Big Oil is super stoked on the idea of carbon capture because it means that they can behave as if the tar sands aren’t abhorrent pollution zones spewing out garbage into our atmosphere like a factory in a cartoon belching smoke. The government proudly touts the International Performance Assessment Centre for the Geologic Storage of Carbon Dioxide as an integral part of the overal carbon-capture program attracting international talent and corporate funding to the University of Regina – which, to be fair, is true, but the talent and the funding winds up staying in that high-profile, well-funded venture, so it thrives while the rest of the university flounders irrespective of student demand.
So it is with no small amount of grim schadenfreude that I’m posting the link to today’s CBC story on IPAC, in which it is alleged that over 60 per cent of the centre’s budget has been going to pay for its computer system in a bit of backroom gladhanding between the men running IPAC and the technology services company they happened to sit on the board for:
The two men running IPAC in its startup phase — Malcolm Wilson and Ian Bailey — also worked at the university. Wilson was director of the office of energy and environment, while Bailey was the director of the university-industry liaison office.
They asked CVI to run IPAC’s computers — a sole-sourced agreement where there was no competitive bidding and no written contract.
“I guess you would probably characterize it as sort of a handshake agreement,” Dybwad said.
Then Dybwad made her most troubling discovery: not only were Wilson and Bailey managing IPAC, they were also founding directors of CVI and were on its board for months.
The University of Regina admits that it made some mistakes.
“We found in our review we did some things that were a little loose and we’ve tightened up policies and procedures,” said Barb Pollock, the U of R’s vice-president of external relations.
When I last spoke with Tom Chase, the U of R’s provost, he assured me that corporate donations and corporate-funded ventures at the university had no impact on curriculum. Which is fine, and I’m willing to believe him – just because the university teaches carbon capture and oil companies fund other carbon-capture ventures on campus doesn’t necessarily mean anything other than the university and oil companies have mutual goals of training and educating people in the specialized field of carbon capture.
But there’s a lot of problems with partnerships like this, and the above story – if it turns out to be true – should be seen as a cautionary tale. Capitalism is an old boys’ club, and the club members will always, always find ways to turn the public trust to their advantage. The U of R can tighten up their policies as much as they want, but as long as universities are forced to make partnerships with business as opposed to make partnerships with businesses from a position of fiscal comfort, shit like this is going to happen.