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

Ivan Pierre Aguirre / Texas Tribune

There’s almost enough pipeline transporting crude oil and other chemicals buried under Texas to reach the moon and back. Last week, one small section of that infrastructure in Bastrop County was damaged by a maintenance crew. The result was a spill of more than 50,000 gallons of crude oil.

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.

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.

Mose Buchele / KUT

The legacy of Austin’s polluting past still lives in its soil. Parcels of land, especially on the city’s East Side, carry contamination from businesses and industries that long ago closed up shop. For the last several years, the city has had federal help cleaning up some of the land for new uses.

But now that funding is under threat. The program that provides the grants would be slashed by 30 percent under the Trump administration's proposed budget.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

As greenhouse gasses heat the atmosphere, we can expect more severe floods and droughts. That could be trouble for critical infrastructure like bridges and roads in many cities, including here in Central Texas.

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.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Gas prices could hit a 12-year low this summer. That’s as much as 40 cents lower than analysts thought they’d be in some parts of the country.

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

American Chemical Society

Researchers mounted air pollution monitors on Google cars driving around to record images for the tech giant's Street View maps. The result, they say, is a new way to measure and track air quality.

Mose Buchele / KUT

Coal is one of the big reasons President  Trump has ended the U.S. commitment to the Paris climate accord. He says ending a pledge to reduce CO2 emissions could help reinvigorate the coal industry. So we decided to ask people in the one coal-producing area of Central Texas what they thought of the decision. 

Courtesy of Austin Energy

Austin Energy responded Friday to accusations raised by the Travis Audubon Society that it was knocking down Monk parakeet nests from energy poles during the birds' nesting season.

“When we do remove a nest, our crews will only be working on nests that are up in the energized space," Chief Operating Officer Elaina Ball told reporters gathered at the intersection of Pleasant Valley and Riverside Drive, where the parakeets have built a cluster of nests.

Andrew Harnik / AP

The U.S. will withdraw from the international climate agreement known as the Paris accord, President Trump announced Thursday. He said the U.S. will negotiate either re-entering the agreement or a work on a new deal that would put American workers first.

During his campaign, Trump vowed to "cancel" U.S. participation in the deal. World leaders and business figures had recently urged him to reconsider. Ultimately, the president decided to withdraw.

Courtesy of Christine Hawkes

Christine Hawkes says her work isn’t all that glamorous.

“Sometimes when people ask me what my job is, I say 'digging holes,'” she says. "You know? It’s a lot of what I do is just digging up soil.”

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez

Ask Texas State Demographer Lloyd Potter what caught his attention in a recent release of census data for Texas cities, and he’ll tell you: Houston, in Harris County.

“In the past three or four years, prior to the [2015-16] set of estimates, Harris County was the most significant growing county in the country numerically,” he says.

The City of Austin was selected to receive two grants totaling $300,000 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help clean up brownfields, unused land that may be contaminated with hazardous chemicals.

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.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

It’s still a long time before the congressional midterm elections in November 2018. But a lot of candidates are already showing interest in running. And many of them are embracing an environmental message that, traditionally, has been kept on the sidelines.

Gabriel Cristóver 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. 

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