This commentary originally appeared on EDF's Energy Exchange blog.
In the past, I’ve written a lot about the inherent connection between energy and water use and the need for co-management of energy-water planning. Most of the energy we use requires copious amounts of water to produce, and most of the water we use requires a considerable amount of energy to treat and transport. Despite this inherent connection, it’s actually uncommon to see energy and water utilities collaborating to identify best practices to save energy and water and even lower costs. Think of it this way: If energy and water utilities worked together, their unique perspectives could uncover joint cost-saving solutions, customers would save more money and utilities could share data to better understand their holistic energy-water footprint.
Identifying why there is a lack of collaboration and how to overcome these barriers was the motivation behind the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy’s (ACEEE’s) recent report. The report goes beyond citing discrepancies, though, and provides solutions for energy and water utilities to create better, more resource-efficient programs for themselves and their customers.
The report highlights a number of ways U.S. energy and water utilities have collaborated to identify mutually-beneficial energy and water savings. It lists successful energy and water utility programs from a variety of different sectors, including residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural and municipal. Read More
For years, scientists have explored the links between excess air pollution and health conditions, such as heart disease, asthma and even cancer. Recently, the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) evaluated the specific relationship between air pollution and occurrence of lung cancer in humans. IARC reviewed over 1,000 scientific papers from five continents and concluded that there is a clear relationship between exposure to everyday air pollution and lung cancer.
Based on the results of the evaluation, the WHO officially classifies outdoor air pollution as carcinogenic to humans – listing air pollution alongside other carcinogens like formaldehyde, plutonium and asbestos. According to IARC officials, breathing in polluted air was found to be very similar to breathing in second-hand tobacco smoke, depending on one’s level of exposure. But unlike tobacco smoke, outdoor air pollution is often unavoidable.
The most common sources of air pollution are transportation, fossil fuel power plants, industrial and agricultural emissions and residential heating and cooking—all of which are a part of everyday life in most parts of the world. Because almost all of us are exposed to these pollutants, the occurrence for cancer-related death is quite high. In fact, the most recent data indicate that in 2010 alone 223,000 lung cancer deaths resulted from air pollution. The most devastating thing about these numbers is that these are all preventable deaths. Read More
Sunflower solar panels, Austin TX
Last week, San Antonio Congressman Lamar Smith took a break from Washington’s budget battles to weigh in on the latest assessment report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In his Texas Weekly guest column, Congressman Smith cast doubt on the link between global warming and extreme weather and criticized efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), cherry-picking passages of the report to support his own arguments.
Let’s look at what the report really says. Based on mountains of evidence and an unprecedented scientific consensus from hundreds of the world’s best climate scientists, the IPCC finds that “warming of the climate system is unequivocal,” and “human influence on the climate system is clear.” Furthermore, the report settles that human influence has very likely affected frequency and intensity of daily temperature extremes and likely doubled the probability of heat waves. The report further predicts that extreme heat will only get worse from here, concluding it is very likely that heat waves will occur with a higher frequency and duration in the future. Sounds like extreme weather to me.
When you contrast these findings with Texas’ recent streak of scorching summers, it’s easy to understand why a majority of Texans say they have personally experienced the effects of global warming. Extreme temperatures, since 2010, have helped plunge the state into a historic, multi-year drought, which is expected to be the new norm. Both the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and independent climate scientists, including Texas A&M’s atmospheric sciences department, have attributed Texas’ historic 2011 heat wave and drought primarily to climate change. Read More
Recently, we highlighted some of the impressive clean energy research projects currently under development in universities across the state of Texas. These research initiatives form the foundation to Texas’ position as leader in the clean energy economy and a producer of a burgeoning workforce. And this clean energy workforce requires a variety of skill sets that can be learned at different points along the educational spectrum.
In 2010, I produced a Texas Green Jobs Guidebook that highlights the job diversity within the clean energy sector—from solar panel installation to air quality enforcement. Universities train engineers, architects and city planners, but the clean energy workforce also requires a level of technical skill that is best taught at the community college level. In many ways, community colleges play a vital role in training the individuals that will put the clean energy future into action, and schools in Texas understand the growing need for skilled technicians.
Houston Community College recently launched a new solar energy program that trains students to install solar panels. Their education includes understanding proper placement and trouble-shooting and is, in fact, the first program in the area that is certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. Read More
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Courtesy of Juan Manuel Salazar
The following story about the clean truck program in Houston appears in the Fall 2013 issue of EDF’s Solutions newsletter. As we have highlighted before, ports are hotspots for air pollution and the best way to mitigate emissions from ships, trucks and other transportation equipment is to engage key stakeholders and find common sense solutions that provide access to cleaner, more efficient technologies. Below is a success story from Houston: Since the H-GAC Drayage Loan Program began in 2010, it has replaced almost 200 of the oldest, most polluting trucks with newer, cleaner ones.
When Juan Manuel Salazar was hauling industrial materials all over Houston in his 1989 International truck, his two daughters worried. “They were concerned about me driving all day, then working half the night to fix the truck,” Salazar says. So it was no surprise that, as an owner-operator, Salazar jumped to qualify for a combined grant and low-interest loan program tailored by EDF and its partners such as the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC). Salazar invested in a cleaner 2012 Kenworth truck that uses less gas and goes farther without problems. “My daughters convinced me,” he says.
A few years before, an emissions inventory found that one-third of the toxic air pollution at the Port of Houston was spewed out by its 3,000-truck drayage fleet. The result was the loan program. Since its creation, almost 200 trucks in Houston have been updated. Read More
Last month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its fifth report on where humanity stands on climate change. IPCC brings together thousands of volunteer scientists and other global experts to review humankind’s current scientific understanding of climate change. After these academic experts have come to consensus, officials from nearly 200 U.N. member countries review their results. The latest report shows that we are more certain than ever before that the climate is changing, and if humanity doesn’t act now, we could face devastating warming in the future.
The broad international consensus on climate change stands in stark contrast with what we typically hear from our elected representatives in Texas. Too often, they call climate change “unsettled science,” or claim that some uncertainty around the extent of warming warrants inaction from the state that emits the most carbon dioxide in the nation. The state’s environmental agency, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), famously censors mentions of climate change from its reports. And even more aggressively, the state has fought the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) permitting process for large sources of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) tooth and nail. Read More