Energy & Environment

Photo illustration by Martin do Nascimento / KUT

Scrolling through Twitter is not for everyone, but if it's the kind of thing you’re into you’re likely to come across many tweets that make no sense. A few weeks ago one of them said this: “Curve Crunch: WTI flips to contango. Backwardation banished!”

What could this mean?

Courtesy of Mike Bergin

Solar power is one of the fastest growing energy sources in the world. Whether from massive utility-scale solar farms or residential rooftop panels, you can expect to see more solar in the future.

But scientists have identified something that can really hurt the performance of those panels: air pollution.

Filipa Rodrigues / KUT

After an explosion at a fertilizer plant killed 15 people in West, Texas, in 2013, the EPA created new safety protections for the storage of dangerous chemicals. Now, at the urging of the industry, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is delaying those rules until 2019.

Octavio Aburto-Oropeza

Fish can breathe under water. They’re great swimmers. But they’re not really known for their singing.

But they do sing – kind of. And now scientists on the Texas Gulf Coast are hoping that fact can help sustain their populations.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Texas leads the country in wind energy production and, because of the way the state’s electric grid is set up, most of that power stays right here. But a plan that would allow the state to make money exporting wind and solar power is moving slowly. 

Qiling Wang for KUT

Judging from how hot it has been, this year could end up being Austin’s hottest ever. Heat impacts health, happiness and the environment. So the city is trying a simple approach to reducing it: planting trees.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

Depending on what thermometer you’re looking at, this year’s average temperature has been between 5 and 7 degrees hotter than usual so far in Austin. That could set 2017 up to be one of Austin’s hottest years ever.  People who research climate change already know a lot about how warmer temperatures disrupt human activity. But hot days may have an impact on our mental health that we’re only just starting to understand.

Jorge Sanhueza Lyon / KUT

More people in Texas drink from water systems that are in violation of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act than any other state in the country,  according to a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

The City of Austin has unveiled a new blueprint for its zoning overhaul, known as CodeNEXT – a plan aims to manage growth and transportation challenges by rewriting Austin's land-use code.

But critics say, for a city that prides itself on its environmentalism, Austin has failed to take into account one important thing in CodeNEXT: the future impact of climate change.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. for KUT

The population boom in Central Texas has brought a lot of challenges to the region – some expected, some less so. One question you may not have considered is what happens to all the extra sewage water produced by the growing population. Now, a bill at the state Capitol hopes to answer that very question.

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

The only peregrine falcon that lives year-round in Central Texas makes her home in a wooden box on the UT Tower. More than a month ago, the bird laid a clutch of eggs. But, as the weeks passed, it became unlikely that the eggs would hatch. So, the university agreed to remove the eggs for research. 

Louis Vest via Texas Tribune

Since Republicans took full control of Washington, Central Texas Congressman Lamar Smith has become a leading voice in setting the party's agenda when it comes to science and environmental regulation. But some worry that agenda could have a chilling effect on research and policy. 

Eddie Seal / Texas Tribune

The risk of damaging manmade earthquakes striking the Dallas-Fort Worth area is substantially lower than it was last year, according to a new earthquake hazard map released this week by the U.S. Geological Survey.

flickr.com/wallyg

Republicans in Washington are planning to make good on promises to roll back federal regulations on everything from mining pollution to consumer protections for credit card holders.

To do it, they are using an obscure legislative tactic that’s been successful only once in history – a tactic has some legal scholars worried.

Ilana Panich-Linsman for KUT

This week has been a dizzying one for people working to understand and combat global warming.

Tweets on climate change from the account of the Badlands National Park were deleted. Plans to scrub climate information from Environmental Protection Agency websites were walked back by the Trump administration. Then, news broke that the budget for the EPA may be cut by $1 billion dollars.

Ben Philpott / KUT

Today, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry goes before the U.S. Senate for his confirmation hearing in the hopes of becoming the next secretary of the Department of Energy. 

Of course, Perry famously derailed his presidential bid in 2011 by forgetting the department’s name even as he vowed to abolish it in a GOP primary debate. But, while the former governor may have been – and, according to a New York Times report, may still be – fuzzy on the agency's purview, he is certainly not the only one.

flickr/senor_codo

With little fanfare the Environmental Protection Agency released a new environmental rule last week that would limit sulphur dioxide pollution from power plants as part of the EPA's Cross-State Air Pollution Rule.

Lizzie Chen for KUT

A group of researchers from UT Austin says they’ve created a way to measure the true cost of power in the hopes of guiding America’s energy future.

The study takes into account the fact that the price we pay on our electric bill does not always reflect electricity’s true cost. Some power is subsidized. Some electric sources create public health and environmental problems that aren’t included in the cost.  Then there’s the expense of building and maintaining infrastructure to consider. 

Daniel Reese for KUT News

To say President-elect Donald Trump's incoming administration has public health and environmental advocates worried may be an understatement.  Like a lot of Republicans, Trump wants to roll back environmental protections and some people are already protesting his positions in the streets.

But, beyond protest, how will these groups push their agendas under the next administration? 

Eddie Seal / Texas Tribune

During the presidential campaign Donald Trump made a lot of promises about boosting America’s oil, gas and coal industries. Now that he is set to become president, Americans will find those promises easier to make than to keep.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Hundreds of demonstrators marched through downtown yesterday afternoon during rush hour to protest the construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline in North Dakota.

Protesters gathered support for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which has fought construction of the pipeline because of its proximity to both its tribal lands and its water supply.

flickr/senor_codo

After years of legal battles, the Environmental Protection Agency has started the process of removing Texas from a list of states that need to comply with requirements of one of its air pollution rules.

Photo by Keystone Pipeline System

After last week’s presidential election, the company that owns the Keystone XL pipeline said it was interested in finishing out the project. The pipeline was originally planned to carry oil from the tar sands of Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast, but the part linking up the pipe on the U.S. border with Canada was stopped by President Obama.

Eddie Seal/Texas Tribune

As soon as five years from now, global demand for oil might stop growing. That prediction may not seem surprising, if it came from an environmental group, but when oil giant Shell said as much in a recent conference call, it caused a stir.  Oil companies don’t usually talk publicly about people losing interest in their product.

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