"If you're not measuring, you're just guessing," says Alex Cuclis, a chemical engineer who worked at a refinery for 15 years and now studies air pollution at the independent Houston Advanced Research Center.
The Houston area produces about a quarter of the nation's gasoline, and about a third of the plastics that are in our cars, cupboards and just about everywhere else. So it is no surprise that this heavily industrial area has a problem with air pollution. But in the past decade, Houston's air has improved dramatically.
Despite the many advantages of storing water underground, water utilities typically don't understand that the technology is tested and ready to use, according to HARC President Jim Lester. "It just makes so much more sense" than surface reservoirs, he says.
Storing water in manmade reservoirs underground – a technology increasingly being explored in drought-conscious Texas – can avoid eminent domain issues and dam-safety concerns that complicate surface-reservoir plans, HARC president Jim Lester says.
Through another HARC and City of Houston partnership, a new sustainable transportation alternative is made available for Houston residents. HARC’s role was to secure funding and manage the implementation of the new bike sharing program.
The Houston Advanced Research Center continues to tackle important environmental issues outlined by its founder, George Mitchell, more than 30 years ago. HARC is looking to develop technologies that reduce the impact of oil and gas exploration, reduce emissions from diesel engines, and improve air quality in the Houston and Dallas regions.
Harris County Commissioners Court approved $1 million dollars in federal funding to CT scan the community's air. "This gives us opportunities to address environmental justice in a way we never have before," says Jay Olaguer, director of air quality research at the Houston Advanced Research Center.
Integral to the cadre of scientists and engineers concerned about undercounts is Alex Cuclis, an air pollution researcher with the Houston Advanced Research Center. He's also determined to broaden the use of advanced instruments to measure rather than estimate emissions.
Texas A&M’s partner in the EFD program, the Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC), is working to get an international cooperative agreement in place to promote all forms of low-impact drilling technology throughout South America.
David Hitchcock, member of The Woodlands GREEN and director of sustainable transportation programs at the Houston Advanced Research Center, was equally pleased. "We often have more to recycle than would fit in the smaller containers, as do several of our neighbors. Hitchcock added that the lids on the new carts will keep the contents from getting wet or from attracting wildlife.
Developed decades ago, hydraulic fracturing involves the process of breaking up heavy oil- and gas-bearing shale formations by pumping millions of gallons of chemically tainted water through vertical and lateral wells at intense pressure. Only in recent years has the practice become cost effective for industry, as advances in technology have been matched by rising energy prices.
The arrival of Hurricane Alex heralds another glaring reminder of Texas' susceptibility to widespread and prolonged power outages. Gone are the days when we safely assumed the lights would magically turn back on within a few hours after every storm.