Growth at the Port of Houston Authority (PHA) is staggering – an estimated 8,500 ships will visit the Houston Ship Channel this year and cargo traffic at the port has increased by over 20 percent compared to last year. That’s after a record-breaking year in 2014. Many worry about how much pollution the additional traffic may bring to the area. After all, diesel emissions from transportation activity at the port are already a contributor to localized air pollution.
But at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), we know that business growth and improved quality of life issues can go hand in hand. This summer, Richardson Companies (Richardson) – a stevedoring, warehousing, trucking, and barge company that is one of the largest tenants at the Port of Houston – participated in EDF’s Climate Corps Fellowship Program. This program matches specially trained graduate students with leading organizations to strategize scalable solutions for energy management. On average, over $1 million in energy savings are identified for each host organization. With the help of their graduate fellow, Keegan Hartman, Richardson learned how new transport service, emerging technology, and operational changes would enable them to accommodate increased demand for transport services as well as reduce emissions.
Through the strategies discussed below, Hartman calculated that Richardson could reduce supply chain carbon dioxide emissions by over 1,000 metric tons annually and also save approximately $1 million internally on annual fuel use – producing both environmental benefits for the community and economic rewards for the company. Read More
2015 Climate Corps fellow Phoebe Romero and her supervisor sitting near a solar-powered phone charging station on the Huston-Tillotson campus.
We are nearing the end of another successful season of EDF Climate Corps, the 8-year-old program run by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) that “embeds” grad students inside companies to find ways to save energy and money and lower carbon emissions.
Over the course of its history, EDF Climate Corps has developed into something of powerhouse from both sides of the energy sector: enterprising students (called “fellows”) discover a passion for sustainability through the act of finding efficiencies in the energy systems of their host organizations, and the hosts benefit from these energy savings while jumpstarting or contributing to their sustainability goals.
This year, 12 Texas companies and public sector entities hosted fellows, and this got us to thinking, what kind of evolution and impact has the Climate Corps program had in Texas over the years? We decided it was worth a closer look and turns out, fellows have been saving Texas schools, businesses, and other organizations a lot of energy – and a lot of money.
By: Rachel Finan, student at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies
Experts predict that by 2025 Sana’a, Yemen will become the first capital city to run out of water. They predict that by 2030 India will need to double its water-generation capacity or face the same fate, and water supplies in Istanbul, one of the world’s largest cities, is at just 28 percent. Yet before any of those cities run dry (in far off developing countries that most people in the US associate with water scarcity issues), it could be a US city that runs out of water. And it’s not just the usual suspects in the Southwest who face increasingly serious water concerns. Miami, FL is the second-most vulnerable US city in a drought according to a University of Florida Environmental Hydrology Laboratory study. Cities such as Cleveland, OH; Chicago, IL; and New York, NY follow not far behind.
Just last February, California state officials announced that 17 communities and water districts could run out of water in as little as 100 days. In Texas, that number more than doubles. Earlier this year state officials reported 48 communities were within 90 days of water interruptions; as of August 20th, there are 27 communities on that list. One small town in TX reportedly already has run dry.
This begs an obvious question; what are we doing about it? Additionally, what should we be doing about it – not just as a temporary fix, but as a long-term, strategic response? What would you do if water stopped coming out of your tap? Imagine if your town was one of the California or Texas communities with only 90 days of water left. As an EDF Climate Corps fellow, I’ve spent the last several weeks contemplating these questions and identifying opportunities for Texas-based institutions to not only conserve water, but to save money while doing so. I’ve been inspired by many examples throughout the state. Read More
By: Andy Ferris, student of the University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business
Distributed generation solar has been a growing trend around the country. Home owners, large commercial entities and other facilities all have looked to their rooftops to cash in on a previously underutilized asset. My EDF Climate Corps fellowship at Huston Tillotson University focused on evaluating opportunities for solar power on a 23 acre, private, tax-exempt HBCU (Historically Black College or University) campus in Austin, TX. Huston-Tillotson has a target of 50 percent carbon emissions reduction by 2030 and hopes to become one of the most sustainable HBCUs in the country. My analysis calculated that completing the recommended solar installation would increase the portion of their energy from renewable sources to 14 percent; a level high enough to place them first in the country among private HBCUs.
Challenges Facing Small Organizations
With an abundance of sun and a highly competitive solar industry, making solar photovoltaic (PV) installations work in Texas should be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, a less-than encouraging regulatory environment can complicate solar installations for commercial scale projects. In Austin, a production based incentive has been rapidly reduced from $0.14/kWh to $0.09/kWh in just the last three months. This trend along with a policy that eliminates net-metering for installations over 20 kW capacity has made it challenging for small organizations looking to add PV panels to their facilities. Read More
This commentary, authored by N. Jenise Young, originally appeared on EDF's Climate Corps blog.
In June, President Obama called for action during his milestone climate change speech. He said, “…we've got a vital role to play. We can't stand on the sidelines. We've got a unique responsibility.”
Melting ice glaciers are out of sight, out of mind in Houston where extreme heat and hurricanes are the norm and where I’ve spent the last year studying at Texas Southern University (TSU). What I have learned while studying at TSU surprised me – urban, minorities communities, like those surrounding TSU, are among those already struggling with the effects of climate change. In fact, numerous studies document the unequal burden of climate change and the differential application of climate policies within African American communities. For example, the Race, Poverty and Environment Journal for Social and Environmental Justice reports that African-Americans spend 30 percent more of their income on energy than their white counterparts, despite emitting 20 percent fewer greenhouse gases per household. In addition, the journal reports that “the six states with the highest African American populations are all within Atlantic hurricane zones expected to experience more storms like Katrina in the future.” In Texas, more than 20 weather and climate disasters that cost over one billion dollars have impacted the state over the past decade.
As an EDF Climate Corps fellow, I am excited to spend my summer on TSU’s campus and in the community laying the groundwork that will educate and enable students and administrators to address climate issues already impacting our community. I had the opportunity to connect with the university President, student government and other key personnel to discuss the negative effects of climate change. In these conversations, I emphasized the importance of making energy efficiency upgrades and improvements a part of the university’s capital budget. Although I was hired as an EDF Climate Corps fellow to ultimately identify the savings from energy efficiency projects, I am working diligently to educate the entire campus about climate change, sustainability and best energy practices. Read More