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The Havard Crimson: Shell Gives $3.75M For Energy Studies

Published On Wednesday, October 31, 2007  3:34 AM
Crimson Staff Writer

A major oil company is shelling out money for programs at the Kennedy School of Government.

A division of Royal Dutch Shell, the world’s second-largest publicly traded oil company, will donate $3.75 million over the next five years to fund energy policy research across the University, the school announced this week.

William W. Hogan, the research director of the Harvard Electric Policy Group and an architect of the agreement, said the school has yet to decide precisely how the money will be allocated.

“We’re in the process of forming a faculty steering committee to advise and make decisions on it,” Hogan said. “The gift they’ve given us is over a period of five years, so we’re trying to gear up now.”

The donation reflects a deepening focus on energy policy research at the University, according to Kelly Sims Gallagher, the director of the Energy Technology Innovation Policy research group at the Kennedy School.

“The Shell gift is just the first. It’s intended to be a broader initiative,” Gallagher said.

The Shell announcement also coincides with a University effort to expand cross-school programs in the social sciences.

Sponsorship by oil companies has aroused controversy at schools such as the University of California, Berkeley over whether the gifts might bias research.

Hogan said the Shell gift would avoid that issue because much of Harvard’s funding in this area comes from other sources, such as Repsol YPF and the Apache Corporation, oil and gas companies with “a very different set of immediate interests.”

“If you had all of the funding coming from a single source, that would be,” he paused, “interesting.”

“But each one of these things is a fraction of the total,” he said.

Hogan estimated the gift would amount to about 10 percent of the current funding for Harvard’s research in energy policy, and he said Shell would not direct how the money would be spent.

Shell’s press office did not return requests for comment.

Hogan said he was trying to amass more financial support to expand programs in energy policy, but would not speculate about future gifts.

“There are no promising leads until the check is deposited in the bank,” he said.

On the same day that the Kennedy School announced the Shell donation, it called attention to the first of a series of community forums intended to train New Orleans neighborhood leaders in survey methods, a project that also receives funding from Shell.

The Kennedy School’s Broadmoor Project emphasizes data collection in the effort to rebuild one of New Orleans’ 49 neighborhoods.

According to Carolyn E. Wood, an assistant academic dean at the Kennedy School who works on the Broadmoor Project, many New Orleans neighborhoods become eligible for certain types of funding only when they can prove that more than 50 percent of their residents have returned since Hurricane Katrina hit in August 2005.

“Most neighborhoods were not able to conduct these surveys and prove empirically that their residents were coming back,” Wood said.

Henry Lee, who directs the Kennedy School’s Environmental and Natural Resource Program, said Shell had already given $700,000 to the Broadmoor Project, with no strings attached.

­—Staff writer Clifford M. Marks can be reached at [email protected]. —Staff writer David K. Hausman can be reached at [email protected].

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