Friday, February 12, 2016

Could Falling Oil Prices Collapse a Think Tank?

Rapidly falling oil prices are having a ripple effect across the globe, and US think tanks are not immune to the dramatic drop in prices.

Here is an example from the Free Beacon of how oil prices are impacting the venerable think tank Brookings Institution:
The Brookings Institution will not hold its annual Doha energy conference this year amid reports that Qatar and other petroleum-rich countries are cutting spending due to the global oil market collapse.
Brookings, a Washington-based think tank that received nearly $4 million from the Qatar government in 2015, according to disclosure reports, declined to give a reason for why the conference is not being held this year.
“Unfortunately the [Brookings Doha Center] will not be organizing an energy forum in 2016,” said Kais Sharif, program and events manager for the Brookings Doha Center. “However, we are very optimistic that our next forum will take place in March/April 2017 and we will start planning for it in fall.”

The article also notes that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia - two prolific think tank funders - are also planning to tighten their belts due to low oil prices.

Among other think tanks, the UAE gives funding to Atlantic Council, as well as the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Center for American Progress (CAP), and Aspen Institute.

In 2014, the New York Times wrote a piece on foreign governments funding US think  thinks tanks, with a particular focus on Brookings and the funding it receives from Middle East countries.

The good news is that very few think tank rely solely on oil companies or oil-producing countries for funding.  But will oil companies like Exxon continue to throw big money at think tanks?