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The Problem with Methane

  • Methane Gas is a fossil fuel used for electricity and heat generation on all of UC’s campuses.
  • Methane is problematic because its extraction is hazardous and environmentally damaging (especially for the people who live near fracking sites), and the burning of Methane produces carbon dioxide which contributes to catastrophic climate change.

“Natural Gas” is 90% Methane. “Natural Gas” is a fossil fuel much like oil or coal, but burning natural gas has gained widespread acceptance due to the positive association carried by the word “natural.” It would be just as accurate to say “natural oil” or “natural coal.” Approximately 90% of natural gas is made up of methane, with the remaining portions made up of ethane, butane, and propane, so natural gas can be referred to simply as methane.

The UC burns enough Fracked Methane on its 10 campuses to generate about 1 million tons per year of CO2[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. This Methane-burning perpetuates climate injustice in two ways:

  • Greenhouse Gases: When Methane is burnt on the UC campuses it releases carbon dioxide (as noted above, over 1 million tonnes per year). This contributes to global heating via the Greenhouse effect. This is damaging the biosphere in myriad ways, and it is already affecting the most vulnerable people around the world who bear the brunt of climate change even though they did the least to contribute to global warming.
  • Fracking is poisonous: About two-thirds of the Methane the UC uses 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[7a,b]. By using so much Methane, the UC is contributing to deleterious health outcomes throughout the fracking supply chain in the US. Closer to home, UC’s Methane 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.
Scope 1 Emissions is from burning methane on the campuses, the emissions from the campus fleet, and fugitive emissions.