Harvard University announced this week that Gen. David Petraeus, former director of the CIA and current chair of private equity giant KKR’s global institute, has been appointed as a non-resident senior fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, a unit of the university’s Kennedy School of Government. According to the school’s press release, Petraeus will be jointly leading a Belfer Center project on “The Coming North America Decades,” which shares the name with the course he is currently teaching at the City University of New York (CUNY) Macaulay Honors College. As DeSmogBlog revealed this summer, Petraeus’s imminent “North American decades” will be partially attributable to the embrace of hydraulic fracturing and the exportation of liquefied natural gas (LNG); among the required readings for his course at Macaulay are two industry-funded studies endorsing natural gas as safe for the environment.
Petraeus’s enthusiasm for natural gas gels nicely with his position at KKR, which was the subject of a Forbes article titled “Guess Who’s Fueling the Fracking Boom?” last year thanks to its massive investments in shale gas companies over the past several years. His voice also is a natural fit at the Belfer Center, which has extensive ties to the oil and gas industry and is home to the BP-funded Geopolitics of Energy Project.
KKR – funding the fracking boom
In May 2013, Petraeus joined KKR as the chairman of the private equity giant’s newly established KKR Global Institute. KKR has been one of the most active private equity firms in the shale gas sector, and has made billions of dollars off of its natural gas investments. Some of KKR’s more notable transactions:
- KKR bought roughly one-third of Pennsylvania-based East Resources in 2009 and netted nearly $1 billion when that company was purchased by Royal Dutch Shell.
- In 2010, KKR invested $400 million in a joint venture with Hilcorp Energy to develop the Eagle Ford Shale in Texas.
- KKR Natural Resources, a partnership between KKR and Premier Resources, bought $306 million worth of shale assets from WPX Energy in 2012.
The company’s active role financing natural gas drilling led Forbes magazine to dub KKR the firm “fueling the fracking boom” in its October 2012 issue, hailing Energy & Infrastructure head Marc Lipschultz as KKR’s possible heir apparent. In November 2012, Lipschultz wrote a report entitled “Historic Opportunities from the Shale Gas Revolution” that called for expediting permits for fracking on federal land and for expanding LNG exports to “maximiz[e] the domestic economic benefits of the shale gas revolution.”
The “shale gas revolution” is also a key component of the syllabus Gen. Petraeus developed for his course “The Coming (North) American Decade(s)?” at CUNY’s Macaulay Honors College and presumably of his project of the same name at Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
The Belfer Center – oil and gas-tied neoliberal think tank
According to its website, the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs has a dual mission:
(1) to provide leadership in advancing policy-relevant knowledge about the most important challenges of international security and other critical issues where science, technology, environmental policy, and international affairs intersect; and (2) to prepare future generations of leaders for these arenas. Center researchers not only conduct scholarly research, but also develop prescriptions for policy reform.
One area of the Center’s prescriptions is the pursuit of fossil fuels through hydraulic fracturing. The Belfer Center has promulgated numerous papers by Leonardo Maugeri, a former executive with the global oil and gas driller Eni, that champion fracking for leading the world to a revolution in oil production.
Maugeri is in advisory board member of the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI), one of several connections between the the two centers:
- John Deutch, a board member of the Belfer Center, served on the study group of MITEI’s industry-funded “Future of Natural Gas” study that concluded that fracking was safe and that LNG exports would benefit the economy. Deutch is also on the board of Cheniere Energy, the first company to receive a permit to export LNG since the fracking boom began.
- Meghan O’Sullivan, another Belfer Center board member, is a strategic advisor to John B Hess, chairman and CEO of the Hess Corporation.
- Robert Hefner III, a Belfer Center international council member, is on the board of the American Clean Skies Foundation, a Chesapeake Energy-founded non-profit that promotes natural gas as an alternative to coal and a major funder of MITEI’s “Future of Natural Gas” study.
In 2011, MITEI released a study, led by current Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, called “The Future of Natural Gas.” That study, which we analyzed in our report “Industry Partner or Industry Puppet?”, was funded by the oil and gas industry and concluded that the environmental impacts from fracking are “challenging, but manageable” and pushed for increasing natural gas exports. “The Future of Natural Gas” is one of the required readings in Petraeus’s CUNY course of the same name as his Belfer Center project. As mentioned above, increased LNG exports was identified by KKR, Petraeus’s other employer, as a key element to the success of its billions in fracking investments.
In addition to the energy industry ties the Belfer Center shares with MITEI, a number of other figures at the Center, including advisors on its “international council” are also linked to oil and gas interests. Some of the more notable ties:
- Bijan Mossavar-Rahmani is the chairman of Mondoil Enterprises, chairman of RAK Petroleum, and the former CEO of the international subsidiary of Apache Corporation.
- Robert Stavins is a director of Resources for the Future, an energy-funded think tank.
- Aziz Syriani is a former director of Occidental Petroleum, an oil and gas driller.
- Robert Belfer, the Center’s namesake and member of the international council, made his fortune through Belco Oil & Gas, which through a series of acquisitions became part of what is now Anadarko Petroleum. Belfer was also chairman of Belco Petroleum, the predecessor to Enron (where Belfer was a director). Enron Oil and Gas, the company’s drilling arm, spun off in 1999 before Enron collapsed, and is now known as EOG Resources.
Further, the Belfer Center itself is funded by the oil and gas industry. Donations from BP have funded a 2012 shale gas workshop at the Belfer Center as well as the Center’s Geopolitics of Energy Project.
With his new position at the Belfer Center, Gen. Petraeus is joining a pro-fracking chorus that uses the Harvard imprimatur to promote drilling shales for oil and gas worldwide, in addition to other neoliberal policies. If the course Petraeus is currently instructing at CUNY’s Macaulay Honors College is any indication, his project of the same name at the Belfer Center will also be significantly based in frackademia, using the MIT Energy Initiative “Future of Natural Gas” report as one of its foundational texts. The addition of Petraeus to the Belfer Center’s roster of pro-drilling voices is another example of the questionable ethics of financial stakeholders in the oil and gas industry calling for more drilling and exports under the auspices of respected and ostensibly independent academic institutions.