If Israel Can Find Common Ground around the Environment, Why Can’t Texas?’

A solar array at the Arava Institute.

A solar array at the Arava Institute.

Deep in the Israeli desert is an academic institute that is building peace in the region by putting nature at its center. The Arava Institute, in partnership with Ben Gurion University, brings students from Israel, Palestine, Jordan, and around the world to find common ground around environmental problems and build trust – and peace – from there.

On a recent trip to Israel, including to the Arava Institute, I was told many times by many people, “Everything is political here.” Water and energy are no exception. In a region where water can be scarce and oil has long reigned as king, the politics of environmental issues are even more extreme than what people in many parts of the world can wrap their heads around.

Of course, environmental issues in Texas – and across the country – can be highly divisive. But polls consistently show Americans want to protect and defend the health of our children and the well-being of our communities. And clean energy can play a critical role: Our nation’s power sector accounts for nearly 40% of U.S carbon emissions – causing health problems such as asthma attacks, heart attacks, and a staggering number of premature deaths every year.

Today, Texas opens its 85th Legislative Session. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if, instead of fighting over taking action on climate change, leaders sat down with a common starting point: to ensure clean, available water and clean air through renewable energy, while maintaining a robust economy? Perhaps we can learn from the Arava Institute and start with our commonalities, like the desire for clean air and clean water, to build cooperation and achieve clean energy progress. Read More »

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Why Strategic Choices – and Water – Could Make People More Energy-Efficient

At my household, a new year means a new energy and water-use baseline. By that I mean, every month, I look at how much electricity and water I used in comparison to the same month the previous year – so I can try to be as efficient as possible. But I work in the energy field, and I know that’s not a typical New Year’s tradition. Most people don’t examine the trends of their energy-use or spend much time thinking about how to reduce it.

So, what motivates the “average” person to take action and be more energy-efficient? It depends.

A recent study by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions and the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) looked at the psychology behind individuals’ energy efficiency behavior, and how that information could be used to design more effective programs.

The study came away with some fascinating findings that show electric utilities need to be strategic in the way they create, as well as communicate about, their efficiency programs. Moreover, it led me to believe showing how energy efficiency relates to water – the quality and availability of which many people care about – could help encourage people to be more mindful about their energy use. Read More »

Posted in Energy Efficiency, Energy-Water Nexus| Leave a comment

Could Rick Perry Forego his Special-Interest Past for a Clean Energy Future?

rick-perry-by-gage-skidmore-flickrBy now you may have heard that Rick Perry, former Governor of Texas, is President-elect Trump’s pick for Energy secretary. If appointed, he will be succeeding Samuel Bodman, Doctor of Science in chemical engineering from MIT; Steven Chu, PhD in physics from the University of California, Berkeley; and Ernest Moniz, PhD in theoretical physics from Stanford University.

Since the majority of the budget of the Department of Energy (DOE) is spent on nuclear waste clean-up and very technical research projects, the fact that Gov. Perry doesn’t measure up to his predecessors in his scientific credentials is disappointing. All the more so that his track record is one of unquestioning support of highly polluting interests in his state.

I have written about Perry plenty of times, so it should come as no surprise that I am less than thrilled with the idea of him heading the same department he famously declared he would eliminate.

Put simply: The appointment of Rick Perry is "open season" on the environment, and all who care about the health of their families should be concerned. Time and again, he has put polluters over people for political gain, and leveraged backroom deals with special interests — the rest of the economy and the air be damned. My only hope is that he takes to heart the jobs and economic growth resulting from Texas wind power, and uses it to steer the DOE toward fostering a thriving clean energy economy. Read More »

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Groundbreaking Study Shows New Coal Plants are Uneconomic in 97 Percent of US Counties

wind-energy-pixabayBy: Ferit Ucar

At Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), we understand that market forces can drive either a healthy environment – or harmful pollution. I recently wrote about how generating electricity often creates pollution, which comes with environmental and health costs that are usually not paid for by the polluters. That’s why EDF works to identify and correct market failures, like the failure to understand – as well as account for – all of the costs pollution imposes on society.

The Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin (UT) just released a useful tool in that pursuit: a study that aims to capture the full cost of new electric power generation – including environmental and public health costs – on a county-by-county basis in the United States. The study evolves traditional ways of estimating new generation costs by 1) incorporating pollution costs, and 2) breaking data down to the county level.

The results show economics are leading the U.S. to a cleaner energy economy, in which there is no role for new coal plants. Let’s break it down. Read More »

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What Do the 2016 Elections Mean for the Clean Power Plan?

cpp_supportmap_600President-Elect Trump has repeatedly claimed that climate change is a “hoax,” and has appointed notorious climate denier Myron Ebell to run the transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). During the campaign, Trump advocated for “scrapping” the Clean Power Plan – the nation’s first limits on harmful climate pollution from existing power plants, which are among the United States’ very largest sources of these contaminants.

Lost in this campaign rhetoric was the reality that states and companies across the country are already making cost-effective investments in transformative clean energy technologies that are rapidly reducing emissions of climate pollution across the power sector. These investments are helping deliver a more reliable and affordable electricity grid, yielding tremendous public health benefits by reducing emissions of soot and smog-forming pollutants, and driving job growth in communities around the country.

The Clean Power Plan builds on all of these trends and helps ensure they will continue for years to come, but the Trump Administration will be hard pressed to stop the progress underway in its tracks. Read More »

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Why Water Utilities Need an Energy Plan – and How Texas is Making Progress

water-tower-1420989568vmuWhen you prepare the Thanksgiving meal, do you ask each person to make a dish of their choosing, with no coordination for an overall cohesive meal? Probably not. Most likely, you plan, because you want everything to fit together.

Now imagine a water utility with different departments like water quality, finance, and administration. Most water utilities have high energy costs, so each department needs to manage and reduce its energy use – but typically there’s no plan to synchronize these efforts. With such a piecemeal approach, the utility may get overall energy savings, but it’s not maximizing the potential to meet ambitious efficiency goals or reduce power costs.

Enter the Energy Management Plan (EMP), a tool that sets up an organization-wide strategy for energy use. By creating a coordinated vision, an EMP establishes clear efficiency goals and gives departments the flexibility and direction for meeting them. That’s what this summer’s EDF Climate Corps fellow focused on at Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD), which supplies water to 2 million users in the Fort Worth area. The TRWD fellow found opportunities where an EMP could improve the utility’s energy efficiency and management, leading to potential savings and less wasted water. Read More »

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    Confluence of SJR, Old, and Middle rivers

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