Comparative Climate Goals: How Does MIT Measure Up?

A recent MIT News press release stated that construction is to begin this month on a new Central Utilities Plant (CUP) project designed to continue burning fossil fuels on campus.  See:  In that press release, MIT notes that the new CUP plant is designed to burn natural gas and #2 fuel oil and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 10%, "offsetting" a projected 10% increase in GHG emissions by 2020 (when the new plant is scheduled to be operational):

"[T]he upgrade includes changing fuel use scenarios for five existing boilers to eliminate the use of No. 6 fuel oil on campus and equip them to use cleaner fuels such as natural gas or No. 2 fuel oil. The plant will switch to using natural gas for all normal operations, relegating fuel oil to backup emergency use only. Both new turbines are projected to be in service by 2020....

The CUP’s efficiency and environmental gains will result from the installation of new and upgraded equipment as well as the switch to natural gas and the elimination of fuel oil use (except for emergencies). State-of-the-art emissions controls will contribute to the improvements. Starting in 2020, regulated pollutant emissions are expected to be more than 25 percent lower than 2014 emissions levels, and greenhouse gas emissions will be 10 percent lower than 2014 levels, offsetting a projected 10 percent increase in greenhouse gas emissions due to energy demands created by new buildings and program growth."

Unless my math is off, this appears to be a future 2020 net MIT CUP GHG emissions reduction of ZERO %.

Considering the above, I thought it would be interesting to compare and contrast MIT's climate action progress and renewable energy goals with recently reported progress at the Massachusetts state level.  Let's take a look at the following excerpts from a February 2, 2017 Article in The Boston Globe (

First, what news of the general sentiment on climate action and renewables on Beacon Hill?...

"BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts environmentalists have long dreamed of a green future in which the state shakes off its reliance on fossil fuels. Now they have a date: 2050.

That’s just three decades away, but backers of the effort, including dozens of Beacon Hill lawmakers, say it’s realistic, provided the state starts carving out a path to that future now.

A bill filed by Sen. Jamie Eldridge, of Acton, and Reps. Sean Garballey, of Arlington, and Marjorie Decker, of Cambridge — all Democrats — would commit Massachusetts to obtaining 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources like solar and wind.

Supporters say the bill would require the state to achieve total renewable electricity generation by 2035 and phase out fossil fuels across all sectors, including heating and transportation, by mid-century. The bill has 55 legislative co-sponsors — all Democrats in the overwhelming Democrat-controlled Legislature...."

Now, what about comparative numbers?...

"Hawaii has already committed to 100 percent renewables for the electric sector by 2045....

States like California and New York have also set renewable energy goals of 50 percent by 2030, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Vermont has a goal of 75 percent by 2032....

'Massachusetts has been a leader on alternative energy policy for over a decade, and now with federal assaults on efforts to combat climate change, it will be up to individual states to protect the environmental and health interests of the public,' Eldridge said.

The bill would require the Department of Energy Resources to set binding targets for renewable energy growth in all major sectors of the economy, and issue regulations to ensure that Massachusetts stays on track toward 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

It’s also designed to build on the state’s 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act, which requires Massachusetts to reduce its carbon emissions by at least 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050."

So, it seems that compared to the climate action and sustainability efforts of others, MIT isn't measuring up all that well.

To the MIT ClimateX community:

Focusing on climate action requires both focus and action!

Climate action distraction = ZERO net reduction in MIT CUP GHG emissions by 2020 and ZERO renewables use.

There is no place or room for more empty climate rhetoric or climate action distraction at ClimateX.  There can be no meaningful ClimateX climate action leadership, when the above is the state of affairs on our own MIT campus.  ClimateX must take a public stand against the lack of sustainability efforts and lack of meaningful GHG reduction goals at MIT CUP to have any credibility in the fight against global climate change.

It's time to get focused and take action.