Category Archives: Environment

Fossil Fuel Industry's Tired Battle Against Clean Energy is Also a Losing One

Source: Alternative Energies

Source: Alternative Energies

The assault on successful renewable energy legislation continues, long after the facts have proven that state renewable policies deliver clean, affordable, and reliable energy solutions that the majority of Americans support. Apparently, the fossil fuel industry and its so-called “free market” allies didn’t get the memo.

There’s a great line in the opening scene of Ridley Scott’s 2000 blockbuster Gladiator where a soldier says to his general, as they are about to slaughter an overmatched foe, “People should know when they’re conquered.” The general replies, “Would you? Would I?”

So I can’t really blame the fossil fuel industry for fighting old battles in an effort to undo approaches that have increased investment in renewable energy in states around the country, created thousands of jobs, and continue to lower energy costs with each passing day. Read More »

Also posted in Legislation, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Solar, Wind | 1 Response

Showtime Brings Realities of Texas Drought Home to Millions

Source: Jack Newton

Source: Jack Newton

It may seem like only yesterday that Texans were asked to conserve water after another scorching summer, but in reality it was four, dry years ago. The drought, which began in 2010 after La Niña altered sea level temperatures in the Pacific, continues to persist in the Lone Star State and promises to surpass the state’s record-setting multi-year drought from the 1950s. Ranchers have been forced to sell off cattle, town water supplies continue to go dry, and power plants struggle to provide a reliable supply of electricity due to water scarcity and long stretches of hot weather. Given these bleak conditions, it should not come as a surprise that 70 percent of Texans believe global warming is happening—and 52 percent said they have personally experienced the effects of global warming.

An all-star team of producers, including James Cameron, Jerry Weintraub and Arnold Schwarzenegger, intends to bring the Texas drought home to millions of televisions across the nation in the Years of Living Dangerously series premiering Sunday. Through this series, a host of celebrities, activists and journalists share the stories of those impacted most by our changing climate and what’s being done to save our planet. What is clear right now, in Texas and beyond, is that as climate change intensifies, we must adapt to more extreme weather conditions and make resilient changes that mitigate further stress. Read More »

Also posted in Climate Change, Drought, Energy-Water Nexus, Extreme Weather, Texas Energy Crunch | Leave a comment

Why Do Latinos Support Action on Climate Change?

Source: Mom's Clean Air Force

Your abuela or your friend’s abuela may not mention “carbon pollution” or “greenhouse gas emissions” much, but don’t let that fool you into thinking Hispanics are not aware of or unconcerned with what is happening to our planet. In fact, polling confirms that Latinos overwhelmingly support action to curb climate change. A recent poll for the Natural Resources Defense Council by Latino Decisions shows that 80 percent of Latino voters somewhat-to-strongly favor Presidential action to fight carbon pollution.

Why? Family values.

The reasons are similar to those held by many interested in protecting the planet for future generations. The poll proves that Latinos are concerned about air quality, health effects of a worsening environment and teaching a cultural legacy of environmental stewardship and conservation. Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Clean Car Standards, Climate Change, GHGs, Renewable Energy | Tagged , | Comments closed

Cost Savings Aren’t the Only Benefit to Energy Efficiency

Kate ZerrennerI often refer to energy efficiency as being cost effective, and it is. It is always cheaper not to use energy or to get the same result while using less energy. But monetary cost savings are just one of the many benefits associated with implementing energy efficiency measures. Reduced pollution, improved health and reduced strain on our water supply are other notable benefits of energy efficiency, though they are not always taken into consideration when a utility proposes a new energy efficiency project.

At the state regulatory level, Public Utility Commissions or similar entities are required to do a cost-benefit analysis for each energy efficiency project or program that a utility proposes, in order to determine how cost effective it may be. This analysis is called an ‘energy efficiency cost test,’ and although the concept may seem straight forward, its application is based on a varying set of pre-defined criteria that are not always consistent. Furthermore, the subject of cost-effectiveness tests is sensitive in the utility sector, because it’s at the core of how energy efficiency programs are valued.

There are several different types of energy efficiency cost tests that differ slightly and are often customized to reflect a state’s values. Before diving into the options, it’s important to note that a cost-effectiveness test of some sort is a necessary measure as more and more states implement ratepayer-funded energy efficiency programs. Customers need to know that the programs they’re paying for are delivering the promised benefits, and regulators need to ensure that the costs paid by the customers are justified. Read More »

Also posted in Energy Efficiency, Utilities | Tagged , , | 2 Responses, comments now closed

Policy Summit Will Explore Environmental Justice And Disproportionate Health Risks In Houston

Source: The Beat News

On Thursday, health and policy experts will gather in Houston for the Invisible Houston Revisited Three Decades Later Policy Summit at Texas Southern University. The summit will explore and expand upon the topics and themes highlighted in Dr. Robert D. Bullard’s 1987 book Invisible Houston.

Dr. Bullard’s groundbreaking book revealed that Houston’s municipal authorities disproportionally sited environmental hazards, such as garbage dumps and incinerators, in neighborhoods predominately occupied by minorities. Since then, Dr. Bullard, “father of environmental justice” and current Dean of the School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University, has led the charge for Environmental Justice, the concept that environmental laws and policies should not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin or income. His advocacy work culminated in the Environmental Justice Executive Order signed by President Bill Clinton in 1994, which codified the values of Environmental Justice into law.

Since then, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has sought to advance Environmental Justice across the federal government, including developing guidance to consider environmental justice in EPA rulemakings. Ultimately, the goal of this mission is to eliminate the disproportionate impact of industrial activities on environmental justice communities. Read More »

Also posted in Houston, Ports, Transportation | Tagged , , | Comments closed

Austin City Limits Attendees Can Help Offset Climate Impact

Source: Austin Eco Network

It’s October, and in Austin that means it’s time for the annual Austin City Limits Music Festival (ACL). Over 150 musical acts and hundreds of thousands of fans will converge on Austin’s Zilker Park to enjoy one of the best music events the U.S. has to offer. Like any festival of its scale, ACL has a significant environmental impact involving air and ground transportation, on-site energy and water use and huge amounts of trash and other waste. This year will be bigger than ever before, with ACL mirroring the festivities this weekend and the next. This means the environmental footprint will be bigger too, but the festival’s organizers are well aware of the event’s impact on the environment. For another festival first, ACL organizers have partnered with the City of Austin’s Office of Sustainability to help offset the festival’s effect on the environment and the climate.

Austin’s Office of Sustainability is working with ACL and other local event organizers, including Circuit of The Americas LLC, and ACL Live at the Moody Theater, to create the Positive Impact on Climate and Community (PICC) program. The program leverages the festival’s large draw to raise money for more local sustainability initiatives to offset the climate impact of festival’s energy use. Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Climate Change | Tagged , | Comments closed

West Strong: We Will Not Forget

Last weekend, The Texas Tribune, a nonpartisan, nonprofit media publication that covers public policy, politics, environmental issues and other statewide matters, hosted its annual Texas Tribune Festival. As always, the festival did an amazing job of bringing folks together from around the state to discuss the most important policy issues of the year. I was lucky enough to participate on a panel titled “After West” as part of the environmental track. The panel was dedicated to lessons learned after this year’s terrible tragedy in West, Texas that took the lives of 15 people and devastated a small town.

Other participants on the panel included: Chris Connealy, Texas State Fire Marshall; Tim Herrman, State Chemist of Texas Tommy Muska, Mayor of West; Kyle Kacal, State Representative; and Alana Rocha, reporter, The Texas Tribune (panel moderator) Read More »

Also posted in Texas Permitting | Tagged , | Comments closed

Protecting The Environment and Public Health Through Strong Science

Last week’s announcement of the publication of a University of Texas (UT) study examining methane emissions from U.S. natural gas production sites marks a major milestone in EDF's efforts to better quantify the amount of methane leakage across the natural gas supply chain.  The UT study is the first installment of a major EDF initiative being conducted in partnership with leading research universities, scientists and natural gas companies.

About five years ago, EDF began looking into the emissions of air pollutants coming from natural gas operations in multiple geographic regions – including various parts of Texas.  This was a time when the industry was undergoing a dramatic growth spurt thanks to technologies such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (or ‘fracking’), which enable the commercial extraction of natural gas from deposits of shale rock located deep underground.  We quickly learned that available estimates of how much methane was emitted were fairly uncertain.

Small amounts of natural gas, which mainly consists of methane, a powerful global warming pollutant, are lost into the air as the gas coming out of the ground makes its way from the wells that produce it and through the processing and pipeline systems bringing it to consumers.   We have written elsewhere why these emissions matter for our climate, environment and public health.   Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Climate Change, Natural gas | Tagged , | Comments closed

Local Energy-Water Solutions Should Be A Model For The Nation

This commentary originally appeared on EDF's Energy Exchange blog.

Over the past several weeks, I've written a lot about the intimate and inextricable connection between energy and water. The energy-water nexus involves a number of technologies, environmental factors and stakeholders. Thus, it’s no surprise that water and energy’s fundamental connection has eluded policymakers for so long. With this post, I review the lessons discussed so far, so that policymakers can understand the key issues surrounding the energy-water nexus and what’s at stake if we fail to act now.

The Bottom Line

Conventional electricity sources, like coal, natural gas and nuclear power plants, require an abundance of water — about 190 billion gallons per day. Because the majority of our electricity comes from these sources, high energy use strains the water system and contributes to Texas’ prolonged drought. Coincidentally, extreme drought could force power plants to shut down.

Climate change is having a profound effect on our weather patterns, making extreme heat and drought more common in Texas and throughout the Southwest. If we don’t set the energy-water system on a sustainable course, we risk a compounded problem.

Read More »

Also posted in Drought, Energy-Water Nexus, Texas Energy Crunch | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

Regional Clean Air Coalitions Take The Next Step To Improve Air Quality

Last month, I highlighted some Texas cities working to educate their citizens on the importance of air quality. Because air pollution is a persistent problem throughout Texas, the state’s largest cities all maintain websites focusing on ways to mitigate emissions and take precautions when air pollution reaches concentrations considered to be unhealthy. While these informational campaigns promote voluntary reductions in emissions, they aren’t sufficient to keep air quality under control.

Regional coalitions all over the state are at the front line forging needed partnerships to achieve major emissions reductions and improve the quality of air across Texas. The following are a few organizing leading the effort: Read More »

Also posted in Dallas Fort-Worth, Houston, Ozone, San Antonio | Comments closed
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