seeing green

Houston airports land $12.5M for green projects, announce new EV fleet

Houston's airports are looking more and more green. Photo via

Houston Airports will receive funding from The Federal Aviation Administration in the next few months on projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and implementing the administration's climate challenge guidance at its hubs.

The funds — about $12.5 million — come from the FAA's FY2022 Airport Improvement Program Supplemental Discretionary Grant Competition and are slated to be rolled-out by September 2024. Projects at George Bush Intercontinental and Hobby airports were among 79 projects around the country, which the FAA granted about $268 million to in total.

“Houston Airports is committed to reducing our environmental impact while also protecting the planet as we expand our global reach. These FAA grants fund our ability to invest in smart and sustainable solutions” Jim Szczesniak, COO for Houston Airports, said in a statement. “The end result of these projects will be a more resilient, efficient and sustainable airport system that aligns with the goal of Houston Airports to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.”

IAH received $10.3 million for two projects that will replace existing generators and fund an energy audit to find energy and water use efficiencies at the airport, as well as "define actionable steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the airfield and the airport's buildings," according to the statement.

Hobby received $2.1 million to also go towards an energy audit and to create a Resiliency Master Plan to help mitigate the impacts of climate change, severe weather and floods in a sustainable way.

Separate from the FAA funds, Houston airports also announced in recent weeks that it will add an all-electric fleet of vehicles for its six airport locations by the end of 2023.

According to a release from HAS, ground operations are a major source of the aviation industry's carbon footprint.

The fleet will include 25 Ford F-150 Lightnings, which can travel up to 320 miles on a full charge. HAS's maintenance team planned to install 11 Level 2 charging stations to support the fleet at its airports this summer.

These updates are all part of HAS's Sustainable Management Plan, which aims to get the system to carbon neutrality by 2030.

Earlier this year, Hertz Electrifies Houston, in partnership with bp pulse, announced that it would install a new EV fast-charging hub to Hobby Airport that's designed to serve ride-hail, taxi fleets and the general public. The initiative, which was formed by The Hertz Corp. and the City of Houston, also aimed to bring 2,100 rental electric vehicles to Houston.

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A View From HETI

A View From UH

A Rice University professor studied the Earth's carbon cycle in the Rio Madre de Dios to shed light on current climate conditions. Photo courtesy of Mark Torres/Rice University

Carbon cycles through Earth, its inhabitants, and its atmosphere on a regular basis, but not much research has been done on that process and qualifying it — until now.

In a recent study of a river system extending from the Peruvian Andes to the Amazon floodplains, Rice University’s Mark Torres and collaborators from five institutions proved that that high rates of carbon breakdown persist from mountaintop to floodplain.

“The purpose of this research was to quantify the rate at which Earth naturally releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and find out whether this process varies across different geographic locations,” Torres says in a news release.

Torres published his findings in a study published in PNAS, explaining how they used rhenium — a silvery-gray, heavy transition metal — as a proxy for carbon. The research into the Earth’s natural, pre-anthropogenic carbon cycle stands to benefit humanity by providing valuable insight to current climate challenges.

“This research used a newly-developed technique pioneered by Robert Hilton and Mathieu Dellinger that relies on a trace element — rhenium — that’s incorporated in fossil organic matter,” Torres says. “As plankton die and sink to the bottom of the ocean, that dead carbon becomes chemically reactive in a way that adds rhenium to it.”

The research was done in the Rio Madre de Dios basin and supported by funding from a European Research Council Starting Grant, the European Union COFUND/Durham Junior Research Fellowship, and the National Science Foundation.

“I’m very excited about this tool,” Torres said. “Rice students have deployed this same method in our lab here, so now we can make this kind of measurement and apply it at other sites. In fact, as part of current research funded by the National Science Foundation, we are applying this technique in Southern California to learn how tectonics and climate influence the breakdown of fossil carbon.”

Torres also received a three-year grant from the Department of Energy to study soil for carbon storage earlier this year.

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