On the Front Lines: Climate Action from Agriculture Can Help Defend a Texan Way of Life

longhorn-cattle-pixabayBy: Simone Ballard, energy-water nexus intern

Growing up in a rural community in Illinois, agriculture was a part of my everyday reality. My neighbors took pride in their livestock and centennial family farms. It wasn’t just a job for them, but a way of life. Sustaining farms and ranches is still a livelihood for millions of people in this country, putting food on our tables and fueling our economy. This traditional lifestyle is celebrated here in Texas too, but now it faces a unique challenge and opportunity presented by a shifting climate.

So, following the recent historic climate agreement in Paris, now is the time for agriculture to take a prominent role alongside other sectors in leading emission reductions worldwide. Why? The security of our food supply is at stake. The opening remarks of Paris’ COP21 Conference outline the reasons we must take action to mitigate the impacts of a changing climate: …safeguarding food security and ending hunger, and the particular vulnerabilities of food production systems to the adverse impacts of climate change.”

Climate change will impact every facet of human society, so it is critical that diverse groups like agriculture, industry, and municipal contribute new solutions to solving our growing emissions problem. Sometimes those of us who now live in cities – and that’s over half the human population worldwide – forget about agriculture’s critical and tangible role at the beginning of the discussion. However, that narrative is shifting in this pivotal moment of climate discussions, as shown in the above statement.

In Texas, where agriculture makes up a large part of our economy, we should be thinking creatively about how to reduce emissions alongside other major players, like energy industry innovators. If we want to protect our natural resources, keep our communities thriving, and create a healthy environment for many generations to come, we need each sector to play its part and act on climate. Read More »

Posted in Climate Change, Drought, Energy-Water Nexus| Comments are closed

Market Forces are Driving Coal’s Demise and Cleaning Up the Grid in Texas

power lines unsplash croppedWhat do economists and environmentalists have in common? When it comes to Texas’ energy future, more than you may think.

According to a new study from the Brattle Group, a reputable, national economics consulting firm with extensive experience in Texas’ electricity sector, market forces are leading to coal’s rapid decline in the Lone Star State. Moreover, rapidly-growing cleaner electricity sources like natural gas and renewable energy will be able to entirely meet Texas’ additional power needs – without increasing electric bills. We couldn’t agree more.

That said, we’re confident the impacts are going to be even more powerful in terms of Texas’ wind, solar, and energy efficiency. And the latest report from Texas’ main grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), continues to support that expectation. Read More »

Posted in ERCOT, Natural gas, Renewable Energy| Comments are closed

Texas’ Evolving Energy Reality: Clean Energy Uses Less Water

wind water flickrIt’s been an interesting time for water in Texas. Beyond the incredibly wet and cool spring we’ve been having, Memorial Day saw the second year in a row of record-breaking floods.

And a few weeks ago, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) asked for comments on the draft 2017 State Water Plan. The TWDB is the state agency responsible for water planning, and every five years it produces a strategy that “addresses the needs of all water user groups in the state – municipal, irrigation, manufacturing, livestock, mining, and steam-electric power.”

In the five years since the last state water plan, Texas has gone from one extreme to the other in terms of water: from the throes of a devastating drought to historic flooding that resulted in some reservoirs being full for the first time in 15 years.

In this climate of feast or famine, we need to better understand our water supplies and conservation efforts, both of which have a strong tie to our energy choices. That’s why Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) weighed in on Texas’ draft water plan. Not only does the state significantly overestimate the amount of water needed to make electricity, but a more comprehensive view of energy in relation to water demand and supply would benefit the 2017 State Water Plan and future plans. Read More »

Posted in Energy-Water Nexus, Natural gas, Renewable Energy| Read 1 Response

Asthma Awareness Month – Show How You Care About the Air

ChildAsthma

May, which is well into ozone season in many regions in Texas, is also Asthma Awareness Month — an opportunity for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and health partners to educate Americans on asthma health risks and prevention strategies.

Asthma is a condition in which inflamed airways make it difficult for a person to breathe, and smog may be a trigger for asthma attacks. According to the American Lung Association, almost 26 million Americans have asthma, including more than seven million children.

Asthma and other health issues such as lung disease are directly affected by air quality. Asthma Awareness Month is kicked off by Air Quality Awareness Week, a week that health officials use to spread awareness of the effects of air quality on human health. The week included celebrating champions of asthma education and prevention by announcing the winners of EPA’s National Leadership Awards in Asthma Management on May 3rd. These recipients have developed national models for effective asthma care. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, Ozone| Read 1 Response

Saving Energy and Money: Texas is on a Path to Greater Efficiency

By: Robert King, Southcentral Partnership for Energy Efficiency as a Resource, Peter Sopher and John Hall, Environmental Defense Fund

Texas_welcome_sign Tim Patterson flickrThree of the top five fastest growing cities in the country are here in Texas, and explosive population growth puts a lot of pressure on our electric grid to keep up with demand. Fortunately, the state’s main grid operator, Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), has done a great job of keeping the lights on, and new building codes are ensuring less energy use in the thousands of new houses that are being constructed.

As more and more people flock to the Lone Star State, there is significant potential for energy efficiency to reduce pollution and energy bills for Texas families. But in a report released last October, ERCOT overestimated the cost of energy efficiency in Texas – by more than two times – and understated by about seven times the amount we are on track to achieve. ERCOT’s estimates do not acknowledge Texas’ reality: Energy efficiency, and other sources of clean energy, are already on the rise.  Read More »

Posted in Clean Power Plan, Energy Efficiency, ERCOT| Comments are closed

Texas and Alaska Share a Frontier Spirit – A Good Thing for Climate Action

alaska-pixabayRecently I spoke about the energy-water nexus at the American Water Resources Association spring conference in Anchorage, Alaska. As a Texan in Alaska, I had my first taste of getting what we give: Texans like to walk and talk big, but a lunchtime speaker joked that Texas was “cute” and noted how if you halved Alaska, Texas would be the third largest state.

Alaska and Texas are often mentioned in the same breath: two behemoth states, heavily influenced by oil and a rugged individualism. During my adventure, I posted pictures or status updates of things that wouldn’t be unfamiliar in Texas and tagged them #texasoralaska – things like overheard conversation about seasonal oil work, wind turbines next to oil ports, and a strong liking for local game and seafood (reindeer versus venison, King crab versus Gulf shrimp).

In both states, you hear people talking about changing weather patterns. The man next to me on the plane to Anchorage said they only had two “bad” days of winter and temperatures hit a remarkable 70 degrees in March. The boat captain said red salmon were starting to arrive about three weeks early this year. This sounds remarkably similar to conversations I’ve had with people in Texas about severe drought, hotter summers, and extreme floods that seem to be occurring more frequently.

In the face of a changing climate, tangible impacts are affecting Texans and Alaskans now – usually the most vulnerable groups. These massive states show why we need to prioritize climate action. Despite Alaska and Texas’ close ties to oil, I am hopeful their underlying frontier spirit can help them be better prepared for a warmer future. Read More »

Posted in Climate Change, Extreme Weather| Read 2 Responses
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