Four big international companies, including the oil giant Exxon Mobil, said yesterday that they would give Stanford University $225 million over 10 years for research on ways to meet growing energy needs without worsening global warming.
Exxon Mobil, whose pledge of $100 million makes it the biggest of the four contributors, issued a statement saying new techniques for producing energy while reducing emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases were ”vital to meeting energy needs in the industrialized and developing world.”
Many scientists and environment experts said the Stanford project was likely to be a valuable new assault on a serious environmental problem. But some environmental campaigners said Exxon, which has long expressed skepticism about risks posed by climate change, was mainly trying to improve its image.
In 2000, Ford and Exxon Mobil’s global rival, BP, gave $20 million to Princeton to start a similar climate and energy research program.
With the new corporate money, Stanford will create the Global Climate and Energy Project, an independent research group controlled by the university. Any resulting technologies or patents will belong to the university, Stanford officials said.
Dr. Franklin M. Orr Jr., a chemical engineer, will step down as dean of the university’s School of Earth Sciences to run the project.
Dr. Orr said the group would focus on technologies that could provide energy without adding to a buildup of greenhouse gases linked by scientists to a warming trend that has lasted decades.
Those technologies will include not only hydrogen fuel cells and solar panels but also nuclear power and methods for harnessing coal and other fossil fuels while capturing carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas released by human activities.
The initiative is a small step toward what a diverse group of scientists, writing recently in the journal Science, said must be an enormous effort to find clean energy sources for an expected tripling of global demands by midcentury.
In addition to Exxon Mobil, the contributors are General Electric, which said it would give $50 million; E.ON, a large German energy company with nuclear and conventional power plants, giving $50 million; and Schlumberger, the oil-field technology company, giving $25 million.
Environmental campaigners noted that Exxon Mobil told investors last month that it was plowing $100 billion over the next decade into a search for new oil and gas reserves.
The money for climate research is ”only one-tenth of 1 percent of what Exxon Mobil will spend over the same time exploring and developing new sources of oil and gas,” said Pete Altman, the coordinator of a shareholder group pressing to change the company’s environmental practices. That development, Mr. Altman said, ”is what is causing global warming in the first place.”