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Houston Import Project and The Other College Guide: Thursday’s show (March 19, 2015)

With the dramatic population growth of recent years in Greater Houston comes the need to update and expand services ranging from public transportation to clean water to electricity. Does Greater Houston have enough electricity to meet growing demand? If not, how might we meet that demand in an economically viable way? One approach is the […]

With the dramatic population growth of recent years in Greater Houston comes the need to update and expand services ranging from public transportation to clean water to electricity. Does Greater Houston have enough electricity to meet growing demand? If not, how might we meet that demand in an economically viable way?

One approach is the Houston Import Project. At a cost of nearly $600 million, the Houston Import Project would use new and upgraded transmission lines to carry electricity from Dallas to Houston. Advocates say it ensures necessary electricity access for Houston. Critics argue the transmission lines are based on flawed analysis and won’t deliver enough of a benefit to justify the cost. And Houston’s two main suppliers of electricity, NRG and Calpine Corporation, filed suit this month to stop construction of the project.

On this edition of Houston Matters, we discuss what’s at stake with Ed Hirs, an energy economist at the University of Houston.

Also this hour: There’s a whole industry surrounding selecting and getting into a college — from courses to help prepare students for tests like the ACT and SAT, to consultants who advise students how to fill out applications or seek out financial aid, to myriad college guidebooks, which rank America’s colleges and universities in all sorts of ways. A new college guide seeks to set itself apart by offering students and parents more practical, real world rankings. The Other College Guide: A Road Map to the Right School for You focuses on things like graduation rates and what you’re actually likely to spend over four years at the school, in the hopes of determining which schools provide the best educational bang for their buck. Some area colleges fare well in the rankings. Others…not so much. Maggie Martin will talk with one of the co-authors.

Then: University of Houston researchers recently observed how zebrafish exposed to obesogens (compounds believed to have links to obesity) became heavier and longer than their siblings when given the same diet. Such obesogens are common in flame retardants used in all manner of everyday appliances and furniture, from sofas to toys to electronics. (They can also accumulate in household dust and concentrate in places like dryer lint). The UH study explores just one of many health concerns environmental health experts have about the potential impacts of flame retardants. But there’s a long way to go to make a connection between fish growth in one study, and a sweeping conclusion about the health effects of flame retardants in general. We learn about the UH study. Then we consider a broader question: just what health risks might exist due to prolonged exposure to certain chemicals in flame retardants?

Plus: Edel Howlin talks with an area forensic anthropologist about her work.

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