Request for detailed energy plan

To: The Office of the President of the University of California, the UC Regents, the Chancellors of the 10 campuses, and the State Legislature 

Our institution burns enough Natural Gas (NG) on its 10 campuses to generate about 1 million tons per year of C02[1]. That is equivalent to 112 million gallons of gasoline consumed[2]. This enormous quantity of emissions means the University, a world leader in climate change research, substantially drives the problem it has done so much to define. Further, it perpetuates climate injustice in two ways. Indirectly, it harms the most vulnerable people around the world (especially those of color) who bear the brunt of climate change even though they did the least to contribute to global warming. More directly, it affects the health and well-being of people in the US who are exposed to the deleterious effects of the extraction of NG, including the families of some of UC’s least privileged students.

Nearly 100% of UC’s emissions related to its energy infrastructure come from the combustion of NG, whether burnt on campus or burnt to provide electricity to the campuses[3], and this NG comes from around the country, including California itself[4]. About two-thirds of the NG comes from fracking[5], which produces toxic gases such as benzene, and chemical waste which contaminates groundwater[6]. Those living near fracking facilities also suffer disproportionate levels of asthma, skin conditions, cancers, urologic problems, miscarriages. and pre-term births[7]. By using so much NG, the UC is contributing to deleterious health outcomes throughout the fracking supply chain in the US. Closer to home, UC’s NG sources in California are mainly in the Central Valley[8], where they expose some of the most economically disadvantaged UC students[9] and their families to their harmful effects.

The wildfires raging now in California, forcing the evacuation of UC Santa Cruz, remind us that the climate emergency is already upon us. To deal with this crisis, genuine emissions reduction (decarbonization) must happen now, and UC must lead the way. Currently, each of the campuses has a Climate Action Plan, but this is to continue to burn NG and to buy ‘carbon offsets’[10]. Yet the notion that installing more efficient cookstoves in Darfur[11] (the principal of UC’s current offset schemes) could substantially offset ~1 million tons of carbon per year has been shown to be nothing more than a convenient fantasy[12]. We request that UC develops a detailed plan for true decarbonization of its energy regime for all 10 campuses, with appropriate backups for outages. Even if the funds are not currently available, they can be requested from a future Federal green infrastructure initiative, for which the University must lay the groundwork now. We won’t get something unless we ask for it, and we must ask for what the planet desperately needs.

[1] https://www.ucop.edu/sustainability/sustainability_report_2019_f2.pdf 
[2] https://www.epa.gov/energy/greenhouse-gas-equivalencies-calculator 
[3] https://www.nceas.ucsb.edu/sites/default/files/2020-02/UC_TomKat_Replacing_Natural_Gas_Report_2018.pdf 
[4] https://www.eia.gov/state/?sid=CA 
[5] https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=26112 
[6] https://www.livescience.com/34464-what-is-fracking.html 
[7] https://www.forbes.com/sites/judystone/2017/02/23/fracking-is-dangerous-to-your-health-heres-why/#8bad3895945f https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/22/climate/gas-flares-premature-babies.html 
[8] https://www.eia.gov/state/?sid=CA 
[9] https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/infocenter/admissions-source-school 
[10] https://www.ucop.edu/sustainability/sustainability_report_2019_f2.pdf 
[11] https://tinyurl.com/wssgx24 
[12] http://senate.ucsd.edu/current-affairs/reports-recommendations/report-of-the-senate-task-force-on-the-climate-crises/