Texas vs. France: A Look at Who’s Bigger, Hotter, and More Prepared for Climate Change

wikimedia solar furnace

A solar furnace in the Pyrenees, France.

If you drive around the Lone Star State, you’re sure to see bumper stickers that say, “Texas: Bigger than France.” It references an ongoing debate about which “country” is bigger (something Texans feel very strongly about), but a closer look (aka, a quick Google search) reveals Texas and France are roughly equivalent in size. This, however, is where the similarities end – at least until recently.

Earlier this summer, France and the rest of Western Europe were in the grips of a record-breaking heatwave. Texans are certainly no strangers to crippling heat, even if we have been enjoying a relatively mild summer (so far) with regular spring and summer rains. But one year of El Nino climate patterns does not mean Texas is in the clear. Nor does it mean one abnormally hot summer in France is the last one they’ll see.

Global climate change predictions show that extreme heat and drought are on the rise, meaning both Texas and France increasingly need to consider water in their energy decisions. Why? Because as temperatures increase, so will our energy demand, which means an increase in demand for water, too.

Both France and Texas are facing some tough times ahead based on climate models, but their responses are very different. Read More »

Posted in Climate Change, Energy-Water Nexus, Environment, Renewable Energy| Tagged | Leave a comment

Strong Fuel Efficiency and Clean Air Standards Welcome in Texas

Strong fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards will cut both costs and pollution.

Strong fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards will save money and cut pollution.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are proposing new fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for heavy-duty vehicles, and that should be welcome news for all of Texas.

Applying to everything from delivery vans to waste and recycling trucks to utility trucks and all the way up to tractor-trailers, these rules could drive efficiency improvements that save money for both businesses and consumers, all while cutting harmful air pollution. According to EPA and NHTSA estimates, the rules would cut climate emissions by one billion metric tons and save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the life of the program. And a study by Environmental Defense Fund and CERES found strong fuel-efficiency standards for trucks could lower total per-mile cost of truck ownership by 21 cents-per-mile by 2025. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Climate Change, Energy Efficiency, Environmental Protection Agency, Uncategorized| Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

How Training Workshops Strengthen Environmental Justice Understanding

U.S. EPA Region 6 EJ Workshop, Arkansas LaQuinta Downtown Conference Center, June 16-18, 2015

U.S. EPA Region 6 EJ Workshop, Arkansas LaQuinta Downtown Conference Center, June 16-18, 2015

Environmental justice issues are inextricably linked to broader social justice concerns.

That relationship was clear last month at Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 6’s Environmental Justice Training Workshop, as a discussion on race, class, and environmental health was punctuated by reflections on the tragic massacre at the Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC.

The training workshop, held in Little Rock, Arkansas, was one in a series in each of the five states in EPA Region 6, designed to bring together affected communities, government officials, environmental advocates, social justice champions, faith leaders, and academic researchers. Speakers shared their powerful stories of challenge and success. Environmental justice issues weren’t discussed in isolation. Rather, they were considered as one aspect of social injustice facing many Americans that must be addressed. Protecting civil rights and reducing the burden of air pollution – it is all part of the mission to safeguard lives and health. As I listened, I was able to reflect on how my own life has instilled a deep commitment to working on issues like toxic air pollution and improving air quality in urban areas. Read More »

Posted in Environmental Justice, Environmental Protection Agency, Uncategorized| Tagged , | Leave a comment

Powering Texas: Big, Clean, Market-Driven Changes are Already Underfoot

By: Peter Sopher, policy analyst, clean energy, and Sarah Ryan, clean energy consultant

wind-364996_640 pixabayOver the past century, the electric grid in the United States has experienced only minor changes. There is evidence, however, the power sector is changing. We are moving away from traditional coal generation and toward alternative, cleaner energy sources. And despite our state being primarily known for oil and gas, Texas is no exception.

In fact, Texas’ electricity sector has been trending cleaner over the past decades, driven by deregulation of the electricity market, the development of the massive highway of transmission lines built to carry West Texas wind to cities throughout the state – the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ), and technological progress. Basically, once the market was opened up to competition, the more economic options – which also happen to be cleaner – began to gain a foothold. And there’s no stopping this train.

Where we are and where we’re going

To start, the declining use of fossil fuels to power our lives is perhaps the most significant change in Texas. As shown in Figure 1 below, fossil fuels’ (coal and gas’) proportion of the state’s electricity generation mix shrunk from 88 percent in 2002 to 82 percent in 2013. Read More »

Posted in Clean Power Plan, ERCOT, Natural gas, Renewable Energy, Solar, Wind| Comments are closed

Study Shows How Power Plant Rules Can Save Lives, Improve Public Health in Texas

A recent study suggests that a carbon emissions reduction policy for power plants could prevent thousands of premature deaths

A carbon emissions reduction policy for power plants could prevent thousands of premature deaths

When it comes to reducing carbon pollution from power plants, details in policy choices matter, especially for the state of Texas.

The final proposal of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan, which would put the first ever national limits on carbon pollution from power plants in the U.S., is expected later this summer. It comes on the heels of the publication of an important study in Nature Climate Change, which examined three different power plant carbon policy options and then investigated how each would affect clean air and public health.

The study is titled Health Co-benefits of Carbon Standards for Existing Power Plants, and was conducted by scientists Dr. Buonocore and Dr. Charles Driscoll as well as their colleagues from Harvard, Syracuse, and Boston Universities. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Clean Power Plan, Climate Change, Environment, Environmental Protection Agency| Tagged , , , | Comments are closed

Oil & Gas Industry Mangles More Facts, Turns EDF Study Results Upside Down

By: Mark Brownstein, Vice President, US Climate and Energy

Barnett graphic high res

Click to enlarge.

Here we go again.

A new set of peer-reviewed scientific papers pointing to 50 percent higher than estimated regional methane emissions from oil and gas operations in Texas were published this week. And like clockwork, the oil and gas industry’s public relations machine, Energy In Depth, proclaimed that rising emissions are actually falling, and that the industry’s meager voluntary efforts are responsible.

This is, of course, wrong on both counts. In fact, it’s a willful misrepresentation of the findings.

First, the assertion that emissions are going down is flat wrong. EPA’s latest inventory released in April reports that in 2013 the oil and gas industry released more than 7.3 million metric tons of methane into the atmosphere from their operations—a three percent increase over 2012—making it the largest industrial source of methane pollution. So much for those voluntary efforts. Read More »

Posted in Barnett Shale, Flare emissions, Natural gas| Comments are closed
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