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Environmental directory includes so much more

Thursday, July 13, 2017 by Jo Clifton

The Austin Environmental Directory 2017-18 is on its way to 15,000 Austin households. This is the ninth iteration of the directory, which serves as a primer on a wide range of topics, including watershed protection, challenges to clean energy, natural gas and the environment, and the Austin Community Climate Plan. And it’s free to the public.

The book’s editor, Austin environmentalist and researcher Paul Robbins, has dedicated the last three years to working on a wide range of topics explored in the directory. In addition, he engaged a number of other experts and environmentalists to write about food and the environment, clean energy, green building and recycling. Numerous businesses, agencies and nonprofits have supported the publication through advertising.

The introduction to the book explains that the Austin Environmental Directory “is meant as a user-friendly guide to readers for learning about environmental issues, for identifying and purchasing environmental products, and for becoming involved in environmental organizations.”

In a section on global warming and clean energy, Robbins writes that “Carbon Hawks,” aka “Climate Hawks,” people who demand a swift and dramatic termination of fossil fuel use in the shortest possible time, are being unrealistic. At the same time, he notes that many people employed in the fossil fuel and electric utility industries are equally unrealistic in their refusal to acknowledge “the imminent threat of global warming.”

Dispatchable renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, while being relatively cost-effective today, would have trouble competing with nonrenewable power plants in Texas, Robbins writes. That’s because the renewable power plants “would have to bid in a fiercely competitive, and broken, regional wholesale electric market that does not place adequate value on environmental protection or dispatchable generation.”

Combining various strategies, and forgoing the stridency of ideology exhibited by both sides “must be the approach to solve the global warming crisis,” Robbins says. In order to help find that solution, Robbins and his co-authors have examined questions about whether Austin Energy should build a new natural gas plant. They have also written about specific energy efficient technologies and challenges to clean energy.

Other parts of the directory discuss long-term durability when building a new home. For renters, there is a list of apartment and condominium projects in Austin’s central and south ZIP codes indicating ratings for energy efficiency. Some of the highest-rated projects include AMLI on Second Street, Capital Studios on East 11th Street, M Station on East Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, the Legacy Apartments on South Lamar, 2400 Nueces St. near the University of Texas, Pecan Springs Commons on Sweeney Circle and Arbor Terrace on South I-35.

Finally, the directory includes contact information for various local environmental groups, and nonprofits that specialize in health, green building, education, environmental justice, parks and green space, neighborhood protection, trees and conservation. There are also a number of maps, including one from Austin Energy showing all the electric vehicle charging stations in the area.

This story has been changed since publication to clarify that Robbins was talking about dispatchable renewable energy sources.

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