David Petraeus' CUNY Course Features Big Oil Talking Points

This has been cross-posted from DeSmogBlog.

Former CIA head David Petraeus' City University of New York (CUNY) Macaulay Honors College seminar readings include several prominent Big Oil-funded "frackademia" studies, a recent DeSmogBlog investigation revealed.

Further digging into records obtained via New York's Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) also reveals "a survey of the global economy to set the stage for the course" — as stated in an email from Petraeus to an unknown source due to redaction — utilizes the U.S. State Department's Keystone XL environmental review written by Environmental Resources Management (ERM Group), which argues that TransCanada's tar sands export pipeline deserves approval.

"[Redacted], attached is a document that my Harvard researchers and I put together for the seminar I'll lead at Macaulay Honors College of CUNY," wrote Petraeus in the email. "It is intended to be a survey of the global economy to set the stage for the course...[It] will have considerable value, I think, for the undergrads in the course."

The "global economy" survey was penned on behalf of Petraeus by Vivek Chilukuri, one of Petraeus' researchers at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Public Policy, where Petraeus sits as a non-resident fellow. Chilukuri serves as editor-in-chief for the Harvard Journal of Middle Eastern Politics & Policy, and worked for Obama for America before the 2008 election. 

It was at the Harvard Kennedy School where all of Petraeus' troubles began. His biographer, Paula Broadwell, whom he had an affair with, met Petraeus while a Harvard graduate student, a scandal that ultimately drove him out of the CIA. His CIA departure landed Petraeus his current gigs on Wall Street at Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) and as an adjunct professor at CUNY Honors College and the University of Southern California

Petraeus' seminar survey includes an implied endorsement of fracking and "clean coal" — otherwise known as carbon capture and sequestration — as well as a cap-and-trade scheme that would include carbon trading of emissions from dirty coal plants for even dirtier shale gas production. A call for the approval of Keystone XL's northern half — the southern half is almost fully built via a March 2012 Obama administration executive order — appears in the "Proposed Policies, Programs, Practices, Laws & Regulations" portion of Petraeus' seminar survey. One of the proposed policy prongs: "accelerate domestic energy production consistent with environmental concerns."

Prong "A" of "energy production consistent with environmental concerns," according to the syllabus? "Authorize Keystone XL project given State Department's favorable report," states the survey. Key context about the "favorable report" is completely lacking from the course survey: That "report" was written by Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM Group), a dues-paying member of the American Petroleum Institute. Since the June 2008 proposal of Keystone XL, API has spent over $22 million lobbying for it

ERM Group was chosen by TransCanada to do the report with the blessing of the State Department, and may have committed a federal crime by lying on its conflict-of-interest form when it said it did not have an ongoing business relationship with TransCanada. In fact, ERM has ongoing business ties with TransCanada in Alaska. Beyond its claims that Keystone XL will have negligible environmental impacts, ERM has also given the "environmentally sound" rubberstamp to a Delaware tar sands refinery project, a Caspian Sea-area pipeline project, and a Peruvian pipeline project. All of these projects ended up having negative impacts on the environment.

None of this information of "considerable value" will likely be included in Petraeus' seminar, but ERM's Keystone XL environmental review for the State Department will be one of the readings on his syllabus


Prongs "B" and "C" of the energy portion of Petraeus' overview of the global economy pertain to the controversial and ecologically toxic hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") process for oil and gas embedded deep within shale rock basins. 

Prong "B" calls to "require disclosure of fracking contents," which already exists in the form of standards written by Big Oil as part of the Department of Energy's Fracking Subcommittee, which consisted almost entirely of individuals with ties to Big Oil. That subcommittee created the loophole-ridden standards adopted by the Council of State Governments (CSG) and American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) as "model bills" passed by statehouses nationwide. In May, those same standards were adopted by the Obama Interior Department for fracking on public lands. 

Directly connected to this is prong "C," calling for "embedded environmentalists at each phase of shale gas production." Enter the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Executive Director Fred Krupp, the "embedded environmentalists" on the DOE Fracking Subcomittee. EDF's "point person on policies relating to natural gas development," according to its website, is Scott Anderson.

Anderson is a member of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, which opposes extending the federal Safe Drinking Water Act as it applies to fracking. He is also the former executive vice president and general counsel for the Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association.

Anderson was also the only "embedded environmentalist" to speak at the now-infamous 2011 Houston shale gas industry public relations conference featured in Gasland Part II, in which Anadarko's Matt Carmichael admitted he has his employees read the "Counterinsurgency Field Manual," co-written by none other than David Petraeus.

Range Resources' Matt Pitzarella also revealed that his fracking company utilizes psychological warfare operations (PSYOPs) tactics and personnel in Pennsylvania communities, with PSYOPs being a key counterinsurgency tactic. 


Prongs "G" and "H" of Petraeus' survey offer more of the same. 

"G" calls for the "use [of] government revenue from the license fees and royalties taken from...oil and coal to finance tax credits for natural gas, renewables and energy R&D." In what's essentially an endorsement of "cap and trade," Petraeus has chosen to teach Wall Street's favorite false climate solution, explained succinctly by the "Story of Cap & Trade," a video project created by "Story of Stuff." 

And then there's the fact that "natural gas" means fracked shale gas, which a Cornell University study demonstrated is actually dirtier than coal over its entire lifecycle. 

Lastly, "H" says the U.S. should "invest in carbon capture and storage [CCS] demonstration projects," a key piece of President Barack Obama's Climate Action Plan, also sometimes referred to as illusory "clean coal."

The problem with that plan? Clean coal, referred to by DeSmog's Kevin Grandia in a recent article as "Obama's technicolor dream,"  is not scientifically proven to remove carbon from the atmosphere. In fact, sequestering huge amounts of carbon under the ground could be the next mega-disaster waiting to happen, as happened in Democratic Republic of Congo in 1986 when carbon trapped under the ground escaped and asphyxiated 1,700 people and 3,500 livestock in nearby towns. 


Coming full circle, the "survey of the global economy" will "set the stage for the course," as described by Petraeus, and it will also have "considerable value."

But for whom? 

First and foremost, dirty energy industries and their Wall Street financiers, on whose behalf Petraeus will be working at his full-time job at Kohlberg Kravis Roberts. 

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Steve Horn

Steve Horn is a Research Fellow at DeSmogBlog, Contributing Editor at CounterPunch and regulator contributor for TruthOut.

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