Energy, Environment, and Conservation 

  • Swedish furniture and homegoods-maker IKEA is replacing all styrofoam packaging with a compostable foam made from mushrooms. Agricultural waste like corn husks are used to make the desired shape and then seeded with mushroom spores, that bind the material together through the growth of mycelium which is then dried and completely compostable (Return to Now). 

Federal Agencies

  • Energy Secretary Rick Perry included his political backers on a list of recommended energy advisors for the president of Ukraine. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky selected supporter Michael Bleyzer for the lucrative role, but Bleyzer denies that Perry had anything to do with the arrangement. Bleyzer’s partner, Alex Cranberg, was previously selected by Perry to serve on the UT Board of Regents (Texas Tribune). 
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a new draft of Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science rule that would impose severe limits on which scientific research the EPA would be allowed to consider in creating public and environmental health regulations. The proposed rule would require researchers to disclose all raw data (including private medical records) and models before a study can be used, and the EPA administrator would have broad authority in selecting particular studies. Additionally, these rules would apply retroactively, so that long-accepted research, such as the Harvard Six Cities study that is the basis for current air pollution regulations, could be rejected upon review. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler says the EPA is committed to high-quality science and that the rule would allow independent validation of study results (New York Times).

Climate Change 

  • Over 11,000 scientists from 153 countries have declared a climate emergency and listed six policy goals to combat climate change. This differs from previous reports on climate change in that it prescribes specific policies. The policies include increasing human rights for women, making family-planning available to everyone, as well as leaving fossil fuel reserves in the ground and reducing global inequality (Washington Post; BioScience). 
  • According to a new poll, 66% of Texans believe climate change is happening, including 44% of Republicans. However, 55% of Republicans believe the government should be doing “a little or nothing” about climate change, while 47% of Texans overall believe the government should be doing “a great deal or a lot.” There was also an age gap, 40% of voters 45 and older felt the government should do a lot on climate change, while 60% of voters under the age of 29 believed the same (Texas Tribune). 
  • The Climate Science Legal Defense Fund has released a guide for scientists facing harassment and legal intimidation. The guide is specifically for climate scientists who are being attacked by people with political motivations (Climate Science Defense Fund). 

Texas News

  • The November 2019 election is over, and most of the constitutional amendments passed in Texas, including funding the state parks with 100% of the tax on sporting goods and increasing the funding for cancer research in the state. Check out the most updated results here. Both city of Austin propositions failed, but the Travis County proposition passed, providing funding for the Expo Center (Austin Chronicle). 

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