This is a story of two nuts: the almond and the pecan.
In the 1960s the pecan industry loomed large over the almond. But, then, something changed. Since then, the almond crop has seen a nearly 33-fold growth, while the pecan crop has seen little to no growth. But things are looking up for the once-proud pecan.
The pecan is the only commercially grown nut in Texas, and now the U.S. Department of Agriculture is agreeing with the pecan industry that it should be allowed to start something called a “federal marketing order” for the official nut of Texas.
U.S. President Barack Obama spoke in Cushing about fast tracking the Keystone pipeline from Cushing to the Gulf.
President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline provoked cheers from environmental groups, boos from rival politicians and a little bit of head scratching in the state of Texas.
“Technically, from my vernacular, the northern leg of the Keystone XL was rejected because the southern leg of the Keystone XL has been in operation since January of 2014,” said Julia Trigg in response to the news.
Trigg was one of the most visible faces in the fight against the Keystone XL in Texas. She sued TransCanada when it used eminent domain to run pipeline through her Northeast Texas
farm. But she lost that fight long before Obama’s announcement and TransCanada started running oil from Cushing, Okla., to the Texas Gulf Coast almost two years ago.
Aerial photo of the West explosion site taken several days after blast.
In Texas, some of the most deadly explosions have been caused by a substance that otherwise plays a vital role in how we grow crops: ammonium nitrate fertilizer. It’s what blew-up in the small city of West two years ago, killing 14 people. But the use of the popular chemical has suddenly dropped significantly.
Maybe you garden and know all about fertilizer. But if not, you need to know that fertilizer can be from a multitude of mixes of different chemicals.
But the one fertilizer that has caused catastrophes in the past is a product made of just one chemical: ammonium nitrate. It provides plants with nitrogen so they can thrive. But when mixed with something like diesel fuel, it becomes deadly.
A dozen smaller earthquakes have struck Dallas this week.
An inquiry by the agency that regulates the oil and gas industry in Texas has found that oil and gas activity did not likely cause a swarm of earthquakes around the north Texas towns of Azle and Reno starting in 2013. The finding, however, flies in the face of a peer-reviewed scientific study of the quakes.
The Texas Railroad Commission is the strangely named agency that regulates the state’s oil and gas activity. The agency held a hearing in June looking at whether ExxonMobil subsidiary XTO Energy contributed to the earthquakes by pumping millions of gallons of drilling and fracking wastewater into the ground.
A peer-reviewed study out of Southern Methodist University had already found that that was “most likely” the cause, adding that industry data would be vital in widening the scope of future studies. But at the hearing, agency examiners weighed that study against the evidence put on the record. XTO was the only party that offered direct evidence, and examiners found in favor of an XTO well located near Azle and Reno.
In some parts of Texas that’s bad news for almost everyone. The economic ripple effect of low prices leads to layoffs and slams the breaks on local economies. But there’s one business that’s going through a boom in oil patch right now: the repo business.
Ryan Peck says when you’re a repo man some jobs are harder than others.
A box at the Alice Food Pantry accepts prayer requests. Many people in Alice have lost jobs since the price of oil dropped.
Even before oil prices plummeted last year, the town of Alice, Texas was feeling the paincaused by a restless oil industry. Some oilfield service companies had moved operations from Alice, located near Corpus Christi, to places deeper in the Eagle Ford Shale. That cost the town jobs and tax revenue. Then, starting around Thanksgiving, the value of Texas crude dropped by more than half. More layoffs came, the real trouble started.
“A lot of people are in depression right now. And in denial,” says Bonnie Whitley, volunteer coordinator at the Alice Food Pantry. “They just can’t come to grips with what’s happened. So there’s depression and we really need some good counselors down here. Which we don’t have…”
Research looked at Golden Eagle deaths caused by wind turbines.
Texas leads the nation in wind power, but some environmentalists worry about bird deaths cause by wind turbines – typically, birds fly into the blades of the turbines.
Now, a new approach pioneered by the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hopes to decrease those fatalities by trying to calculate the probability of bird-turbine collisions, while recognizing the inherent uncertainty of the phenomenon.
The approach is basically a mathematical formula. You plug in what you know about the local bird population, and where the turbines will be built. You run the numbers and get a fatality estimate. Dr. Leslie New is an assistant professor of statistics in Washington State University. She helped create the model looking at Golden Eagles, an endangered species; though, she says the model could be used for other species like the Bald Eagle.
Obviously, killing an endangered eagle is illegal, but wind farms can apply for a permit to exempt them from prosecution under the Endangered Species Act. New says the permits provide more an on-the-ground assessment of deaths as a result of collisions, but they will also help the model in predicting patterns of eagle deaths.
ERCOT is asking Texans to conserve power until noon Friday.
We first reported in June about some so-called “fake profits” in the Texas energy industry that led to a multi-million dollar windfall for some companies. We have been following up to see what can be done to reimburse consumers for what some experts call a serious mistake in pricing electricity.
In June, News 88.7 reported how a data error may have caused a very big mistake. It was in the computer system that’s used to set the minute by minute price for electricity sold on the wholesale market in Texas.
One investor and energy trader, Adam Sinn, told us the mistake resulted in what he called “fake profits.”
“We calculated this mistake was somewhere in the ballpark of $50-plus million,” Sinn said.
With temperatures near 100 degrees, this is the time of year when we spend the most money to run our air conditioners. But are you spending more than you have to because you used the state’s Power to Choose website to pick your electricity provider?
Frank St. Claire knows numbers and contracts. He graduated from MIT and became a lawyer and did big real estate deals. He’s now retired. Which is all good to know as you consider what now is challenging his analytical abilities. He’s been spending hours reviewing complicated contracts and pricing formulas.
“This is labor intensive. I had to do a spreadsheet in order to make any sense of it,” St. Claire told News 88.7.
What’s taking up so much of this retiree’s time? It’s his electricity bill.