Center for Global Energy Policy

Founded in 2013, Columbia’s Center for Global Energy Policy stated mission is “to be a global leader in advancing evidence-based and actionable energy and climate solutions through research, dialogue, and education.” While CGEP’s website emphasizes its production of “trusted, unbiased knowledge,” CGEP is funded by millions of dollars of fossil fuel money.

CGEP’s corporate partners include an impressively comprehensive list of major oil and gas companies. Both Occidental Petroleum Corporation and Tellurian Inc. have donated excess of $1,000,000. Other major funders include Aramco Services Company (the American subsidiary of Saudi Aramco), BP, Cheniere Energy, ConocoPhillips, Devon Energy, Equinor, ExxonMobil, and Royal Dutch Shell. These corporations are invested in the world’s continued reliance on fossil fuels.

 The Center on Global Energy Policy was classified as a “fossil-funded academic centre” by a 2022 peer-reviewed study that analyzed the influence of fossil fuel funding on research reports. 

The same study, conducted by Columbia researchers, found that CGEP is “more positive towards natural gas than renewable energy sources, including solar and hydro power,” while non-fossil-funded research centers do not exhibit this bias.

“Eight [CGEP] reports were written by authors who were concurrently working for natural gas-using/promoting companies, according to the Orbis global database”

Almond, D., Du, X. & Papp, A. Favourability towards natural gas relates to funding source of university energy centres. Nat. Clim. Chang. 12, 1122–1128 (2022).

CGEP’s Influence

A September 2014 CGEP report titled “American Gas to the Rescue? The Impact of US LNG Exports on European Security and Russian Foreign Policy” found that U.S. exports would create a more liquid global gas market, increasing supply options for gas consumers abroad. Like most reports, the funders were not disclosed.

This report received significant press attention and was at times referred to as “the Columbia University report” without mention of funding. 

Richard Shelby, a U.S. senator for Alabama, cited the study in his opening remarks during a full committee hearing on “Lifting the Crude Oil Export Ban” in July 2015.

“Studies from Columbia University, the Brookings Institution, and the Government Accountability Office, among others cite that lifting the ban is likely to reduce the price of gasoline for American consumers by increasing the supply of crude oil available to the world market”

Richard Shelby, former Alabama Senator

Congress lifted the 40-year oil export ban in December 2015, allowing the free export of U.S. crude oil worldwide. The U.S. exported fewer than half a million barrels per day in 2015, according to a study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. By 2019, that number had grown to almost 3 million barrels per day.

CGEP’s Advisory Board

CGEP’s advisory board includes members with direct ties to the fossil fuel industry.

  • Charif Souki is the executive chairman and co-founder of Tellurian Inc., a natural gas company responsible for producing roughly 79% of U.S. liquified natural gas.
  • Cynthia Warner is a board member at Chevron and a lead independent director for Sempra Energy.

CGEP’s apparent industry ties have drawn criticism from organizations such as Public Citizen and Environmental Working Group, which sent a letter to former President Lee Bollinger in 2015 urging CGEP to be more transparent.

Clear Conflicts of Interest

Columbia’s Conflict of Interest (COI) policy requires “disclosure of any relevant financial interests to peers and to the public in any publications, reports, presentations.” However, it’s clear that this is not happening.

Paul Dabbar

Currently a senior researcher at CGEP, Dabbar is a former member of Trump’s Department of Energy and former managing director at JP Morgan.

Dabbar holds investments in Conoco and Chevron and has received financial compensation from fossil fuel companies, including Sempra Energy and TC Energy. On November 1st, 2023, Dabbar testified to Congress (under the Columbia name) about the nexus between climate change and the intensification of extreme weather events. Despite Columbia’s COI policy, Dabbar did not disclose any financial interests when testifying.

Read our letter to Columbia’s Financial Conflict of Interest Committee here.

Jason Bordoff

Jason Bordoff is the founding director of CGEP. Despite Bordoff’s apparent criticism of fossil fuel companies, his actions reveal potential conflicts of interest.

A document provided to the House Oversight Committee shows that Bordoff briefed Chevron board members and executives on “his perspective on energy transition and its implications for Chevron” at a July 2021 convening of the board held at a Napa Valley resort. 

Additionally, Bordoff has argued that crude oil and LNG exports are needed to spur job growth and keep America competitive. Gas exports have been shown to lead fossil fuel companies to build out oil and gas infrastructure, threatening to lock global supply chains into decades more of polluting fossil fuel use.

Luisa Palacios

It seems that there’s a revolving door between industry professionals and CGEP researchers, calling into question the independence and integrity of research. One example is Luisa Palacios, who previously served as the chairwoman of Houston-based Citgo Petroleum Corporation, the 5th-largest independent U.S. refiner.

David Banks

David Banks was hired by CGEP as an international climate policy expert in 2018. Banks is a former Trump administration energy advisor who supports the fossil fuel industry and defended former President Trump’s “climate change is a Chinese hoax” tweet at a United Nations panel promoting coal, natural gas, and nuclear energy. Banks was also the executive vice president of the American Council for Capital Formation, which is funded by ExxonMobil, the Koch family foundations, and the American Petroleum Institute.

CEMTPP: CGEP’s predecessor?

From 2000 to 2014, Columbia’s Center for Energy, Marine Transportation and Public Policy (CEMTPP) served as “a focal point for the study of economic, environmental, political, technological and other factors that affect the global production, transportation and consumption of energy.”

The cost of establishing the center was covered by a $3 million grant from ExxonMobil and a donation from the foundation created by shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. Tax records show that CEMTPP was dissolved sometime in 2014 (CGEP was founded in 2013).

Blatant industry ties

It appears that CEMTPP didn’t even try to obfuscate the fact that their research was funded and directed by fossil fuel executives. CEMTPP’s first director was Hurst Groves, who had previously worked as managing counsel of Mobil Corporation, where he managed legal support for Exxon’s oil and gas projects around the world.

CEMTPP’s second director, Albert Bressand, headed the Global Business Environment department in Royal Dutch Shell’s global headquarters prior to joining CEMTPP.

Given the center’s makeup, it’s no surprise that CEMTPP frequently hosted speakers from companies such as Exxon and Saudi Aramco. Records also indicate the center was heavily funded by fossil fuel companies — a 2010 version of CEMTPP’s website lists donors from Exxon, French energy giant Total SA (now TotalEnergies) to Mitsubishi. A year later, CEMTPP stopped disclosing their corporate sponsors.

A CGEP connection?

According to a Columbia spokesman, in response to a 2018 Texas Tribune article about CGEP, there is no relationship between the current Center on Global Energy Policy and CEMTPP.

However, it’s interesting that CEMTPP was dissolved shortly after CGEP was created. A letter to former President Lee Bollinger from multiple advocacy groups refers to CGEP as a rebranding of CEMTPP.

“We know that The Center on Global Energy Policy, formerly known as the Center for Energy, Marine Transportation and Public Policy, received at least $875,000 from ExxonMobil before its rebranding several years ago.”

2015 Letter to Lee Bollinger from 8 advocacy groups pushing for greater transparency at CGEP

In a sense, CGEP is the latest iteration of Columbia’s long-standing ties with fossil fuel companies. While CGEP might hide behind a facade of being pro-climate (as their mission statement suggests), it’s clear that they are deploying the same industry playbook customized for 2024.