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Allergy Sufferers and the Alamo Drum Up Support

Some of the stuff we looked into while you were reading last month’s issue

The state’s peanut farmers try to help folks who are allergic to their products. Rock star and avid Alamo fan Phil Collins hands over hundreds of artifacts to the sacred Texas site. Plus we note a milestone for quarter horses and see what the winds of change might offer in the electric industry.

Hug a Peanut Farmer—Even if You’re Allergic

March is National Peanut Month, when the spotlight shines on Texas peanut farmers and the 433 million pounds of nuts they grow.

Think Americans aren’t nuts about this product (which is technically a legume)? The amount of peanut butter eaten in a year could wrap the earth in a ribbon of 18-ounce peanut butter jars 1 1/3 times, according to the National Peanut Board.

But for people who are allergic to peanuts and peanut products—0.6 percent of Americans, according to the National Institutes of Health—peanut farmers in Texas and nationally have committed more than $10 million to food allergy research. The Texas Peanut Producers Board also has announced the launch of PeanutAllergyFacts.org, a website for schools and parents that offers science-based information about peanut and food allergies, and links to resources about effective allergy treatments.

Texas is the fourth-largest peanut-producing state in the country, and the industry is worth more than $1 billion to the state’s economy, according to the Texas Peanut Producers Board.

The Alamo Rocks

Thanks to British rock legend Phil Collins, some 200 Alamo artifacts are back in San Antonio, where they will remain in storage until a plan to exhibit them can be realized.

Collins donated much of his massive collection in October. Relics included a fringed leather pouch owned by Davy Crockett that was recovered after the 1836 battle at the Alamo and a knife that Jim Bowie had at the battle.

While growing up in London, Collins fell in love with the Alamo when he watched the Walt Disney movie “Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier.” Wealth acquired first as the frontman and drummer for the rock band Genesis and later during a solo career enabled him to collect historical items, starting in the 1980s.

“When I got older and became successful, I decided to spend my money on original items from the Alamo rather than on Ferraris,” Collins said. He told Rolling Stone magazine: “I’ve bought pretty much every book ever written about the Alamo.”

He also wrote one himself. “The Alamo and Beyond: A Collector’s Journey” was published in 2012 by State House Press. Signed, limited-edition copies of the book are available online.

The State Steed

The American Quarter Horse Association turns 75 this month.

The breed traces its origins to the original sire named Steel Dust [“Where Quarter Horses Get Their Mettle,” October 2014], who came to Texas from Kentucky in 1844.

“For it was in Texas that the western range cattle industry had its origins, and it was the quarter horse that took farm boys out of cotton patches, made them into cowboys and carried them up the longhorn trails into history,” the association describes on its website.

A group of influential ranchers formed the AQHA in March 1940 when they gathered in Fort Worth for the annual Fat Stock Show. The association has registered more than 5 million horses since its inception.

The American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum in Amarillo showcases the people and horses influential in the breed’s history.

Texas Tech Tweaks Turbine

New radar technology could help provide measurements of complex airflow conditions among wind turbines. The U.S. Department of Energy granted $1.4 million to researchers at Texas Tech University to develop the technology to increase wind energy output.

John Schroeder, a professor of atmospheric sciences and principal investigator for the project, said existing wind farms are not performing as expected.

“Wind farms are not putting out as much power as we would expect from them,” Schroeder said. “With a better understanding of how turbines interact with each other, we may be able to make small adjustments that could be worth millions of dollars.”

The research is expected to last for 18 months in Lubbock, home of South Plains Electric Cooperative.

Texas is the national leader in wind energy with 12,755 megawatts of installed capacity, 7,986 wind turbines—mostly in the Panhandle Plains—and as many as 9,000 jobs in the industry, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

Energy Spending Takes Less Out of Our Wallets

Consumer energy expenditures as a percent of disposable income were lower in 2013 than the average since 1960, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Energy expenditures have averaged between 4 and 8 percent of disposable income since 1960, for a 5.5 percent total average. Expenditures accounted for slightly more than 5 percent in 2013.

Because electricity and transportation spending accounts for more than two-thirds of consumer energy expenditures, increasing vehicle fuel efficiencies and changing fuels used for home heating have contributed to lower consumer energy expenditures relative to disposable income.