Energy & Environment
6:15 am
Mon December 23, 2013

How Much Energy Do We Use at the Holidays?

The holidays can mean lumps of coal - not in stockings, but in power plants.

The holidays are here and it might surprise people how energy-intensive they can be. Commentator Michael Webber is keeping a list - and checking it twice - on some ways we burn fuel this time of year.

For starters: There's the energy involved in travel to visit family – those long road trips over the hills and through the woods to visit Grandma, plane flights, even train travel.

Then there's the energy for heating our homes during cold weather. In the northeast that's likely fuel oil; gas in the Southwest; and electricity in the South. Then there are all those presents!

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Energy & Environment
7:54 am
Wed November 27, 2013

LISTEN: What's the Carbon Footprint of Your Thanksgiving Dinner?

The traditional Thanksgiving fixings cost a lot of energy to produce - and consume.

As you sit down to Thanksgiving dinner, consider this: how much energy it takes to produce and consume that food.

Throughout the year, transportation is responsible for 28 percent of our energy consumption. And there's a non-trivial bump right around Thanksgiving time. According to USA Today, more than 25 million people in the United States are expected to fly for the Thanksgiving holiday. 

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7:08 am
Wed November 27, 2013

Israel Dreams Of A Future As An Oil Producer

Givot Olam CEO Tovia Luskin expects to drill 40 wells and build a pipeline to a refinery on the coast. The company already has "proven and probable" reserves of 12.5 million barrels of oil. Luskin chose where to drill based on a passage from the Bible.
Emily Harris/ NPR

Originally published on Sun December 1, 2013 7:51 am

There's an old joke that if Moses had turned right when he led Jewish tribes out of Egypt, Israel might be where Saudi Arabia is today — and be rich from oil. Consultant Amit Mor of Eco Energy says that joke is out of date.

"Israel has more oil than Saudi Arabia," he claims. "And it's not a joke."

But that oil will be difficult to reach, if it can be recovered at all. The oil he's talking about is not yet liquid but is trapped in rocks underground.

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2:23 pm
Tue November 26, 2013

Should Texas Pay Power Companies Just For Opening New Plants?

The Public Utility Commission of Texas is proposing a change to the way the state’s electricity market is run. But some lawmakers have voiced concerns.
Jessie Wang for KUT News

The Public Utility Commission of Texas is proposing a change to the way the state’s electricity market is run. And some lawmakers voiced concerns during a public hearing at the Capitol yesterday.

The Texas Senate Natural Resources Committee hosted a hearing to question the Public Utility Commission, or PUC, about the possible change to the market.

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Energy & Environment
2:00 pm
Fri November 1, 2013

Round Rock Schools Are Saving Big Just By Turning Off Computers

Round Rock ISD estimates it could cut down 2.4 million kilowatt-hours per year.

Most computer users are familiar with sleep mode. But the Round Rock Independent School District has found the value in shutting their computers down completely.

The school district is expected to save an estimated $251,000 annually by using a program that automatically shuts computers down after 6 p.m. Over 30,000 desktops and laptops are automatically shut down, drastically cutting energy costs.

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2:45 pm
Thu October 31, 2013

How Zombie Movies Reflect Our Fears on Energy and the Environment

Let’s talk zombies. Can’t kill them. Can’t eat them. What are we to the living dead? 

No longer merely the province of Halloween season, nowadays zombies proliferate in American pop culture, from books to TV to film.

Dr. Michael Webber, deputy director of UT’s Energy Institute, says there’s good reason for the persistence of zombies – and it has a lot to do with how we think about power. 

Energy – or the lack thereof – is always a sign of post-apocalyptic and zombie culture. Loss of energy inevitably leads to resource wars among the apocalypse’s survivors. From “The Walking Dead” to “World War Z,” the main drive is often for fuel, water, or power.

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Energy & Environment
3:45 pm
Tue September 17, 2013

In Energy Efficiency Report, Austin Gets High Marks

An Austin Energy lineman makes a repair in the West Campus. Austin recently ranked sixth in a study of the most energy efficient U.S. cities.
I-Hwa Cheng for KUT News

Texas policymakers searching for ways to curb energy use across their rapidly growing state might want to examine efforts in their capital city.

Austin is among large U.S. cities doing the most to conserve energy, according to a study released Tuesday by a national group that promotes energy efficiency. The Washington D.C.-based American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy analyzed conservation efforts across the country’s 34 most populous cities, ranking Austin sixth behind Boston, Portland, New York City, San Francisco and Seattle.

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Energy & Environment
9:58 am
Wed September 4, 2013

ERCOT Says Plenty Of Electricity Available Through Winter

Flickr user jetsandzeppelins cc

Originally published on Wed September 4, 2013 9:04 am

Texas is expected to have sufficient levels of stored power to serve peak demands this fall and winter. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas released its Seasonal Assessment of Resource Adequacy on Tuesday.

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83rd Texas Legislature
10:54 am
Tue May 28, 2013

83rd Lege's Regular Session: What Happened, What Didn't

Bob Daemmrich/Marjorie Kamys Cotera/Todd Wiseman via Texas Tribune

It's been a whirlwind of an end to the 83rd Legislature's regular session, and with Monday's announcement of a special session, lawmakers aren't done. Here's a look at the deals reached and the measures that fell short during the 140 days of the regular session. 


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8:26 am
Wed February 13, 2013

Texas Watches State of the Union with an Eye on Energy

U.S. President Barack Obama speaking to a crowd in Austin in 2010.
Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

Even before the President’s State of the Union Address was over last night, some environmental and renewable energy groups were sending out congratulatory emails.

“We thank President Obama for his leadership” read one from the Solar Energy Industries Association. The speech outlined “clean energy solutions”  said the group Environment Texas.

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5:42 pm
Thu February 7, 2013

Gas Prices Rise 14 Cents From Last Week

Pump prices are higher than usual for this time of year.
Erik Reyna/KUT News

Gas prices are up. Across Texas, regular is up 14 cents this week, according to AAA's Fuel Gauge Price Report. In Austin, average prices were up by almost 15 cents to $3.36.

Oil analyst Tom Kloza says prices often rise and fall with the seasons, but these are the highest gas prices Americans have seen for this time of year.

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6:51 am
Wed February 6, 2013

How Much Protection Do Texas Utilities Need From Lawsuits?

In Houston, a biker crosses a utility right-of-way.
Dave Fehling, StateImpact Texas

New legislation that’s been introduced in Austin is supposed to help build a lot more hike and bike trails. It would do that by using those long ribbons of green space called “rights of way”, what are now used by big, utility transmission lines.

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4:55 pm
Tue January 15, 2013

Austin Energy Issues Record Solar Rebates in 2012

A solar panel installation on a home in Austin. Austin Energy had a record year for rebates in 2012.

Rebates for solar panels prompted more people than ever to install them in their homes last year. Austin Energy says it issued 463 rebates in fiscal 2012. That was the highest number ever, breaking the previous record by 40 percent.

The increase came even though Austin Energy decreased the amount of the rebate its lowest ever in June: $2 per watt. 

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4:59 pm
Thu January 3, 2013

Wind Industry Secures Tax Credit, But Damage May Be Done

Wind turbines dwarf a church near Wilson, Kan. Although Congress voted to extend a wind energy tax credit, the temporary uncertainty dealt a blow to the industry.
Charlie Riedel AP

Originally published on Thu January 3, 2013 5:10 pm

The wind energy industry is dependent on something even more unpredictable than wind: Congress. Hidden in the turmoil over the "fiscal cliff" compromise was a tax credit for wind energy.

Uncertainty over the credit had lingered long before the last-minute political push, causing the industry to put off further long-term planning. So while the now-approved tax credit revives prospects for an industry facing tens of thousands of layoffs, don't expect to see many new turbines coming up soon.

Growing Uncertainty

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7:59 am
Mon December 24, 2012

Forget Fracking: 2012 Was A Powerful Year For Renewables

Wind turbines stand alongside an electrical tower at the National Wind Technology Center, run by the U.S. Department of Energy, outside Boulder, Colo.
Brennan Linsley AP

Originally published on Mon January 7, 2013 10:44 am

Natural gas may have reshaped the domestic energy market in 2012, lowering energy prices and marginalizing the coal industry, but America's shale boom hasn't undermined renewables.

In fact, while analysts were paying attention to fracking this year, a record number of solar panels were being slapped on roofs — enough to produce 3.2 gigawatts of electricity.

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4:51 pm
Mon November 12, 2012

Despite ‘Green’ Label, Austin a Growing Oil and Gas Hub

About 175 people attended a happy hour held by the Austin Petroleum Exploration Society on Nov. 1. Austin is increasingly becoming an oil and gas hub.
Callie Richmond for Texas Tribune

Subjects like solar panels and smart-grid technologies become a topic of discussion at plenty of Austin happy hours. But when dozens of people gathered at a lakeside bar earlier this month, the talk drifted toward oil prices, shale plays and hydraulic fracturing.

“When you think Austin, you don’t think oil and gas,” said David Tovar, a geoscience technician at Three Rivers, an oil and gas company based in Austin, as he held a pint of Texas brew. The native Texan ended up at Three Rivers after graduating from the University of Texas at Austin with a geological sciences degree.

Despite its “Keep Austin Weird” slogan and passion for clean energy, Austin is increasingly attracting oil and gas companies like Three Rivers, a small firm founded in 2009 that focuses on oil development in West Texas and New Mexico, aided by the high oil prices of recent years. Austin’s oil industry, about 4,000 workers strong, is still dwarfed by Houston and Dallas. But the city’s entrepreneurial bent and reputation as an attractive place to live, along with the top-tier petroleum engineering program at UT, have trumped the fact that Austin is far from the oilfields.

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2:52 pm
Wed October 3, 2012

Report Finds Texas 'Energy Inefficient'

Texas wasn't ranked very high in energy efficiency according to ACEEE Scorecard

The ACEEE (American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy) has released its 2012 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard. According to their findings, Texas didn't do so well.

The report ranks the 50 states and the District of Columbia according to their policies and programs regarding the use of energy in buildings, transportation, and industry. This year, Texas is ranked #33

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Austin Energy
9:35 am
Mon October 1, 2012

Your Electric Bill Is Going Up. Today.

Don't touch the thermostat: A long-delayed Austin Energy rate change goes into effect today.

Effective today, Austin's electric bills will be increasing an average of seven percent. Austin Energy is increasing its rates and updating it's electric rate structure this October. The Austin City Council approved the increase in June.

The good news is that it's getting colder, so the average user won't see much of an increase. Austin Energy estimates average users will only increase $3-$29 during the non-summer months.

The company has also reduced the time frame of their summer rate from six months to four months. However during the summer months (June to September), average users could see increases of $13 to  $44.

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11:33 am
Mon July 16, 2012

Austin's Pecan Street Project on PBS NewsHour

The Pecan Street Project underway in the Mueller community has received national attention.

The Pecan Street Project – a demonstration “smart grid” energy system in the emerging Mueller development – was featured on the PBS NewsHour.

Charles Upshaw, a mechanical engineering graduate student working on the project, told StateImpact Texas the initiative is ”a collaboration between the University of Texas, the City of Austin, Austin Energy and a bunch of companies. In order to really test, and have a real world kind of experiment with high density residential solar, they have offered additional incentives to the [Mueller homeowners] on top of the Austin energy rebate and the federal rebate, so the people in Mueller have an opportunity to get solar really cheaply.”

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12:24 pm
Mon June 25, 2012

AISD Offices Operating on Summer Schedule

AISD Headquarters and other offices will be operating on a four-day week starting today.
KUT News

A temporary schedule change for Austin ISD schools and offices goes into effect today. AISD says the change is an effort to cut energy usage this summer.

Starting today and running through July 27, AISD offices will be closed on Fridays. Employees will work 10-hour days Monday through Thursday. Office hours will be 7 a.m to 6 p.m.

Schools and offices will be completely closed the week of July 2.

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