Mose Buchele

Senior Reporter, StateImpact Texas

Mose Buchele is the Austin-based broadcast reporter for KUT's NPR partnership StateImpact Texas . He has been on staff at KUT 90.5  since 2009, covering local and state issues.  Mose has also worked as a blogger on politics and an education reporter at his hometown paper in Western Massachusetts. He holds masters degrees in Latin American Studies and Journalism from UT Austin.

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Energy & Environment
10:11 am
Tue November 25, 2014

How Underground Sensors in Texas Will Help NASA Predict Drought and Floods

Soil moisture meters across the state could one day help predict weather patterns across the state.
Photo courtesy of Richard Casteel

From StateImpact Texas:

Stanley Rabke’s family has lived and worked on their Hill Country ranch since 1889. Generations of Rabkes have struggled with the extremes of Texas weather, but one storm sticks out in Stanley’s memory: it came after the drought of the 1950s.

“It rained and rained and rained,” he says. “Back then we raised turkeys, we lost thousands of turkeys that washed away in the creek.”

The disaster underscores an irony of life in Texas. “You hope and pray that you’re going to get a good rain, [but] on the other side of it, you hope you don’t get a flood,” says Rabke.

A quick walk from where the turkeys met their fate, some new technology that will help manage that risk is being installed — soil monitoring sensors in the ground.

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Austin
5:06 pm
Mon November 24, 2014

Players Closes Its Doors

In its final day of operation, the line in front of Players stretched out the door and through the parking lot.
Photo by Mose Buchele

A longtime fixture of the UT campus area closes its doors today. Players restaurant has served generations of UT students, state employees and others from its location at MLK and Guadalupe. 

Today, the lunch rush felt almost like the receiving line at a funeral, as the string of people that stretched out the door and into the parking lot traded memories and said their goodbyes.

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Border & Immigration
9:54 am
Mon November 24, 2014

Outreach Begins For Immigrants Who May Be Wary to Come 'Out of the Shadows'

A student on the UT-Austin campus protests the deportation of undocumented immigrants.
Photo by Jorge Corona

The specifics of how undocumented people will register under the immigration overhaul announced by President Obama last week that would bring nearly 5 million immigrants "out of the shadows" are still unclear.  But some groups in Austin are already reaching out to people who may benefit.  

Bill Beardall is with the Equal Justice Center, one of the groups organizing a series of educational forums for immigrants that start this week.   He says after this kind of policy change, immigrants are often initially reluctant to register.

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Energy & Environment
11:39 am
Thu November 20, 2014

Keystone XL or Not, Canadian Crude Already Shipping Out From U.S.

While efforts to build out the Keystone XL pipeline have stalled in Congress, Canadian crude oil is still being shipped internationally from the Texas Gulf Coast.
Photo courtesy flickr.com/shannonpatrick17

Congress’ attempts to force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline have re-ignited debate over the project, which would allow more crude oil to flow from the tar sands of Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast.  It’s also re-ignited debate over what could happen to that oil once it gets to Texas.

President Obama and opponents of the pipeline say it will be used as a funnel to export Canadian crude to international markets. TransCanada, the company building the pipeline, has been unequivocal when asked about that.

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Energy & Environment
10:22 am
Tue November 18, 2014

Texas Grid Operator Says Clean Energy Plan Could Raise Bills and Lead to Blackouts

The agency in charge of running the state's energy grid says the EPA's plan to reduce carbon emissions could put strain on the grid and raise rates for consumers.
Mose Buchele/StateImpact Texas

The clean energy plan put forth by the Environmental Protection Agency aims to combat climate change by reducing the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by power plants.  But it may come at a price, according to a report released Monday by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the group that manages much of Texas electric grid.

The report says electricity bills could rise as much as 20 percent because of the carbon reduction goals, adding that the goals could also endanger electric reliability. Part of that is due to the way the plan would change Texas' energy mix.  

“What we found is that the likely impact of the clean power plan is going to be the retirement of a significant portion of the coal-fired capacity in ERCOT," says ERCOT Director of System Planning Warren Lasher.

The goal of the EPA’s clean energy plan is to reduce Texas carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

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Austin
10:05 am
Mon November 17, 2014

Check Out the High-End Golf Course Proposed For East Austin Tonight

Courtesy of the City of Austin

A plan to turn 735 acres of East Austin parkland into a high-end golf course will get a public airing this evening. The City of Austin is hosting a meeting on the proposal for Walter E. Long park from 4:30 to 7:30 at the Morris Williams Golf Course at 3851 Manor Road

The city says the plan will bring jobs and tourist money to the east side. Under the proposal, developers would pay to build and maintain the course and give the city a cut of the revenue. That appeals to the Parks Department which doesn’t currently do upkeep on the land.

But there’s opposition.  Some residents don’t think Austin should give up so much space to a costly sport that a lot of people don’t play. The parkland is in Austin's City Council District 1. Ora Houston, the front-runner for the District 1 seat opposes the plan and has asked the City to postpone a vote until after the new council is seated.

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Climate Change
4:13 pm
Wed November 12, 2014

Climate Deal Puts Spotlight on Carbon Capture Technology

A new deal between the U.S. and China would reduce carbon emissions from the two countries over the coming years.
Credit Jonathan Warner/Flickr

The deal that the U.S. and China have struck to curb carbon emissions has been hailed as a breakthrough by many concerned with climate change, and panned by politicians opposed to President Obama. But it's also captured the interest of a group of researchers -- some in Texas -- who specialize in carbon capture and sequestration technology.

The deal is short on specifics. But it commits the U.S. and China to continue investing in carbon capture, use and storage. That’s technology that filters CO2 from coal power plants and then pumps the carbon underground. Texas has been doing it for decades to get oil out of the ground in a process called enhanced oil recovery.

“It’s always poor form for Texas to do too much boasting, but the source of expertise for injecting CO2 for enhanced oil recovery lies mostly in Texas," says Susan Hovorka, a senior researcher scientist at UT’s Bureau of Economic Geology, who works on carbon sequestration.

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Energy & Environment
2:36 pm
Thu November 6, 2014

Denton Voted To Ban Fracking. So Now What?

A natural gas production facility in Denton, Texas.
Credit Mose Buchele/KUT

  This week Denton, Texas became the first city in the state to ban fracking within its city limits. The ban passed with nearly 59 percent of the vote.

Many in Denton worry about how fracking and associated activities impact their health and quality of life.  But opponents say the ban is bad for the economy. The drilling industry, which pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into the campaign against the ban, is concerned with the precedent Denton could set for other Texas towns.

Just hours after the vote, the Texas Oil and Gas Association (TxOGA) filed a legal challenge to the ban, as did the Texas General Land office with a suit.

There may be more legal challenges on the way.

The TxOGA lawsuit asserts that "the public policy of Texas is to encourage the full and effective exploitation of our mineral resources," says Tom Phillips, a lawyer with Baker Botts who is working on the challenge.

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Texas
8:05 am
Wed November 5, 2014

Amid Oil Boom, Texas Votes On Who Holds the Reins of Regulation

Steve Brown, left, and Ryan Sitton, right, are the two major party candidate for the Railroad Commission of Texas.
Credit GRAPHIC COURTESY OF THE TEXAS TRIBUNE

Update: Ryan Sitton defeated Steve Brown in the race for Railroad Commissioner 58.31 percent to 36.49 percent.

Original Story (Nov. 4, 4:14 p.m.): An empty seat on a strangely-named state regulatory agency usually flies under the radar of voters. But the race to serve on the Railroad Commission of Texas has gained additional attention and importance this election. That’s because whoever wins will not oversee railroads, as the name suggests, but will regulate the Texas oil and gas industry. It’s an industry in the midst of a boom that’s transforming global energy markets and pumping billions into the Texas economy.

The two major party candidates competing for the seat offer starkly different visions for what the job entails.

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Energy & Environment
9:29 am
Tue October 21, 2014

Voters Cast Ballots in First Ever Push to Ban Fracking in Texas

A natural gas well is drilled in the city of Denton, Texas.
Mose Buchele/KUT

From StateImpact Texas:

For Cathy McMullen, the reasons to ban fracking in Denton are as obvious at the drilling rig that sits on the corner of Masch Branch and Hampton Road on the northwest side of town. It’s big, it’s noisy, and she believes it vents toxic emissions into the community. The site is, however, not very close to any houses.

“I’ll show you where this exact same thing was sitting by someone’s home,” she says.

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Oil
12:50 pm
Tue October 14, 2014

Will Low Oil Prices Rattle The Texas Economy?

The benchmark price of oil is lower than it has been in four years.
Photo by MIRA OBERMAN/AFP/Getty Images

From StateImpact Texas:

The benchmark price of U.S. crude hovers around $85 a barrel. That’s lower than it's been in four years and $15 below where it was a year ago. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Economic growth has stalled internationally – This has slowing the demand for oil, but oil supplies are increasing thanks to the shale boom in the U.S. and the fact that OPEC – the cartel that sets prices internationally – has not cut production.
  •  The dollar is strong – The higher valuation of U.S. currency means that oil prices are down but –because the dollar’s also at a four-year high – the oil is still pricey, driving down demand.
  • Speculators are betting on prices to drop – Weekly production of oil is expected to reach a 45-year high next year, the market’s going bearish, driving the prices down.

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Healthcare
10:05 am
Tue October 7, 2014

Flu Vaccine Delivery Delayed to Some Texas Providers

Some health providers are receiving the flu vaccine later than usual this year.
Credit Photo by Sanofi Pasteur http://www.flickr.com/photos/sanofi-pasteur/

Students and employees at the University of Texas at Austin will be able to get flu shots on campus today. But the vaccine has arrived later than usual.

“The campaign was planned to kick off September the 23, but we were unable to get sufficient vaccine at that time, so our first clinic was October second,” says Sherry Bell an outreach coordinator with UT Austin health services.

The University is one of many places in the US and Canada to see delays in the delivery of the vaccine this year.  The hold up has been blamed on regulatory action against some vaccine manufacturers, and the slow growth of one strain of flu.

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Austin
4:15 pm
Sat October 4, 2014

Austin Patient 'Does Not Meet the Risk Profile' For Ebola

Credit Todd Wiseman/Phil Moyer via Texas Tribune

  Early Saturday morning a patient was transferred to Seton Medical Center Austin with "some symptoms that could be associated with the Ebola virus." According to a press release from the hospital, "the patient had recently traveled in West Africa, but not in one of the affected countries." 

After a review of the patient's history, lab testing and an examination, the Texas Department of State Health and Human Services decided that "the patient does not meet the risk profile for Ebola testing."   

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oil boom
3:17 pm
Fri September 26, 2014

Will Mexican Drilling Bring Texas Profit?

The oil and gas rich Eagle Ford Shale formation straddles both sides of the Texas / Mexico border.
Credit Eddie Seal, Texas Tribune

  Today, members of the state House Energy Resources Committee met in the Rio Grande Valley town of Edinburg to discuss how a partial privatization of Mexico’s oil and gas sector could impact the Texas economy. 

Until this year, drilling in Mexico was run by Pemex, a state-owned company.  A change in Mexican law has now partially opened the county to foreign business. That could be a big opportunity for Texas companies familiar with the oil and gas rich Eagle Ford shale that straddles the border.

Some estimates have already said a shale boom in Mexico could grow the Texas economy by tens of billions of dollars. Others say it's too early to tell. 

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Energy & Environment
12:11 pm
Thu September 25, 2014

Fewer Atlantic Hurricanes Hint at Summer's Continuously Elusive El Niño

Hurricane Sandy, pictured, churns off the east coast on October 28, 2012 in the Atlantic Ocean.
NASA, via Getty Images

From StateImpact Texas:

There’s a good chance of an El Niño weather pattern forming by the end of the year. That could be good for easing or even ending the Texas drought. But it’s not a sure thing.

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environment
5:03 pm
Tue September 23, 2014

What Does Fossil Fuel Divestment Mean For Texas?

Divestment has become a popular topic on college campuses and some boardrooms.But it will likely have trouble taking hold in oil rich parts of the state.
Credit PHOTO BY MIRA OBERMAN/AFP/GETTY IMAGE

This week in New York, the UN Climate Summit is underway.

The Rockefeller Foundation made news with the announcement that it will divest close to a billion dollars from fossil fuels. Here in Austin, University of Texas President Bill Powers gave his State of the University address Monday. But in contrast to the news from New York, Powers thanked "heavens" for the oil wealth provided to UT by its land holdings, and celebrated the fracking revolution as "good news" for the University.

The disconnect between the two messages leads one to wonder about the role of the divestment campaign in oil-rich parts of the country. Could divestment in other parts of the country grow to the point where it disrupts Texas' fossil fuel economy? By contrast, could divestment ever catch on here?

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Austin Energy
1:32 pm
Wed September 17, 2014

How a Cooler Summer Cost Austin Energy $16.5 Million

Austin Energy earns 40 percent of its revenue in the summer months.
flickr.com/pyxopotamus

Aside from the month of August, this summer has been relatively cool as far as Texas summers go.

With that reprieve from stifling heat came an unanticipated gap in revenue for utility providers, and it's forced Austin Energy – which earns nearly half of its revenue in the hottest months of the year – to reexamine its budget.

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Energy & Environment
11:26 am
Tue September 16, 2014

Research Links Drilling Activities to Water Contamination in North Texas

The study explored different scenarios that may have accounted for elevated methane in the groundwater.
Courtesy of Thomas Darrah, OSU

For years, some residents of Parker County in North Texas have believed that nearby gas drilling was responsible for high levels of methane in neighborhood water wells. Research published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences appears to back that up.

The study looked at water contamination in Texas and Pennsylvania. It suggests that faulty cement jobs on drilling wells could be at fault in North Texas. Cement is poured between the rock wall and the steel tubing of oil and gas wells to block contaminants.

“We think either there isn’t enough cement in this location or more likely there are cracks or imperfections in that cement. That’s what allowed the strong gas to move up through the well and then out into peoples drinking water,” says Robert Jackson, a professor of environmental sciences at Stanford, who co-authored of the study.

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Texas
2:55 pm
Fri September 12, 2014

Three Earthquakes Rattle Texas So Far This Week

Regulators are trying to craft rules to respond to the dramatic uptick in quakes
Credit OLIVER BERG / DPA/LANDOV

It’s been a shaky week in Texas with two small earthquakes rattling the Dallas-Fort Worth area and another slightly more powerful quake detected in South Texas.

On Sunday, the first quake measuring magnitude 2.4 struck near Arlington. It prompted some residents to call 9-1-1 after feeling their houses shake and hearing “explosions,” according to the Fort Worth Star Telegram.

Earthquakes are often accompanied by loud “booms,” something that has become a source of anxiety in newly quake-prone parts of the state.

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Energy & Environment
12:35 pm
Thu September 11, 2014

El Nino Flies Under the Radar in Summer, But Could It Still Bring a Wetter Texas Winter?

El Nino hasn't brought the wet summer promised by some meteorologists, but it could bring Texas rains this fall and winter.
Huma Munir/KUT News

Earlier this year Lower Colorado River Authority meteorologist Bob Rose, liked what he was seeing in the forecast.  

“I’m optimistic that we will get into a pattern of above normal rainfall this fall continuing into next winter and possibly into next spring as well,” he said in April.

Bur since this April things changed.

After much ado, the El Nino predicted by many meteorologists hasn’t quite showed itself in the form rainfall yet. While there’s still a chance it could strengthen before the summer’s end, it’s not likely it will meet its initial forecasted fury. 

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