A few days ago, I wrote about Stanford University’s new Natural Gas Initiative (NGI) and described why I thought the existence of that program helped to explain why some prominent Stanford professors — like Mark Z. Jacobson — actively promote an unrealistic energy supply system dependent on 100% renewable energy.
It’s my contention that the predictable result of aggressively pursing that mirage is the destruction of the nuclear energy industry. Jacobson makes no secret of his support for that result.
Pursuit of the 100% renewable system will also produce a steady increase in sales of natural gas to make up for all of the times when the sun isn’t shining and the wind is blowing too weakly to provide the power that customers need and want.
When I wrote the first piece on the NGI, I had deduced that substantial resources to support the initiative must be coming from individuals or companies with an interest in promoting the expanded use of natural gas.
Smoking gun cases built on deductive logic don’t satisfy most people, so I continued my evidence gathering by writing to the contact listed in the press release announcing the first Natural Gas Initiative symposium.
May 30, 2015
Dear Mr. Golden:
I’m working on a piece about Stanford’s new Natural Gas Initiative. Can you help me find the pages on your web site that identify the major sources of funding for the initiative?
Some of the descriptive language about the Precourt Institute for Energy’s involvement mentions that it provides funding for research and conferences, but the web site for that organization does not clearly indicate where its money originates either.
Thank you for any assistance you can provide.
Publisher, Atomic Insights
June 4, 2015
Sorry for the delayed reply. Initial funding for NGI was provided by Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences; the Precourt Institute for Energy; the Office of the Dean of Research; and, the President’s Fund. The Precourt Institute for Energy is all donor supported, with the primary gift from Jay Precourt, class of ’59 and master’s degree ’60. Other gifts have come from Eric Schmidt Family Foundation, Stinehart/Reed Donor Advised Fund, Doug Kimmelman, ’82 and Mike Ruffatto ’68.
The NGI site is just being built out, but the Precourt site should have that financial information on it and I’ll get that fixed.
Thanks for your interest, and let me know if you need anything else.
Precourt Institute for Energy
and Precourt Energy Efficiency Center
Jerry Yang & Akiko Yamazaki Environment & Energy Building “Y2E2”
That response led me to additional source material. One article from 2006 describes a $30 million gift from Jay Precourt to establish the Precourt Institute for Energy Efficiency.
An article published in January 2009 describes a combined gift of $100 million.
Details of the $100 million – $50 million from Jay Precourt, $40 million from Tom Steyer and Kat Taylor. This quote from the article describes the sources of the other $10 million. “The balance was contributed by Douglas Kimmelman, senior partner of Energy Capital Partners, Michael Ruffatto, president of North American Power Group Ltd., and the Schmidt Family Foundation.”
Mr. Precourt is obvously passionate about both Stanford University and energy, having given at least $80 million in gifts during a three year period. That period included a boom, (2006-2008) a peak (summer 2008), and a bust (2008-2009) in natural gas energy prices.
The articles also helped explain the basis for Mr. Precourt’s passions and generosity along with the source of his massive wealth.
Precourt holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in petroleum engineering from Stanford and an MBA from Harvard University. He has spent his career in the energy industry, holding executive positions at Hamilton Oil Co., Tejas Gas Corp., Shell Oil Co. (which acquired Tejas in 1997), ScissorTail Energy LLC and, most recently, Hermes Consolidated Inc., a gatherer, transporter and processor of crude oil and refined products. He has served as chair and chief executive officer of Hermes since 1999. He also serves as a director of the Halliburton and Apache corporations.
Alumni of elite institutions that provide a valuable education leading to a lucrative career often express their appreciation through generous, tax deductible gifts once they have achieved financial success. It’s no surprise that the gifts are often related to the field they studied or to the industry that became their life’s work.
Precourt’s initial major gift funded an institute that some might consider to be contrary to his ongoing economic interests. The Precourt Institute for Energy Efficiency ostensibly supported programs designed to reduced energy consumption while Precourt has made a career out of finding, gathering and selling energy fuels.
However, there is no long-term conflct between efficently using energy from fossil fuels and selling a growing quantity of fossil fuels. Most astute energy professionals accept the Jevons Paradox, which says that improved energy efficiency incrases overall energy consumption. They understand its value as a marketing tool that both wins friends and improves their revenues.
Precourt’s generous contributions to Stanford have helped to fund Dr. Jacobson’s research and teaching for many years. They have helped to provide an exceptional work environment full of innovative energy technologies that excite and inspire students. Those funds have also helped give Jacobson a promotional platform for selling his 100% renewable vision.
Of course, donors to academic institutions don’t control how the institution decides to spend the money, but they always have the option of not giving additional gifts if the institution takes on programs that offend them.
The fact that Mr. Precourt came back with a $50 million gift after his initial $30 million gift indicates that he was pleased with the results up to that point.
Institutions emphasize academic freedom and don’t overtly control choices made by professors, but they have to keep making decisions about new grants.
The Stanford University undergraduate degree in petroleum engineering that helped to establish Jay Precourt in a career that eventually enabled him to donate more than $80 million to his alma mater has been replaced by a broader degree in Energy Resources Engineering (ERE).
The ERE program covers a wide range of energy-related engineering topics in geology, geothermal, energy efficiency, wind, solar, biomass, hydroelectric without any courses that would include any information about nuclear fission as a clean energy option.
Stanford has been producing petroleum engineers like Mr. Precourt for many decades; it is doing a fine job of leveraging that alumni resource base into continued support for future research.
I’ll conclude by repeating the quote with which I began my first post about Stanford’s new Natural Gas Initiative.
It is virtually impossible to get an educational institution to understand something when its revenue depends on its audience not understanding it.
– Rod Adams, Stanford’s New Natural Gas Initiative, Atomic Insights, May 30, 2015