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University of Calgary Prostitutes Itself To Big Oil & Gas


Canadian journalist Mike DeSousa first wrote three years ago about the anti-science group with the Orwellian name “Friends of Science” funding a PR blitz meant to cast doubt on the science of climate change. Friends of Science paid for their ad campaign out of a University of Calgary research account controlled by Professor Barry Cooper, but the university and the Calgary Foundation (who also received donations and transferred them to the research account) refused to release details at the time that DeSousa broke the original story. DeSousa appealed that censorship, and won.

DeSousa wrote last week in the Ottawa Citizen:

A pair of “research” accounts at the University of Calgary, funded mainly by the oil and gas industry, were used for a sophisticated international political campaign that involved high-priced consultants, lobbying, wining, dining, and travel with the goal of casting doubt on climate change science, newly-released records have revealed.

The records showed that the strategy was crafted by professional firms, in collaboration with well-known climate change skeptics in Canada and abroad, allowing donors to earn tax receipts by channelling their money through the university.

All of the activities and $507,975 in spending were organized by the Friends of Science, an anti-Kyoto Protocol group founded by retired oil industry workers and academics who are skeptical about peer-reviewed research linking human activity to global warming observed in recent decades.

DeSousa has also revealed that an Alberta-based oil and gas company, Talisman Energy, helped to kick-start the elaborate public relations campaign with a donation of nearly $200,000.

The donation from Talisman Energy was the largest single contribution to a pair of trust accounts at the university that received $507,975 in donations to produce a video and engage in public relations, advertising and lobbying activities against the Kyoto Protocol and government measures to restrict fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

Talisman is pleased to be a part of this exciting project and wish you success in the production of the video,” said the letter, dated Nov. 4, 2004, to university account administrator Chantal-Lee Watt, that accompanied a $175,000 cheque.

Something smells fishy around here, and it’s not just the leftover pickerel chowder in my fridge. Aren’t universities supposed to be bastions of learning and scientific inquiry? When did it become okay for a public university to accept private corporate funds to spread misinformation and lies? And then try to suppress the truth, only revealing it when forced to by access to information laws?

If you, like me, think something stinks about this, contact University of Calgary President Elizabeth Cannon by email at:

In the meantime, Friends of Science is at it again, bringing in journalist (and now climate expert??) Rex Murphy to the University of Calgary on September 29th. Murphy has been spouting his uninformed  views on climate change for a while now, and I’m sure the FoS is happy to have him spread more doubt on the science. Like the tobacco lobby, who for years delayed action on tobacco regulation by confusing the general public about the science linking tobacco and health effects, the Petroleum Lobby is busily repositioning global warming as theory rather than fact. Want to learn more? Head over to – they do a great job of separating climate fact from climate fiction.

More links:

University Funds Used in PR War, Files Show

Oil Money Funnelled To Climate Denier Group

Talisman Energy Kick-Started U of C Climate Skeptic Fund

8 Comments leave one →
  1. 2011/09/19 10:00 pm

    This is so disheartening. It is one thing to think that this kind of thing goes on, it is another to see names and dollar amounts and the actual people involved. It makes me sick. Literally sick. I am going to email the U of C, right NOW. Shame on them. Shame, shame, shame.

  2. Christine permalink*
    2011/09/20 9:32 am

    Yes, Sherry, I was feeling pretty sick myself after hearing this. Thanks for letting them know!

  3. Obscurity permalink
    2011/09/26 2:17 pm

    Please spread the word on this far and wide, but also please encourage people to be polite and to the point if they decide to send a letter/email.

    I’m a scientist and I am disheartened that a university is allowing its students to be exposed to propaganda from anti-science groups and worse yet associated itself with said groups.

    This events should be a black eye for the UofC, they need to decide whose side they are on the side of science and truth, or the side of the misinformers and ideologues? The answer to that should be a no brainer for an academic institution.

    • Christine permalink*
      2011/09/26 3:05 pm

      Thanks for lending your voice, and your advice.

  4. Obscurity permalink
    2011/09/26 4:04 pm

    You are welcome Christine. Please try and encourage as many people as possible (use FB and twitter) to write polite letters and to spread the word. My letter will be going very soon.

  5. Michel permalink
    2012/11/10 1:21 pm

    Hello. We’re one year later now, and the two papers from Ottawa Citizen and Calgary Herald have been removed. Thanks to the Internets, some folks saved them…

    University Funds used in PR war, files show

    Talisman Energy kick-started U of C climate skeptic fund (in the Vancouver Sun)


  1. Gaz de schiste – 10 novembre 2012 « Comité de Citoyens Vigilants de Bécancour

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