Energy

Rooftop air conditioning units
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Update at 5:11 p.m.: ERCOT says operations have returned to normal, but it is still encouraging conservation. 

Our original post follows: 

For the second time in a week, Texas' electric grid-operator has asked folks to conserve energy as it faces record demand during the current heatwave.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Solar power continues to grow in Texas, new research finds, and that growth is due in part to another renewable energy the state has in abundance: wind.

Travis Bubenik/Houston Public Media

From Texas Standard:

Brownsville, Texas, is one of the poorest metropolitan areas in the nation. But it is now being considered for almost $40 billion worth of investment. Three energy companies are planning projects to bring liquefied natural gas plants to the area – striking community controversy and organized opposition to the proposals.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Natural gas is a valuable commodity in most of the world – but not in parts of Texas. Now, in West Texas, oil well operators will pay you to take their natural gas. The practice is called “negative pricing,” and it could change everything from the price of electricity to the use of renewable energy.

Jacob Wasilkowski/Petrichor Studio

It brings new meaning to “Texas Hill Country.”

This map called Earth at Night, Mountains of Light was developed by cartographer Jacob Wasilkowski using NASA satellite imagery to map the world according to nighttime brightness.

Photo courtesy of Elaine Hampton

On a clear spring day in 2013, two smoke stacks fell in El Paso. They had been a part of the landscape, and the El Paso economy for years. It took a mere 30 seconds for them to come down.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Take a rapidly growing state, add a scorching heat wave, and you have a recipe for historically high electricity use. So it was that Texas broke the record for power demand three times in the last week. Through it all, the state’s electric grid operated without major disruption.

That success nevertheless revealed some interesting things about the ways we generate and consume electricity.

Tom Pennington

With a heat wave sweeping the state, Texans' demand for power broke records two days in a row this week, prompting the state’s electric grid operator — which predicted the scenario months ago — to offer assurances that the electric sector “is doing what they can to keep the power on for consumers.”

Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Most discussions about how to solve climate change involve limiting greenhouse gas emissions. But what if there was another way? A new study co-published by a team of researchers at Harvard and a Canadian company called Carbon Engineering says there is one.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Energy Secretary Rick Perry said this week that the Department of Energy is working on a plan to subsidize coal and nuclear power in the name of national security. While the details are scarce, the idea’s been the subject of speculation and criticism from energy experts, environmentalists and grid operators.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Student activists around the country are pushing for universities not to invest in industries that contribute to global warming. But at the University of Texas, some environmentalists are taking a different approach, urging UT not to divest, but to adopt more climate-friendly drilling rules.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

When Billy Whipple was learning carpentry as a young man in New England, he got some strange advice about from a veteran carpenter.

“He had his old beliefs that holes [in houses] were good; they got you fresh air,” he says. “Now we’re so sophisticated that we manage the air.”

Austin Price for KUT

At a new 28-home development in East Austin, workers for Lighthouse Solar pull solar panels from the back of a trailer, haul them to a ladder, and then carry them 30 feet up to the recently shingled rooftops where they'll be installed.

U.S. Department of Energy

From Texas Standard.

As President Donald Trump touts America’s nuclear arsenal, two nuclear weapons plants in the U.S. are running into some financial trouble. The Center for Public Integrity reports that the two plants – the Pantex plant near Amarillo, Texas, and the Y-12 facility in Oak Ridge, Tenn. – have failed to keep the ambitious cost savings promises that were made four years ago.

Mose Buchele / KUT

In the brutal final scene from the 2007 movie There Will Be Blood, sociopathic oilman Daniel Plainview meets his rival for the last time. If oil fields are like milkshakes, he says, it pays to have a straw that reaches all the way across the room “and starts to drink your milkshake.”

“I. Drink. Your. Milkshake,” Plainview screams maniacally. “I DRINK IT UP!”

What does that have to do with the Railroad Commission of Texas? More than you might think. That’s because the commission regulates oil and gas in Texas. Ironically, it has nothing to do with railroads.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

A lot of what you read in the news boils down to numbers. What's the unemployment rate? How's the stock market? What’s the price of a gallon of gas? When those numbers are wrong, the whole story can be wrong. That’s exactly what appears to be happening with some important numbers from the Energy Information Administration.

Image via Flickr/mwwile (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard.

You almost can’t talk about the Texas economy without mentioning the oil and gas industry. Much of the state’s wealth, and its global image, is tied to energy production. But the oil market is a fickle beast.

In a new piece for The New Yorker, staff writer and native Texan Lawrence Wright tracks the boom and bust cycles of the state’s energy industry, and looks at whether the state’s fortunes might always be beholden to black gold.

Mengwen Cao / KUT

One of the many things Donald Trump promised during his campaign was that he would boost the country’s coal industry. Soon after he won the presidency, though, it became clear to some experts that the future of coal in the U.S. was dim; that natural gas, wind and solar were pushing it out of the market.

The coal industry found an ally in Trump’s pick to helm the Department of Energy: former Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Courtesy of Lorne Matalon

From Texas Standard:

The Permian Basin in West Texas — already the nation's highest-producing oilfield — is seeing a surge in production, and drillers are extracting more crude oil than refiners here can handle. But now, oil companies in the basin have new outlets for that oil, and it's having an economic impact hundreds of miles away.

"This is not a bubble; this is real growth,” Port of Corpus Christi vessel traffic controller Mike Stineman says as he scans real-time navigation charts. Radio chatter between vessels, the Coast Guard and the Vessel Control Center provide a nonstop audio backdrop for Stineman's day-to-day work.

Aindrila Mukhopadhyay/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

President Donald Trump addressed thousands of people in Warsaw, Poland, Thursday, focusing, in part, on the nation's dependence on Russian energy. He said Poles will not be "held hostage" anymore by the Russian energy market, and pitched U.S. energy as an alternative.

Chris Hunkeler via Flickr

The group that manages almost all of the Texas electric grid has decided it's a good idea to build out more transmission lines in West Texas. That in itself might not sound like a big deal, but the reason behind it is. KUT's Mose Buchele joins Morning Edition host Jennifer Stayton to explain.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

Building a better battery is the holy grail for people who want better technology. Now researchers at the University of Texas, Austin, say they may have found that battery — or something close. But their claims have sparked controversy.

Mengwen Cao/KUT

The U.S. Senate approved the confirmation of Rick Perry as the next secretary of the Department of Energy on Thursday. The vote was 62-37, and included the support of both Texans in the chamber, U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz

Perry will now take over the very department he famously forgot during a presidential debate in 2011 while trying to list the three he wanted to eliminate.

JayJayP/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Dallas and bankruptcy are two words you normally wouldn’t find in the same sentence. After all, Texas is practically recession-proof and Dallas has one of the fastest-growing economies among large cities in the U.S.

Lizzie Chen for KUT

Texas generates more wind power than any other state in the country. It’s a fact that a lot of people in the state like to crow about, but a new federal review of which states use the most wind as a percentage of their total electricity generation has called that into question. Texas didn’t make the top 10.

Filipa Rodriguez for KUT

Last month, power plants and wind farms in Texas did something you wouldn’t expect them to do. They offered electricity at a negative price.

That’s right. They basically offered to pay for someone to use the electricity they generate. Sounds crazy, but it's something that analysts expect will happen more and more often.


Image via Flickr/Rachel Johnson (CC BY-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

The next military conflict might not start with a bomb, but with a blackout.

National security experts have long warned that the United States’ infrastructure was vulnerable to hackers abroad. A few high profile cases have made headlines in recent years. In 2012 and 2013, Russian hackers were able to get into the U.S. public utilities and power generators to send and receive encrypted messages.

 


Flickr/Beth Cortez-Neavel (CC BY-NC 4.0)

From Texas Standard:

The Obama administration announced what it calls the Clean Power Plan — an ambitious plan to dramatically reduce carbon emissions. From an international perspective, the plan could give the United States more weight in future discussions on curbing so-called greenhouse gases. But there’s some politics here as well: The move is seen by many analysts as legacy-building, and there’s no doubt Texas is in the crosshairs.

Travis Bubenik of Marfa Public Radio has been following this for Inside Energy. Bubenik sat down with The Texas Standard to discuss President Obama's new Clean Power Plan.

The U.S. is in the middle of an oil drilling boom that few people saw coming. After decades of decline, crude oil production is rising again. Technologies such as hydraulic fracturing in places such as North Dakota are getting a lot of attention. But the Gulf of Mexico still accounts for more than one-fifth of domestic oil production.

Louis Vest via Texas Tribune

GALENA PARK — In this city east of Houston, petrochemical facilities are a common part of the landscape and a major engine for the local economy.

But they can also be heavy emitters of what the Environmental Protection Agency labels “toxic air pollutants,” such as benzene, which have been linked to health problems like cancer, reproductive problems and birth defects. And at times, the facilities can emit huge amounts of pollution that normally wouldn't be allowed, but are exempt from rules because they happen only when facilities are starting up, shutting down or malfunctioning. 

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