Big oil dominates “Earth, Energy, and Environment Career Fair”

Oct. 12, 2014, 7:44 p.m.

As a job-seeking senior with a deep interest in the environment, I was looking forward to discovering what organizations and companies would be represented at the Earth, Energy and Environment Career Fair this past Thursday. Unfortunately, what I discovered were dirty Big Oil companies that attempt to crush the progress of energy innovation across the board and continue to egregiously pollute the environment dominating the event. Nearly half of the employers at the event were some of the biggest climate offenders including Chevron, Shell, EOG Resources, Phillips 66 and Exxon-Mobil.

The ethics of these companies run directly against the stated environmental and energy sustainability positions our University likes to assert. Stanford as an institution, backed by a near entirety of its professors, states the absolute necessity that we move away from dirty fossil fuels that drive climate change. The administration reaffirmed this stance when it divested from coal last year. In order to maintain a consistent ethical stance on energy and the environment, Stanford should limit the presence of dirty energy at career events. It’s time that Stanford not only divest its dirty money but divest its students from dirty jobs.

Career fairs are created for students; the companies that attend should reflect the interest of the students first. However, there is no denying that the strength of the presence of companies at these events influences student interest. Employers pay to attend the event. Cash-strapped and under-staffed non-profits and clean tech startups do not have the resources to compete with Big Oil. At this event, the oil companies averaged four employers on hand, ready with slick, high-tech, presentations. By contrast, each pro-environment NGO was limited to one stretched representative. This discrepancy makes a big difference in each organization’s ability to draw interest. The CDC should make special outreach efforts to NGOs and clean-tech startups to pull the two opposing interests level, at minimum.

Many would point out that perhaps the best way to counter big oil is to work for these companies and change them from the inside. The jobs discussed at this career fair often have to do with environmental consulting and potential clean energy. However, this argument fails to recognize that these jobs are merely greenwashing efforts from these companies – they exist almost solely as PR moves. To find the truth, follow the money. Chevron and Shell historically lead the pack in terms of clean-tech investments with highs of 2.5 percent of overall expenditures. Now, as the clean-energy sector in general has grown exponentially, these companies’ investments have fallen below 2 percent. None of the others have yet broken 1 percent. The Career Development Center advertised that “this targeted career fair will feature public and private sector organizations that are pursuing sustainability, with a particular focus on clean technology.” These five oil companies are doing no such thing.

And don’t take this just from me. Nearly 100 students who attended the fair signed a petition expressing their disagreement with the presence of fossil fuel companies. Stanford and the Career Development Center have an ethical responsibility to back up their own stance on creating a clean energy future by setting up its students to be a part of it. As a collection of some the brightest members of our generation, Stanford should substantively promote our ability to change the future of our environment and move towards the future of clean energy – not push us back towards the status quo of environmental destruction. The Stanford Code of Honor holds its students to strict ethical standards. The University needs to apply its own principles to which companies it chooses to support.

Liam McSweeney ’15

Liam McSweeney is pursuing a degree in English and is a member of Fossil Free Stanford.

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