An environmental group and a multinational oil company have teamed up to start a new Washington, DC-based think tank on transportation issues.
The World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Shell Foundation May 29 announced a new $7.5 million center called Embarq—the WRI Center for Transport and the Environment.
Shell gave WRI an initial grant of $3.75 million spread over a 5-year period with the understanding the grant could be doubled, depending on the center's success and other fundraising efforts.
The seed money represents the largest grant given by the Shell Foundation since its establishment as an independent charity in 2000 by the Royal Dutch/Shell Group. The London-based foundation's goal is "to support efforts to achieve a balance between economic growth, care for the environment, and equitable social development."
Embarq will be codirected by Lee Schipper and Nancy Kete. For 20 years, Schipper worked at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California and the last 6 years with the International Energy Agency in Paris. Kete is the director of WRI's Climate, Energy, and Pollution Program. Before that she was a deputy director of the US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Atmospheric Programs.
Putting it together
Embarq said it will help policy-makers adopt sensible transport strategies, try out likely solutions, and evaluate them openly and fairly. "This is not a paper exercise," said Kete.
Embarq organizers say Shell may not be the only oil company to devote itself to nonprofit charities, but they contend the company's decision to partner with an environmental think tank group to promote sustainable development in such a manner sets it apart from most of its competitors.
But that's a claim some US companies argue is disingenuous. They argue there is plenty of environmentally inspired philanthropy by oil firms to green causes within the US and abroad that include outright grants of money, field projects, and land turnovers.
Embarq hopes Shell's competitors may also show an interest in such future demonstration projects.
Mexico City first
Embarq's first initiative is in Mexico City, a city of 18 million that has severe traffic and air pollution problems. The group plans to spend the equivalent of about $1 million in financial and technical resources, with additional funds expected from the private sector groups and international agencies such as the World Bank.
"We're the glue that will bring all these people together," said Schipper.
One oil-specific initiative involves working with the state-owned oil company Petroleos Mexicanos to accelerate the introduction of diesel with a sulfur content of 30-50 ppm.
Embarq will analyze the city's transportation and land use over the next 5 years and will test dedicated bus corridors where vehicles will be powered by clean diesel and other fuels, including compressed natural gas, diesel-electric hybrids, and hydrogen fuel cells.
The center also hopes to build upon its Mexico City experience, with officials eyeing projects in other heavily urbanized areas, including China and India.