Energy & Environment

Water, energy, conservation, sustainability, WTP4, pollution, oil and gas, hydraulic fracturing (fracking), recycling, and other environmental issues related to Austin and the Central Texas counties of Travis, Hays, Caldwell, Bastrop and Williamson

Austin Requires Smart Thermostats In All New Homes

Oct 17, 2016
Matt Largey/KUT

City leaders are taking new measures to help residents cut down on their energy usage during the hottest months of the year.


Texas leads the country in wind power generation. But solar power is starting to take off. As the industry grows, KUT’s Mose Buchele takes a look at what affect it might have on your electric bill.

Todd Wiseman / Texas Tribune

Texas and 25 other states will be at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals today to lay out their case against the Clean Power Plan, the Environmental Protection Agency’s initiative to slow global warming by reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The court's decision could have longstanding implications on the future of the plan. 

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

An obsession can be dangerous. It can distract you from things that are important in life. But an obsession can also motivate you, to explore, discover and create.

For the last several days a group of men who share a singular obsession with turtles have been swimming in creeks and springs of Central Texas. 

Mose Buchele/KUT

Over the last several years, scientists, including those at the U.S. Geological Survey and the Environmental Protection Agency, have linked an increase in earthquakes in Texas to oil and gas activity. But, industry and Texas state regulators remain reluctant to publicly acknowledge it.  Now, a study that looks at the quakes from space might put more pressure on them to do so.

Matt Largey / KUT

Dara Satterfield has a unique way of looking at Monarch butterflies. She thinks of them as “tiny camels.”

Miguel Guitierrez Jr./KUT


Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez / KUT

You've probably noticed electric car charging stations popping up in parking lots across Austin. Five years ago, Austin Energy started a program called Austin EV Everywhere. What started out as 113 charging stations has doubled in number, and the utility is getting ready for more demand.

Night owls and stargazers, get ready for something spectacular on Thursday.

The annual Perseid meteor shower, already one of the most reliably impressive celestial events, promises to be especially good this year.

The Perseid shower happens every year in August "when Earth ventures through trails of debris left behind by an ancient comet," according to NASA.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUTX

It's summer in Texas. That means it's hot, but just how hot? That depends on what temperature you pay attention to.  In our reporting, we often provide two different numbers. There's  the air temperature – that's the temperature of the outdoor air in the shade. Then, there's the "heat index" – that's how hot it's supposed to feel outside, when you take humidity into account.  

Some skeptics argue that reporting those two numbers is unnecessary or even misleading. "Why bother tacking on a few extra degrees whenever you read the weather?" they might argue. "Hot is hot!"

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

Walls. They can shelter us. They can divide us. But can a wall itself become an object of curiosity? Well, one wall on the campus of UT Austin has done just that.

The earth is crumbling in West Texas. Scientists from Southern Methodist University have new research that shows two massive sinkholes between the towns of Wink and Kermit are expanding.

Years of drilling for oil and gas have helped wash away salt beds underneath the ground. A shifting water table has made the problem worse and in some places the ground is sinking five inches a year, according to the satellite readings.

Why a West Texas Nuclear Dump May Be a Short-Term Fix

Jun 28, 2016
David Bowser / Texas Tribune

A West Texas site wants to get its hands on the nation’s spent nuclear fuel. And if a National Academy of Sciences report is to be believed, this may be safer than the status quo.

Spent nuclear fuel rods are about the width of a Sharpie, a few yards long and deadly for hundreds of thousands of years. And, even after 60 years of commercial nuclear power, the Department of Energy (DOE) has no storage plan.

ERCOT Report Suggests a Bright Future for Solar in Texas

Jun 17, 2016
Austin Monitor

Right now, Texas gets most of its electricity from coal and natural gas power plants. But a new report from the agency that runs Texas’ electric grid says the way the state generates electricity could be changing in the next few years.


Somewhere in the forests of Northeast Texas there is a tree, or maybe group of trees, where an invasive species is breeding.  It’s a beetle called the emerald ash borer (EAB), and it’s wiped out forests of ash trees since it arrived in the U.S. from Asia a few decades ago. If unchecked, it has the potential to decimate trees in Texas, but there’s a plan to fight the ash borer.

And, it sounds almost like something from a horror movie. 

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT News

Austin has a goal to become a so-called “zero waste” city by 2040. That means only 10 percent of the city’s garbage can end up in a landfill.  A conference in town this week aims at helping the city meet that goal.

Environmental Protection Agency

The Obama administration has been both cheered and vilified for releasing a lot of new environmental regulations over the last few years. Texas conservative political leaders have become well-known for challenging those rules in court. But now that the clock is running down on President Obama’s second term, what’s in store for those regulations when there’s a new president in office?

Miguel Guitierrez Jr./KUT

When a lot of people suddenly notice the same thing at the same time, it might be worth looking into. This year in Central Texas that's what's happening with fireflies. There is an unusually large number of them lighting up the early evening, and people are wondering why. 

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

The Lower Colorado River Authority manages the water used in much of Central Texas and parts downstream. For most of the last several years it’s been worried about drought  – but not anymore. Earlier this week, the LCRA opened floodgates below Lake Travis for the first time since 2007 to allow excess water out. Now, the abundance of water is bringing its own set of challenges to the agency.

Texas A&M Agrilife Extension

When you think about West Texas you usually don’t think about aquatic life. But that’s exactly where some researchers have discovered a new kind of fish – or, really, rediscovered.