Opinion guest column

‘The Tech’ should not advertise for companies jeopardizing humanity’s future

Fossil fuels are among the most dangerous products sold today, and that is only becoming more true as the climate crisis accelerates

When I opened The Tech’s home page a few weeks ago, I was surprised to see a front-page banner ad for Chevron, highlighting their job and internship openings. For those unfamiliar, Chevron is an oil and gas company that traces its roots to Standard Oil. Through its sponsorship of the American Petroleum Institute (API), it has known about anthropogenic global warming since at least the 1960s. The company has repeatedly refused to commit to reducing fossil fuel production in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence that we must rapidly do exactly that. I wondered: why would The Tech — a nonprofit student newspaper at an institution whose mission is to best serve the world — run an ad encouraging students to work for a company that is making that same world uninhabitable?

I wrote to The Tech’s executive board to express this confusion. They explained that they would not print ads advertising dangerous products like cigarettes, diet regimens, or firearms, but that Chevron’s products did not meet this bar. They further explained that readers of The Tech should be able to use their own judgment to decide whether to apply to work at Chevron. To say that fossil fuels are not dangerous is to not only deny the existence of a human-caused climate crisis, but also to ignore both the basic reality of the impact of air pollution on the human cardiovascular system, and, in the case of Chevron, the well-documented, devastating health and environmental impacts of their facilities around the world.

I assume The Tech understands that pollution poses a danger to human and environmental health and that fossil fuels cause climate change, which is also dangerous. I assume they understand that Chevron extracts, refines, and sells fossil fuels. So maybe there is another reason they refuse to categorize Chevron’s primary product as dangerous. My guess is that they believe that fossil fuels — unlike cigarettes or firearms — are an essential product that our society cannot live without, and Chevron is simply responding to market demand.

While it is true that we cannot transition to clean energy overnight, the reason we are not closer to that goal is in large part due to the successful public misinformation and direct lobbying efforts of Chevron and its peers over the past 50 years. While Chevron claims to support international climate agreements and a carbon tax, the company’s history as a key funder of API — whose board is currently chaired by Chevron’s CEO — tells a very different story. Perhaps most egregious in API’s checkered past is its 1998 “Roadmap” created to explicitly sow doubt in settled climate science.

I believe that The Tech should review its definition of a “dangerous product” and consider the implicit impact of promoting Chevron job opportunities on its home page. MIT students might not — understandably — be aware of Chevron’s history of lobbying against climate action. Even more troubling, students might interpret Chevron’s placement on the homepage as an implicit moral endorsement of Chevron’s activities, creating the false impression that the company is serious about transitioning away from oil and gas. Chevron’s actions and investments indicate otherwise.

The reality is that fossil fuels are among the most dangerous products sold today, and that is only becoming more true as the climate crisis accelerates. There is a relatively tiny number of organizations and individuals benefiting from our continued reliance on fossil fuels and the mass suffering it causes. Chevron is one of these few organizations, and they do not belong in our student newspaper.

MIT’s students are too smart to waste their potential on 20th-century technology. The energy transition needs your talents and passion elsewhere.

Graham Turk is a first-year master’s student in the Technology and Policy Program focusing on energy policy. Students looking for help finding jobs or internships in clean energy can reach him at gturk@mit.edu.