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Did Royal Dutch Shell Try To Manipulate Science Museum Climate Program?

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By: MICHEAL KAUFMANPublished: Jun 1, 2015

According to internal documents seen by The Guardian, questions are raised over whether Royal Dutch Shell plc (ADR) (NYSE:RDS.A) attempted to steer the course of the presentation of a climate change program that the oil giant was sponsoring at the Science Museum in London. The company questioned the museum over a section of the project that provides non-governmental organizations (NGOs) a chance to highlight issues that are of concern to them pertaining to Shell’s operations.

The internal documents also reveal that the Anglo-Dutch company had concerns over whether a certain symposium being held at the museum, was by invitation only or not, as an invitation only symposium would help in avoiding a start of a proactive debate on Shell’s operations. All of the company’s concerns are expressed in a sequence of emails. They were gotten hold of under the Freedom of Information Act. However, the emails again bring up uncomfortable questions regarding the power that oil companies exert over Britain’s cultural institutions.

Chris Garrard of the anti-oil sponsorship campaign group, BP or not BP?, was of the view that the emails show the Science Museum is a vital part of the oil company’s propaganda machine, The Guardian has reported. The emails come after Shell took the step to become the principal sponsor of the Atmosphere, Exploring Climate Science gallery as well as the extended Climate Changing program at the Science Museum. Mr. Garrard was afraid that the relationship between large oil companies and the Science Museum looked set to continue with oil powerhouse BP sponsoring an upcoming exhibition by the name of Cosmonauts: Birth of the space age.

Shell wants to portray itself as a company that is serious about addressing the issue of climate change. However, the company’s detractors say that at the same time it wants to drill for oil in the Arctic, bore deep water wells and tar sands, which contradict its stance on climate change. Although the Atmosphere gallery was created to highlight the issue of global warming, yet Shell’s climate change adviser, David Hone had a say in its agenda, The Guardian reports.

The emails also reveal that there existed a close liaison between Shell and the Science Museum. Both talk about how they should respond to a possible censure from Greenpeace after a story in The Guardian last year that carried the Science Museum’s former director, Chris Rapley’s criticism of Greenpeace’s successful attempt to make Lego end its partnership with the oil company.

In a communication between a Shell staff member and the Science Museum on 9 December 2014, the former gives the Science Museum what they describe it as a “Heads up” on a story by Reuters in which it is reported that the oil giant’s Arctic drilling contractor, Noble has admitted to eight charges of poor record keeping and pollution, according to The Guardian.

The director of the Science Museum, Ian Blatchford, made clear that the final editorial controls were in their hands and the judgment call was also made by the curator. He did say that the museum had an established relationship with Shell, but made clear that no change was made to the exhibition because of the email communications that took place. A spokesperson from Shell said that the company had an enduring relationship with the Science Museum, which was based on mutual interests like stimulating the young generation’s interest in science, The Guardian reports.

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