greenhouse gas emissions

Photo Credit: Mengwen Cao | Daily Texan Staff

The University’s Center for Frontiers of Subsurface Energy Security, led by engineering professor Larry W. Lake, received a $12 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, also known as the DOE, to continue researching carbon storage challenges aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The four-year grant is a continuation of a five-year, $15.5 million grant awarded by the DOE in 2009. Although 31 other Energy Frontier Research Centers across the nation received grants, UT is the only university in Texas to have been awarded one. 

“This $12 million grant from the U.S. Energy Department supports the University of Texas at Austin’s valuable contributions towards creating next generation carbon capture technology, which will help reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions from our atmosphere and place the United States on a path towards a cleaner energy future,” said DOE spokeswoman Namrata Kolachalam. “The work done by the University’s Center for Frontiers of Subsurface Energy Security will accelerate the scientific breakthroughs we need to reduce carbon emissions and strengthen our energy futures by using fossil resources in the most responsible and efficient way possible.” 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, greenhouse gas problems stem from having high levels of certain trace gases in the atmosphere. Of the many gases contributing to this problem, the most prominent is carbon dioxide, which is emitted through human activities, primarily through the combustion of fossil fuels.

“Carbon storage is one the primary approaches being sought to address growing CO2 emissions in the atmosphere, and, if pursued, CO2 must be stored in such a way that is efficient, safe and economically viable,” said Matthew Balhoff, associate professor of the Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering.

Balhoff, who is part of the multidisciplinary research team of 20 faculty members, said the grant provides a huge opportunity for professionals from many areas to work together.

“It will be a synergistic effort among many departments at UT and Sandia National Laboratory that brings together expertise in petroleum engineering, geology, geophysics and computational science,” said Balhoff. 

Lake, who holds the Shahid and Sharon Ullah Endowed Chair in Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering, said the grant will also aid in the development of carbon storage technology at the University. 

“The grant is important in that it continues a multi-year effort on developing smart technologies for underground carbon storage at the University of Texas at Austin,” Lake said. 

Both the researchers and the DOE expect the research to directly impact the development of future carbon storage projects. 

“The anticipated results are discovering practical and efficient methods to store carbon dioxide in the subsurface,” Lake said.

Every Friday, the Daily Texan editorial board will publish a selection of tweets and online comments culled from the Daily Texan website and the various Daily Texan Twitter accounts, along with direct submissions from readers. 

Our intention is to continue the tradition of the Firing Line, a column first started in the Texan in 1909, in which readers share their opinions “concerning any matter of general interest they choose.” Just like in 1909, the Texan “will never express its approval or disapproval of opinions given under the [Firing Line] header.” In other words, take your shot. 

Submissions can be sent to Submissions are edited for length.  


We should all work harder to lower emissions

I found myself concerned after recently reading “University Conducts New, Comprehensive Inventory of Greenhouse Gases.” It’s upsetting to hear that although there are recent efforts to collect more information on greenhouse gas emissions, there is nothing being done to combat the problem. What is the point of having all this knowledge if there is a lack of effort to solve this monumental issue?

We already know global warming is rising quickly and significantly. Rather than focusing on finding more accurate numbers on the greenhouse gas emissions, it might be more beneficial to look at the bigger picture and take steps to solve the present problem at hand. If the people of Austin were more informed on the information about greenhouse gas emissions and global warming, they might be more willing to take action. It is important to use this information collected by the University Campus Planning and Facilities Management as evidence for the rising effects global warming has on our planet currently and in the future.  Steps need to be taken immediately.

— Mary Forster, economics sophomore 


In response to our call for Abbott to defend plastic bag bans


Internet fee proposal not as bad as feared


Even under the new proposal, UT will continue to allow unlimited transfers to other University sites (e.g., Blackboard, etc.). This would only affect access to services not on campus. As more services move to the cloud (e.g. Canvas, Box, UTmail), having Internet bandwidth will become more of a necessity.

As for having “no data on the type of bandwidth students use”, that is a bit more complicated. The University does have data on what sites people are accessing, but determining whether or not it is course-related is not really feasible. If someone is watching a Netflix video, it could be class-related, or it could be recreational. There are people who do research on social networking, so accessing Facebook and Twitter for them might be school-related, whereas for most others, it probably is not. Also, as more content is hosted on shared cloud resources (e.g. Canvas is hosted on Amazon Web Services, but so are a number of other sites and services), it gets even more difficult to distinguish what traffic to Amazon is course-related and what is not. Under this proposal, the University would *not* be the ones determining what activity is school-related and what isn’t (and taking measures to limit or block the latter).

— Online commenter “Jason,” in response to Amanda Almeda’s opinion column, “Planned fee for campus Internet saddles students with extra cost.” 


Your column on alcohol sales at games is random


Steam blows off of the Hal C. Weaver Power Plant on Monday morning. The University Campus Planning and Facilities Management is in the midst of conducting its first greenhouse gas emissions inventory since 2009.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

University Campus Planning and Facilities Management is in the midst of conducting its first greenhouse gas emissions inventory since 2009, but the University has no plan in place to reduce those emissions once they are calculated.

According to Director of Sustainability Jim Walker, data for this inventory will be collected differently than they have been in years before.

As always, the inventory will include data gathered from the University’s on-campus power plant, as well as data derived from the University’s energy supply from Austin Energy. This year, the University will also track indirect emissions in a different way. Walker said most Universities do not account for indirect emissions.

“Most universities only track two [energy sources],” Walker said.

Walker said indirect emissions come from a wide range of sources, including solid waste and student commuting. 

“Solid waste and recycling, commuting — how students get to and from school. If a sports team has to fly somewhere for a competition, we add up those miles,” Walker said. “Also, [we track] embodied emissions, so our paper — what kind of forest it came from, how that forest was managed — [is] more honest this way.”

According to Walker, the addition of the new data will probably result in the University releasing higher but more accurate emission figures.  

“Our power plant has stayed efficient, so we will stay even on some of [the inventory], but our data collection process has gone up,” Walker said. “We will have other ideas for how people can lower their carbon footprint.”

According to Zach Baumer, Austin Climate Protection Program Manager, Austin has ambitious targets for greenhouse gas emissions.

“[Austin] has a goal of being carbon neutral by 2020,” Baumer said.

The University does not currently have a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to Walker.

“We have a goal of zero waste by 2020, but no carbon reduction goal. … If students felt strongly enough about it and there was a campaign, we could make that happen,” Walker said.

According to Emily Mixon, director of the Campus Environmental Center, there are many ways through which students can help reduce the University’s carbon footprint.

“There’s a lot of energy waste that could be reduced by campus users. That’s behavior change, and programs like the Energy Water Conservation Unit are helping with that with stuff like the upcoming Green Offices program and the student volunteer-run Longhorn Lights Out initiative,” Mixon said.

Correction: This article has been corrected since its original posting. Because of a reporting error, the story misstated when it began tracking indirect emissions. UT tracked indirect emissions in 2009.

Only yesterday, we wrote an editorial concerning the abysmal job the Texas state government has done of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In the editorial, which argued that Texas should be held accountable for its inadequate regulation of pollution, we mentioned that the chief offender — the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality — wanted the question of whether it was required to comply with national emissions regulations to be decided in a higher court.

It seems they’ll get their wish.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would hear Texas’ challenge to federal regulation of greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. Texas, along with Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina and the American Petroleum Institute, claims that the Clean Air Act covers only toxic air pollutants and does not grant the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to penalize the emission of gases that contribute to the dangerous warming of the atmosphere.

The Court declined to hear several of the states’ other appeals, which will allow the EPA to continue regulating emissions from motor vehicles and certifies the EPA’s assessment of greenhouse gases as a public health risk — invalidating the plaintiffs’ arguments to the contrary. The question they did choose to debate is whether the EPA’s authority to regulate motor vehicles also extends to stationary sources of greenhouse gases, like power plants and oil refineries.

We’re not qualified enough to sift through the legal nuances of the Clean Air Act and determine the limits of federal jurisdiction. But we do know that if the federal government is not able to regulate the massive amounts of greenhouse gases pumped into Texas skies, our state certainly won’t do so itself. The Texas government has consistently shown support for big business rather than the environment  — Texas leads the nation in greenhouse gas emissions,  producing more than the next two states combined — and cannot be trusted to responsibly restrain major polluters from wantonly damaging our planet.

Hopefully, the Court will recognize the danger of letting Texas’ pollution continue unabated and allow the federal government to intervene.