies was implemented in 2011, but has never secured funding to hire teaching faculty; its future is in question due to a lack of support among senior administrators and a new budget model that intensifies competition for students among faculties. UAlberta has never been home to a major initiative or institute with a mandate to advance post-carbon transition in Alberta and Canada. Indeed, the existence of such a centre or area of “global excellence” at the university would be antithetical to its commitment to perpetuating fossil fuels extraction.
Events at UAlberta in the spring of 2018 reveal the institutional schisms that reflect the larger conflicts in which the province’s universities are embedded. A decision to offer an honorary doctorate of science to David Suzuki, world-renowned ecologist and proponent of phasing out oil sands production, was met by Dean Forbes, of the Faculty of Engineering, with a vocal public protest. He described the honour as an “alarming threat” to and “betrayal” of his faculty—an action that called into question the “fundamental values” of the “engineering community.” Forbes further expressed his solidarity with “aggrieved Albertans,” stating that the university had become “disconnected from the people that we are meant to serve.” He demanded that the offer of the honorary doctorate be rescinded and that, in the future, “the Engineering voice, the voice of Alberta’s industrial sectors, including energy and natural resources” be “given a place at the table of the key decision-making bodies of our university.” He also called upon his colleagues to “intensify our advocacy for Alberta’s industrial sectors” and to ensure that “everyone, our youth in particular, understand the crucial role that our energy and resource industries play in powering our life, protecting our environment, and building fair and equitable societies.”25
In light of the evidence that engineering has been one of the faculties most privileged by the governmental innovation agenda that has predominated in Alberta and Canada for decades, that fossil fuels–related R&D has received the lion’s share of energy research investment, and that UAlberta’s national and international profile has been built upon its energy research, the dean’s representation of his faculty (and of “industrial sectors”) as having no voice in university decision making may seem incomprehensible. This paradox is better grasped when we consider that Forbes’s reaction occurred in the context of a much larger campaign, led by Rebel Media, Postmedia Corporation, CAPP and its astroturf social media groups, and the United Conservative Party to discredit not merely Suzuki but climate science and the Indigenous-led climate justice movement. One element of this campaign consisted of public statements from businessmen associated with the oil and gas industry that they were cancelling planned donations to the university. Another element painted the university as having been taken over by the “left-wing thinking” associated in particular with the humanities and social sciences—a claim offered by way of explaining why the university would do something as “tone-deaf” and as allegedly unrepresentative of “the political views of the general population” as to award Suzuki an honorary degree (Staples 2018).26
Dean Forbes was joined the following day by Dean Joseph Doucet, of the School of Business. Doucet is an energy economist and former director of the Centre for Applied Business Research in Energy and the Environment, whose corporate sponsors include Cenovus, AltaLink, Enbridge, Encana, Suncor, and Capital Power. The School of Business is also one of the partners in the Network for Business Sustainability—co-funded by SSHRC (to the tune of $2.5 million)—that includes CNRL, Suncor, and Cenovus, along with Alberta Innovates and Natural Resources Canada (JWN Staff 2017). Doucet apologized to “friends of the Alberta School of Business” for the “distress and anger” that the Suzuki doctorate had caused “many Albertans.”27
UAlberta president David Turpin, a former biology professor, issued a statement that the university would stand by its decision to offer the degree to Suzuki because “our reputation as a university—an institution founded on the principles of freedom of inquiry, academic integrity, and independence—depends on it.” The role of the university, he said, was to be the “champion” of “controversy.”28 More than one hundred other UAlberta academics, mostly based in the Faculty of Arts, signed a letter published in the Edmonton Journal denouncing what they called a campaign by the oil and gas industry to “bend a public institution to the will of a private interest” and arguing that the industry’s financial clout “does not entitle it to threaten and bully the universities or Albertans” (Adkin et al. 2018).29
The Suzuki episode illustrates how the strong alliances between fossil capital (and their business clients) and certain faculties within the university have deepened internal divisions. University resources have been devoted to securing multimillion-dollar government grants, corporate sponsorships, and collaboration agreements with other institutions in the areas of R&D related to fossil fuels. The deans of the professional schools that benefit most from external sources of funding often have, or expect to have, a bigger say in university strategic directions than those in the traditional core faculties. Senior administrators are expected to promote partnerships with the private sector, court wealthy donors, and “work with” the priorities set out in provincial innovation policy. These priorities do not include the production of knowledge and technology aimed at phasing out the use of fossil fuels.
Yet corporate power and the institutional incentive structures created by captured governments (often with the active collaboration of university administrators) do meet resistance. Universities also have traditions rooted in democratic and humanist values. Some sectors of the university continue to strongly defend the ideals of university autonomy, of a community of scholars who grow in knowledge when their knowledge is shared, and of the production of knowledge for the public good. As we also see in the case of the Suzuki honorary doctorate, actors can—and do—push back against the external pressures exerted by the political economy of fossil capitalism on programs of research, teaching curricula, institutional citizenship, and academic freedom. There is room to manoeuvre in setting research priorities, but it requires vocal, principled leadership on the part of academics and administrators. University leaders can choose to “follow the money,” trying to position their institutions to profit from the latest shift in government funding. Alternatively, they can try to mobilize public and political support for an independent vision, generated from the bottom up, through consultation with academics, students, and our surrounding communities about how the university can best serve the public interest.
The author would like to acknowledge the contributions of four research assistants to the project of which this chapter presents one part. Eric Abrahams, Lauren Muusse, and Elinor Bajraktari worked with me over successive summers, thanks to funding support from the Department of Political Science and a University of Alberta VP Research Small Operating Grant (2014). Funding provided by the SSHRC-funded grant Mapping the Power of the Carbon-Extractive Corporate Resource Sector and by the Confederation of Alberta Faculty Associations (2016) permitted me to hire the indispensable Laura Cabral in 2017–18.
- 1. For a full review of the project’s findings see Adkin 2020. See Adkin 2019 for research into the CCEMC’s disbursements.
- 2. These numbers do not total 210 because some researchers worked in more than one area of energy research and so were counted in more than one sub-category.
- 3. We recorded all projects that were not clearly situated in the fields of medicine, information and communication technologies, or nanotechnology, and that were connected to energy, environmental, agricultural, forestry, or sustainability areas of research. Included in this group was one project conducted by a social scientist at the University of Alberta. We coded the ASRIP projects by broad area of research (5 areas) and then by sub-categories of energy, environmental, and sustainability research.
- 4. This one project, “Core Facility for Spatial Applications of Social Ecology,” was based in the Department of Resource Economics and Rural Sociology at the University of Alberta and was funded in 2001–2.
- 5. The figures in this paragraph are based on information provided by the FOIP officer for Alberta Innovates, 17 July 2017.
- 6. In a 2009 blog, Taylor referred to a $15 million “public/private partnership” between the AWRI and GE Water & Process Technologies to improve the treatment of water used in oil sands operations, and to a AWRI-funded project involving researchers at the University of Alberta that was studying the potential of micro-organisms to break down chemical compounds in the tailings ponds and convert them to methane gas. Lorne Taylor, “Water Challenges in Oil Sands Country: Alberta’s Water for Life Strategy,” The Bog: Alberta WaterPortal Blog, Alberta WaterPortal Society, Guest Blog on the Alberta Water Government Portal, September 12, 2009, https://albertawater.com/alberta-water-blog/12-guest-columnist-lorne-taylor.
- 7. Annual reports going back to 2003 can be found on ABMI’s website, https://www.abmi.ca/home/publications/551-600/562.
- 8. We found only six centres with some connection to environmental studies for the period 1990–2015 at the University of Alberta, four of which were still operating in 2017. The Alberta Centre for Sustainable Rural Communities receives operating support from Augustana Campus and the Faculty of Agriculture, Life and Environmental Sciences. At the University of Calgary, we found only two centres conducting environmental research: the Arctic Institute of North America and the Canadian Institute of Resources Law. A Centre for Environmental Engineering Research and Fabrication is located in the engineering school. Since 2016, the UCCities—Global Urban Research Group has been supported by the VP Research. See “UCCities—Global Urban Research Group at UCalgary: About,” University of Calgary, 2020, https://arts.ucalgary.ca/labs/global-urban-research/about.
- 9. This list does not include the Edmonton-based Advanced Energy Research Facility, which is dedicated to research into biofuels and is supported by the City of Edmonton, Alberta Innovates, and Enerkem.
- 10. See “Global Research Initiative in Sustainable Low Carbon Unconventional Resources,” University of Calgary, 2020, https://research.ucalgary.ca/energy/energy-research/global-research-initiative, and “Global Impact,” University of Calgary, 2020, https://research.ucalgary.ca/energy/energy-research/global-research-initiative/global-impact.
- 11. Larry Kostiuk, the FESRI director at the time, said that the portion allocated to the social sciences and humanities would be six percent. Actual expenditures or awards for FESRI-funded projects have not been published. Author’s notes from an information meeting about the initiative, November 7, 2016, University of Alberta.
- 12. See “Energy Systems: A University of Alberta Signature Area,” accessed January 11, 2020 https://www.ualberta.ca/energy-systems/index.html.
- 13. For a breakdown of projects see “Future Energy Systems,” https://www.futureenergysystems.ca/. Since there are no public annual reports, we do not know how the budget has been allocated among areas of energy research.
- 14. The author was co-author of two of these proposals and sole author of a third. All of the proposals drew on extensive data-gathering about faculty areas of teaching and research across the campus as well as existing degree programs, research clusters, or centres related to ecological and social sustainability.
- 15. “Chairs and Faculty Support Overview,” Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, last modified April 24, 2019, https://www.nserc-crsng.gc.ca/Professors-Professeurs/CFS-PCP/index_eng.asp.
- 16. A former CEO of Syncrude and President of the Alberta Chamber of Resources, Jim Carter, is credited with securing several IRCs for the energy sector in Alberta. See “James Edward Clarke Carter,” Canadian Petroleum Hall of Fame, n.d., accessed September 30, 2019, http://www.canadianpetroleumhalloffame.ca/james-carter.html.
- 17. University of Alberta, “Women in Scholarship, Engineering, Science, and Technology: Donors,” https://www.ualberta.ca/services/wisest/donors.html.
- 18. Lander (2013, 35) notes that the practice of bestowing honorary degrees upon corporate patrons from fossil fuel corporations is common in the United Kingdom as well. He counted twenty such awards between 2003 and 2013 for senior executives from BP and Shell alone.
- 19. On the controversy surrounding UCalgary’s relationship with Enbridge, see Bakx and Haavardsrud (2015). The Enbridge Centre for Corporate Sustainability (now the Centre for Corporate Sustainability) at the university’s Haskayne School of Business was founded in 2012 with an initial pledge of $2.25 million from Enbridge. Notably, Elizabeth Cannon, UCalgary president from 2010 to 2018, became an “independent director” of Enbridge Income Fund Holdings late in 2010, a position for which she was receiving $130,500 in compensation in 2014. Bonnie DuPont, former vice president at Enbridge, sat on the board of the Enbridge centre at the university.
- 20. “James Edward Clarke Carter,” Canadian Petroleum Hall of Fame, n.d., accessed September 30, 2019, http://www.canadianpetroleumhalloffame.ca/james-carter.html.
- 21. “David Thomas Lynch,” LinkedIn, n.d., accessed September 30, 2019, https://www.linkedin.com/in/david-thomas-lynch-79b09022/.
- 22. “About Us,” Faculty of Engineering, University of Alberta, 2020, https://www.ualberta.ca/engineering/about-us. For staff numbers, see under “Faculty and Staff Information.”
- 23. These figures were published on the UAlberta Faculty of Engineering website in May 2016, however the url is no longer active: http://research.engineering.ualberta.ca/research-specializations/research-leaders/WorldsTopOilSandsResearch.aspx (accessed May 9, 2016).
- 24. Author’s notes from an information meeting about the initiative, November 7, 2016, University of Alberta. See also the Future Energy Systems website, https://futureenergysystems.ca/, especially the “About” page.
- 25. “Message from Fraser Forbes,” University of Alberta, Faculty of Engineering, April 23, 2018, https://www.ualberta.ca/engineering/news/2018/april/message-from-fraser-forbes.
- 26. David Staples (2018) quotes NDP premier Rachel Notley, who described the university’s decision as “a bit tone-deaf.”
- 27. “Message from Dean Doucet Regarding UAlberta Honorary Degrees,” University of Alberta, Alberta School of Business, April 24, 2018, https://www.ualberta.ca/business/about/news/articles-and-press-releases/2018/april/message-from-dean-doucet-regarding-ualberta-honorary-degrees.
- 28. David Turpin, “Why Should the University Stand Up for an Unpopular Honorary Degree?” University of Alberta, April 24, 2018, https://www.ualberta.ca/news-and-events/mediarelations/media-statements-2017-current/2018/april/why-should-the-university-stand-up-for-an-unpopular-honorary-degree.
- 29. The letter had a total of 109 signatories, including four from universities other than UAlberta. Although most taught in the humanities and social sciences, some were from the Faculties of Education, Nursing, Medicine and Dentistry, and Science.
- Adkin, Laurie E. with Laura Cabral. 2020. Knowledge for an Ecologically Sustainable Future? Innovation Policy and Alberta Universities. Edmonton, AB: Parkland Institute and the Corporate Mapping Project.
- Adkin, Laurie E. 2019. “Technology Innovation as a Response to Climate Change: The Case of the Climate Change Emissions Management Corporation of Alberta.” Review of Policy Research vol. 36, no. 5 [10.1111/ropr.12357].
- Adkin, Laurie E., and Brittany J. Stares. 2016. “Turning up the Heat: Hegemonic Politics in a First World Petro-State.” In First World Petro-Politics: The Political Ecology and Governance of Alberta, edited by Laurie E. Adkin, 190–240. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
- Adkin, Laurie E., et al. 2018. “Energy Industry Must Not Be Allowed to Bully Universities.” Edmonton Journal, May 3, 2018. http://edmontonjournal.com/opinion/columnists/opinion-energy-industry-must-not-be-allowed-to-bully-universities.
- Alberta Ingenuity. c2006. Alberta Ingenuity Centres Program Highlights 2002–2006. Government of Alberta, n.d.
- Bakx, Kyle, and Paul Haavardsrud. 2015. “How the University of Calgary’s Enbridge Relationship Became Controversial.” CBC News, November 2, 2015. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/university-calgary-enbridge-sponsorship-1.3286369.
- Brown, Michael. 2014. “Eric Newell Receives Double Honours for Advancing Education.” Folio (newsletter). University of Alberta. May 21, 2014. https://www.folio.ca/eric-newell-receives-double-honours-for-advancing-education/.
- Cairney, Richard. 2014. “Stepping Up to the Plate.” U of A Engineer, Spring 2014, 8–10.
- Cannon, Elizabeth. 2015. “University Research Funding Key to Cutting Canada’s Carbon Footprint.” Globe and Mail, July 7, 2015. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/rob-commentary/university-research-funding-key-to-cutting-canadas-carbon-footprint/article25325058/.
- CAUT (Canadian Association of University Teachers). 2013. Open for Business on What Terms? Ottawa: Canadian Association of University Teachers. http://www.caut.ca/docs/default-source/academic-freedom/open-for-business-%28nov-2013%29.pdf?sfvrsn=4.
- CFI (Canada Foundation for Innovation). 2012. CFI Strategic Roadmap 2012–17. April 2012. https://www.innovation.ca/sites/default/files/pdf/2011%20CFI%20Strategic%20Roadmap%20final%20English%202012-04-04.pdf.
- ———. 2017. Research Builds Our Communities: Annual Report, 2016–17. Ottawa: Canada Foundation for Innovation. https://www.innovation.ca/sites/default/files/pdf/annual-report/cfi-annual-working-eng-web.pdf.
- Folio. 2016. “UAlberta awarded $75 million for energy research.” University of Alberta. September 6, 2016. https://www.folio.ca/ualberta-awarded-75-million-for-energy-research/.
- Graham, Sheila. 2014. “ConocoPhillips Rocks UAlberta Science and Engineering Students.” Folio (newsletter). University of Alberta. November 21, 2014. https://www.folio.ca/conocophillips-canada-rocks-ualberta-science-and-engineering-students/.
- Gustafson, Bret. 2012. “Fossil Knowledge Networks: Industry Strategy, Public Culture and the Challenge for Critical Research.” In Flammable Societies: Studies on the Socio-economics of Oil and Gas, edited by John-Andrew McNeish and Owen Logan, 311–34. London: Pluto Press.
- JWN Staff. 2017. “COSIA Joins with Government, Universities to Accelerate Sustainability-Focused Oilsands Innovation.” JWN.com, September 19, 2017. http://www.jwnenergy.com/article/2017/9/cosia-just-joined-ottawa-and-quebec-alberta-universities-accelerate-sustainability-focused-innovation/.
- Lamphier, Gary. 2016. “Former Syncrude Boss Bids Farewell to U of A Mining School.” Edmonton Journal, April 21, 2016. http://edmontonjournal.com/business/local-business/former-syncrude-boss-bids-farewell-to-u-of-a-mining-school.
- Lander, Ric. 2013. Knowledge and Power: Fossil Fuel Universities. London: Platform, People & Planet, and 350.org. October. www.platformlondon.org/p-publications/unis.
- Lockwood, Jeffrey A. 2015. Behind the Carbon Curtain: The Energy Industry, Political Censorship, and Free Speech. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.
- Muttitt, Greg. 2003. Degrees of Capture: Universities, the Oil Industry, and Climate Change. London: New Economics Foundation, Corporate Watch, and Platform. February 18. http://neweconomics.org/2003/02/degrees-of-capture/.
- Staples, David. 2018. “University of Alberta Reveals Blind Spot in Deciding to Honour David Suzuki.” Edmonton Journal, April 26, 2018. http://edmontonjournal.com/opinion/columnists/david-staples-8.
- Washburn, Jennifer. 2010. Big Oil Goes to College: An Analysis of 10 Research Collaboration Contracts Between Leading Companies and Major U.S. Universities. Washington, DC: Center for American Progress. October 14. https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/green/reports/2010/10/14/8484/big-oil-goes-to-college/.
- Williamson, Shelley. 2016. “Shell Canada Supports UAlberta Efforts to Attract a Variety of Qualified Engineers to the Field.” University of Alberta (website). October 6, 2016. https://www.ualberta.ca/giving/giving-news/2016/october/women-in-engineering.html.