Texas Clean Air Matters

These 3 trends could enable cities across America to reduce air pollution

In recent years – and especially in recent months, cities have emerged as leaders in global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect public health. One of the most effective ways to accomplish both of these goals is to focus on reducing air pollution – and there’s an unexpected frontrunner doing just that, while also providing a roadmap for other city leaders on how to get started: Houston.

The city has a lot working against it when it comes to air quality: as a petrochemical hub, it’s home to more than 450 industrial facilities, and emissions from the marine and transportation sector in this sprawling port city are also major contributors to poor air quality. But Houston is also taking significant steps in the right direction: its mayor, Sylvester Turner, has publicly supported action on climate and clean air, and it’s using innovative mobile sensing technologies to collect unprecedented levels of air pollution data. Mayor Turner has also championed clean transportation policies that cities can implement today to reduce climate emissions from cars and trucks and improve air quality.

As these efforts expand across Houston and beyond, here are three emerging trends that could help other city leaders get started in measuring – and then addressing – pollution in their own backyards. Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Houston, Transportation / Comments are closed

How Texas plans to use the VW settlement

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) recently released its draft plan for the state’s $209 million share of the settlement from Volkswagen’s emissions-cheating scheme. The money is meant to help offset the additional air pollution released by Volkswagen (VW) cars after the German automaker admitted that it had used illegal software to cheat on emissions tests. In Texas, VW sold more than 40,000 vehicles that emitted up to 40 times the federal emissions standard for lung-damaging nitrogen oxides (NOx).

This post provides an initial look at TCEQ’s draft plan. Future posts will explore how effective the proposed projects could be for reducing air pollution and protecting human health. Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Dallas Fort-Worth, Drayage, Goods Movement, Houston, Ports, San Antonio, TCEQ, Transportation / Read 2 Responses

Rooftop solar and EVs save water and cut pollution in Texas – and data can help us go further

By Beia Spiller, Senior Economist

Thanks to improvements in technology, it’s easier than ever to be green.

Solar panels and electric vehicles (EVs) are two prime examples of technologies that can help people minimize their environmental footprint, without sacrificing comfort or having to radically change their daily behavior. But the question still remains: How much of an environmental benefit do these technologies actually produce? And, are there actions that owners of these technologies can take to minimize their pollution footprint even more?

A new paper by my colleagues and me, recently published in Energy Economics, attempts to answer these two questions for households in Austin, Texas. These homes are part of Pecan Street Inc., a living smart-grid laboratory with the largest customer energy-use database on the planet. Using detailed household-level data from 2013-2015, we were able to track solar panel performance and EV use and charging patterns, and match these actions to two important environmental impacts: water use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Our paper confirms that, in Texas, residential solar panels uses less water and pollutes the air less than using the central-grid power (based on its electricity sources during those years), and driving an EV instead of a gasoline vehicle generally reduces the household’s water and emission footprint, even though EVs charge from the grid. Moreover, our analysis demonstrates how carefully examining energy-use data can help us make sure we’re maximizing clean energy’s benefits. Read More »

Also posted in clean energy, Pecan Street, Solar / Comments are closed

Wheels in motion for VW to compensate Texas for dirty air

Texas is set to receive $209 million as part of the legal settlement for Volkswagen’s decade-long scheme to cheat on diesel emissions tests in the United States and elsewhere. That is because the German automaker sold more than 40,000 non-compliant vehicles in the state, resulting in Texans breathing dirtier air.

The money is for projects that reduce smog-forming nitrogen oxides. It is in addition to civil penalties and other legal settlements, which include an agreement for the company to invest in zero-emission, all-electric vehicle technology and infrastructure.

For Texas, the road to cleaner air began in early October. Here are three steps the state needs to take:

  1. Secure funding

Before Texas can receive its share of the money, it must become a beneficiary of the trust, which was set up to compensate states for the emissions-cheating scandal. This first step is also the easiest. It is a paperwork exercise in advance of the hard decisions. Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Clean school buses, Drayage, Goods Movement, Ozone, Ports, TCEQ, Transportation / Comments are closed

Help Texas Make Best Use of Volkswagen Settlement Funds

The Texas Clean Air Working Group (TCAWG) and the city of Austin will hold a workshop on Monday (June 26th) to discuss how Texas can use funding from the Volkswagen settlement to reduce smog-forming pollution and increase the use of zero-emission, all-electric vehicles. More information and registration instructions available here.

In July 2016, Volkswagen agreed to pay $14.7 billion in penalties to resolve a decade-long case stemming from a scheme to cheat on diesel emissions tests. The automaker had imported almost 600,000 vehicles that emitted illegal levels of harmful pollutants.

The agreement, coupled with a May 2017 settlement, will provide almost $5 billion for projects that promote cleaner air and the development of zero-emissions vehicles and infrastructure.

As its portion of the agreements, Texas is eligible to receive $209 million for projects that reduce smog-forming nitrogen oxides over the next decade. The state also is eligible to receive a share of $1.2 billion that was set aside for zero-emission vehicles and infrastructure.

To access these funds, Texas must submit a plan that describes how it would spend the money and reduce emissions. The state also must show how it would engage the public when choosing projects.

Accordingly, TCAWG and the city of Austin will hold a workshop for all interested stakeholders. The session will provide participants with the opportunity to learn more about available and emerging technologies and to discuss the benefits of several potential projects.

With careful and strategic planning, Texas has the opportunity to maximize these dollars to transform transportation in the state while creating jobs and reducing pollution.

The workshop will be June 26, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Austin Convention Center, 500 E. Cesar Chavez, in conjunction with the Smart Cities Connect Conference.

Admission is free, but registration is required. The full agenda and registration instructions are available here.

Also posted in Air Pollution / Read 1 Response

Can Texas Keep the Lights On? Clean Energy Holds the Answer.

rp_Final-Images-EDF-6524-200x300.jpgOn Tuesday, I had the pleasure of participating on a panel hosted by the Texas Tribune that centered on the future of Texas’ power grid and electric reliability. Joining me was John Fainter, president and CEO of Association of Electric Companies of Texas, Inc; Trip Doggett, president and CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas; and Doyle Beneby, president and CEO of CPS Energy, San Antonio's municipal utility. The panel, entitled Keeping the Lights on in Texas, took place at and was broadcasted from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. It's a worthwhile watch and I'm encouraged that Texas Tribune is dedicated to investigating Texas' energy issues.

For about an hour, we discussed a variety of aspects in the current and future energy landscape of the Lone Star State. In particular, I focused on the exciting shift to give people power over their electricity use, save money, and help the environment with every flip of the switch.

Read More »

Also posted in Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, ERCOT, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Solar, Texas Energy Crunch, Utilities, Wind / Tagged | Comments are closed