Environment Feed

We lost all our ornamental rosemary bushes in February's devastating winter storm. This debris pile is all that's left of them. (Kay Bell photo) February's surprisingly harsh winter storm has done a number on our yard. We are not alone. Major federal disaster areas were declared for parts of frozen Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas. I've heard the same stories from my Austin neighbors, as well as friends in the Sooner and Pelican States. While some of our exterior flora made it through the subfreezing temperatures, quite a few of our plants succumbed. Our line of ornamental rosemary bushes in the... Read more →


Earth Day 2024 is tomorrow, April 22. But today is so nice — we finally got some rain, and the butterflies and hummingbirds are taking over our backyard — that I decided to celebrate a day early. This special day dedicated to the ecological issues facing our planet was first held on April 22, 1970. Back then, San Francisco activist John McConnell and Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson came up with the idea separately. But they agreed that Americans should join en masse in grassroots demonstrations to highlight environmental threats. McConnell wanted Earth Day events to happen on March 20, which... Read more →


Cutting the Christmas tree is a family affair at this tree farm. (Photo by Chris Briggs on Unsplash) The first Christmas tree the hubby and I shared was a plastic one. A cheap plastic one. We were newlyweds on a budget, and we couldn't justify spending what even a small real fir cost back then. So we got the artificial tree, trimmed it with our few ornaments, watched the cat find creative ways to attack it (and the items hanging from it), and had a very merry first married Christmas. Our tradition was born. As both our finances and artificial... Read more →


Unsplash+ in collaboration with Getty Images Electric vehicles (EVs) are supposed to be one way to cut fossil fuel emissions and help slow, if not stop, climate change. But the best laid plans often go awry when lawmakers get involved. A $7,500 EV tax credit was part of the climate-related tax provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act achieve change. But it came with limits, with the full amount applying only to EVs and plug-in hybrids assembled in North America. Then this week, the Treasury Department further tightened the EV credit rules. Now a certain percentage of the components and minerals... Read more →


Photo courtesy COP28 web page Around 70,000 participants are expected in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), over the next couple of weeks to discuss how to limit and prepare for future climate change. They're attending the 28th annual United Nations (UN) Conference of the Parties, known as COP28. The parties part of COP are the countries that signed the original UN climate agreement in 1992. And their current gathering comes at the end of a year of worldwide extreme weather events and a plethora of broken climate records. While climate change and human contributions to it are being acknowledged by... Read more →


Check out some October sweet tax treats below that could help make this month less scary, at least as far as your taxes are concerned. (Photo by Unsplash+ in collaboration with Getty Images) October is a scary month, and not just because of Halloween. Millions of uber procrastinators face a final mid-month deadline to file their annual tax return. It's also the beginning of the fourth quarter of the year. So, in addition to picking out your All Hallows Eve costume and hiding the holiday treats so your family won't eat them all before trick-or-treaters come knocking in a few... Read more →


If the owner of this Tesla I was behind a few years ago sells it, it could get the buyer a $4,000 used EV tax credit. (Photo by Kay Bell) This week brought a tale of two tax credits that were expanded as part of the Inflation Reduction Act for electric vehicles, usually referred to as EVs. Tesla fans got some good news. It appears that the electric automaker's used vehicle now qualifies for the $4,000 electric vehicle (EV) tax credit. Meanwhile, the Vietnamese EV manufacturer VinFast is working to get its autos on the list of new EVs that... Read more →


An energy audit might find that adding insulation can make your home more comfortable and energy efficient. The formal inspection also could get you a tax break. audit could produce lower utility bills and a tax credit. (Photo via Unsplash+ in collaboration with Getty Images) In extreme weather, which happens year-round and more frequently nowadays, homeowners do their own residential energy audits. Depending on the season, we stand in hot or cold spots in our houses and try to figure out (1) why it's happening, and (2) how to remedy it. If you're finding yourself doing this more often, and... Read more →


Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash The heat wave that just won't loosen its grip on much of the United States (and world). That has many looking at energy options as traditional grids are stressed. The obvious options are wind and solar systems. Both, as well as many other alternative energy programs, got boosts in the Inflation Reduction Act. The law took effect last year and includes more than $300 billion in climate-related programs and tax incentives. Now the Biden Administration's energy chief is reminding faith-based groups that they, too, could be eligible for the Inflation Reduction Act tax credits.... Read more →


Washington, D.C, fireworks illuminate the Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol dome. Happy Independence Day! My neighborhood kicked off today with our annual Fourth of July gathering. It included a parade around the flatter (our community is in a hilly area) of our two parks. Cars and golf carts and bicycles and baby strollers and individual walkers all decker out in red, white, and blue regalia made the nearly one-mile trek. There was a good turnout since my neighbors and I, like a lot of Americans, usually spend this holiday close to home. That's especially true in years when July 4... Read more →


The upcoming Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer. It's also the start of a couple of sales tax holidays in Texas and Florida. Texas energy & water tax savings: Let's start here in Texas. Beginning Saturday, May 27, and running through Monday, May 29, Lone Star State shoppers won't have to pay state and local sales taxes that usually apply to purchases of energy- and water-saving products. The tax-free qualifying appliance purchases and related items include — Energy Star-qualified air conditioners priced at $6,000 or less; refrigerators priced at $2,000 or less; ceiling fans; incandescent and fluorescent... Read more →


Reviewed and updated Aug. 22, 2023 Owners of electric vehicles in Texas, like this one charging in a suburban Austin office garage, will face a new registration fee starting Sept. 1, 2023. (Photo by Kay Bell) More than 10 million electric cars were sold worldwide in 2022. Sales are expected to grow by another 35 percent this year, meaning 14 million electric vehicles (EVs) will be on global roads last year, according to the International Energy Agency's (IEA) latest annual analysis. That puts electric autos' share of the overall car market at 14 percent in 2022, a 10 percent increase... Read more →


It's going to take more charging stations, and in more rural areas, to get more U.S. drivers to even consider buying an electric vehicle. (Photo courtesy ChargeX Consortium) I live in Austin, Texas, where traffic congestion increases daily (only partially kidding). But I grew up in West Texas, where driving an hour or longer one way to get from one small town to another was and still is not unusual. Often without any kind of way station along the long, flat roads. It's those distances that give me and those who still live in more rural areas pause when it... Read more →


Meanwhile, even crypto-mining-friendly Texas is exploring ways to limit such operations' heavy use of the Lone Star State's power grid. Austin Technology Council Texas is known for many things. Now, two of them, cryptocurrency mining and hot summers, are colliding. The Lone Star State has become a major hub for bitcoin miners. Many operations set up shop here because of the state has vast spaces needed for the operations. Then there's Texas' mostly independent power grid, which has few connections to the rest of the country. This has allowed Texas to avoid federal oversight. And don't forget Texas' demand response... Read more →


Earth Day is tomorrow, April 22. This annual celebration of Mother Earth's beauty and its focus on ways to make a positive impact on our planet has lots of folks thinking about how they can reduce their carbon footprints In keeping with the 2023 theme "Invest in Our Planet," a lot of folks are considering investing in an electric or other alternative energy vehicle to lower their dependence on fossil fuels. Of course, tax breaks also could nudge them down that road. The good news is that the Biden Administration pushed through a new $7,500 electric vehicle (EV) tax credit.... Read more →


Reviewed and updated March 17, 2024 Photo by Chris F In February 2023, Austin took another winter weather hit. A surprisingly heavy freeze ended with broken tree limbs taking out power lines, leaving tens of thousands of Austin households and businesses without electricity for days. We were among the powerless. During the three days we sat huddled in our increasingly cold house, griping about the third consecutive and unusually cold winter (thanks, no thanks, La Niña!), we realized we needed to look into making some improvements to our house. The energy efficient upgrades will also help in a couple of... Read more →


Lyriq photo courtesy Cadillac Sometimes the obvious is, well, obvious. Until it isn't. Back in 1964, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's famous intuitive declaration about knowing pornographic material when he saw it made things clear. Then on Jan. 11, 2015, we Dallas Cowboys fans, then belatedly the NFL, knew that Dez Bryant's touchdown catch was definitely a catch. Now General Motors (GM) and Uncle Sam are fighting over what, for most of us, is pretty clear, specifically what counts as an SUV. The government's final answer will affect the new Inflation Reduction Act tax credit for electric versions of sports... Read more →


The tax year is over. Long live the tax year. Taxes are, if nothing else, persistent. Sure, there are a few (or more) changes every year, even if it's only inflation adjustments. But even in years when the changes are negligible, they are back, starting to add up on the first of every January. That's why 2023 is the first By the Numbers honoree of this new year. The transition from an old to a new tax year is also the focus of this post. It's a look at six tax matters that affected or at least fascinated us in... Read more →


Kris Kringle, portrayed by Edmund Gwenn in the 1947 classic movie "Miracle on 34th Street." (via Giphy) I'm a Christmas traditionalist. OK, so I expand the traditional holiday season. We, at my urging, put up holiday decorations right after Halloween. We have a lot of them, so it takes time. Plus, I'm a fan and nonresident celebrant of Canada's Thanksgiving. Our neighbors to the north's celebration of the harvest and other blessings of the past year falls on the second Monday of October, following a more North American seasonal shift. Even better, it provides a welcome space between Turkey Day... Read more →


A heat pump's outdoor unit is pulling what warmth it can out of the air in freezing conditions. (Photo by Peter Eastern via Wikipedia Commons) North winds are gusting up to 30 mph right now here in suburban Austin, Texas. By sunset, we'll be at freezing, with temperatures in the area tonight expected to drop to between 10 and 15 degrees. Despite my alternately freaking out thanks to memories of 2021's snow, ice, and prolonged freezing temperatures that led to extended electric and water utility outages across most of Texas, ranting, and stuffing old hand towels into every new window... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service is still working out how to implement the climate tax provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act. The tax agency and its parent Treasury Department issued some preliminary guidance in August regarding the electric vehicle (EV) tax changes. The IRS also is seeking public comment on EV rules, as well as the other aspect of the other energy tax benefits in the new law. Meanwhile, states also are taking steps to deal with how the federal energy tax changes could affect their revenues. New state-level EV charges: "The increasing popularity of hybrid and electric vehicles is shrinking... Read more →