Texas joined Nebraska's latest action against the EPA, along with Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and several others. Photo by Sander Yigin/Unsplash

A large group of Republican attorneys general on Monday took legal action against the Biden administration and California over new emissions limits for trucks.

Nebraska Attorney General Mike Hilgers is leading the group of GOP attorneys general who filed a petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to overturn an Environmental Protection Agency rule limiting truck emissions.

Texas joined Nebraska's latest action against the EPA, along with Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and several others.

A separate lawsuit against California claims a phased-in ban on internal-combustion trucks is unconstitutional and will hurt the U.S. economy.

Hilgers in a statement said the EPA and California rules “will devastate the trucking and logistics industry, raise prices for customers, and impact untold number of jobs across Nebraska and the country.”

“There’s not one trucking charging station in the state of Nebraska,” Hilgers later told reporters. “Trying to take that industry, which was built up over decades with diesel and fossil fuels-based infrastructure, and transforming it to an electric-based infrastructure – it’s probably not feasible.”

EPA officials have said the strict emissions standards will help clean up some of the nation’s largest sources of planet-warming greenhouse gases.

The new EPA rules are slated to take effect for model years 2027 through 2032, and the agency has said they will avoid up to 1 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the next three decades.

Emissions restrictions could especially benefit an estimated 72 million people in the U.S. who live near freight routes used by trucks and other heavy vehicles and bear a disproportionate burden of dangerous air pollution, the agency has said.

A spokesperson for the EPA declined to comment on the legal challenge to the new rules Monday, citing the pending litigation.

California rules being challenged by Republican attorneys general would ban big rigs and buses that run on diesel from being sold in California starting in 2036.

An email seeking comment from California’s Air Resources Board was not immediately answered Monday.

California has been aggressive in trying to rid itself of fossil fuels, passing new rules in recent years to phase out gas-powered cars, trucks, trains and lawn equipment in the nation’s most populous state. Industries, and Republican leaders in other states, are pushing back.

Another band of GOP-led states in 2022 challenged California’s authority to set emissions standards that are stricter than rules set by the federal government. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit last month ruled that the states failed to prove how California’s emissions standards would drive up costs for gas-powered vehicles in their states.

ERCOT now estimates an extra 40,000 megawatts of growth in demand for electricity by 2030 compared with last year’s outlook. Photo via Getty Images

Eyeing demand growth, ERCOT calls for energy investments across Texas

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With the Electric Reliability Council of Texas forecasting a big spike in demand for electricity over the next five to seven years, the operator of Texas’ massive power grid is embracing changes that it says will yield a “tremendous opportunity” for energy investments across the state.

The council, known as ERCOT, now estimates an extra 40,000 megawatts of growth in demand for electricity by 2030 compared with last year’s outlook. According to ERCOT data, 40,000 megawatts of electricity would power roughly 8 million Texas homes during peak demand.

ERCOT has been under intense scrutiny in the wake of recent summertime and wintertime debacles involving power emergencies or outages. The organization manages 90 percent of Texas’ power supply.

“As a result of Texas’ continued strong economic growth, new load is being added to the ERCOT system faster and in greater amounts than ever before,” Pablo Vegas, president and CEO of ERCOT, says in a news release. “As we develop and implement the tools provided by the prior two [legislative sessions], ERCOT is positioned to better plan for and meet the needs of our incredibly fast-growing state.”

Meeting the increased demand will create opportunities for energy investments in Texas, says ERCOT. These opportunities will undoubtedly lie in traditional energy production as well as in renewable energy segments such as solar, wind, and “green” hydrogen.

Some of the opportunities might be financed, at least in part, by the newly established Texas Energy Fund. The fund, which has been allotted $5 billion for 2025-26, will provide loans and grants for construction, maintenance, modernization, and operation of power-generating facilities in Texas.

ERCOT is also working with partners to develop tools aimed at improving grid reliability and market efficiency.

ERCOT says changes in its operations that’ll be required to fulfill heightened demand for power will position the nonprofit organization “as a significant component of the economic engine driving the national economy.”

Houston energy transition folks — here's what to know to start your week. Photo via Getty Images

From events to a new climate-focused report, here are 3 things to know in Houston energy transition news

take note

Editor's note: Dive headfirst into the new week with three quick things to catch up on in Houston's energy transition: a roundup of events not to miss, a new study puts a dollar sign to Texas' disasters per capita, and three organizations are teaming up for an August event.

When it comes to weather-related events, Texas is expensive

Texas — home to everything from tornadoes to hurricanes — cracks the top 10 of a new report ranking states based on impact from weather-related events.

SmartAsset's new report factored in a myriad of data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to identify which states face the most financial risk due to various weather events. In the report, the states were ranked by the total expected annual financial losses per person. Texas ranked at No. 10. In Texas, the total expected annual loss per person is estimated as $283.15. Click here to see that figure broken down.

3 organizations in Houston receive funding for DOE-backed programming

Later this year, a Wells Fargo Foundation-backed event that's co-administered by the United States Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory will feature programming from three Houston organizations.

The Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator, a $50 million program, announced its eighth cycle of IN2 Channel Partner Strategic Awards. The program is distributing $767,000 across 15 organizations within the Channel Partner network to create impactful workshops at the upcoming Camp Cleantech event in August at CSU Spur in Denver, Colorado.

Houston-based Rice Alliance Clean Energy Accelerator, as well as Activate Global and Greentown Labs, which each have Houston locations, have been named among the awards recipients. The organizations will present workshops aimed at providing critical tools and insights for clean tech startups. Read more about the event and grants.

Events not to miss

Put these Houston-area energy-related events on your calendar.

  • Center for Houston’s Future and the Houston Energy Transition Initiative present a panel and attendee Q&A on Wednesday, May 1, from 9 to 11 a.m. at Partnership Tower 701 Avenida de las Americas, Suite 900. The program will be on the National Petroleum Council’s new report on hydrogen: “Harnessing Hydrogen: A Key Element of the U.S. Energy Future.” Register.
  • Offshore Technology Conference returns to Houston May 6 to 9. Register.
  • Greentown Houston's next Transition on Tap, a monthly networking event, is Wednesday, May 8. Register.
  • The University of Houston is hosting a professional-level course focused on hydrogen. The course is open for registration now, and the orientation event will take place on May 15. Learn more.

Texas is expensive when it comes to weather events, a new report finds. Photo via Getty Images

Texas lands in top 10 states expected to be most financially affected by weather events

new report

Texas — home to everything from tornadoes to hurricanes — cracks the top 10 of a new report ranking states based on impact from weather-related events.

SmartAsset's new report factored in a myriad of data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to identify which states face the most financial risk due to various weather events. In the report, the states were ranked by the total expected annual financial losses per person. Texas ranked at No. 10.

"With a variety of environmental events affecting the wide stretch of the United States, each state is subject to its own risks," reads the report. "Particularly, tornadoes, wildfires, hurricanes, flooding, landslides, lightning and drought, among other events, can cause damage to buildings, agriculture and individuals alike. When considering insurance, residents and business owners in each state should account for historic and projected losses due to environmental events in their financial plans."

In Texas, the total expected annual loss per person is estimated as $283.15. The report broke down each weather event as follows:

  • Coastal flooding: $1.49
  • Drought: $3.48
  • Earthquake: $1.71
  • Heat wave: $8.16
  • Hurricane: $89.22
  • Riverine flooding: $66.05
  • Strong wind: $5.37
  • Tornado: $71.04
  • Wildfire: $8.26
  • Winter weather: $1.96
Louisiana ranked as No. 1 on the list with $555.55 per person. The state with the lowest expected loss per person from weather events was Ohio with only $63.89 estimated per person.


A new list from EV Charger Reviews puts Texas in the No. 2 position among the worst states for owning an EV. Photo via Getty Images

Texas ranked as among the worst states for EV drivers

yikes

You’d think that producing tens of thousands of Teslas might help drive up Texas’ standing among the best states for owning an electric vehicle. To the contrary, Texas ranks among the worst states to be an EV owner.

A new list from EV Charger Reviews puts Texas in the No. 2 position among the worst states for owning an EV. Washington leads the pack of the worst EV states. Topping the list of the best states for EV owners is Maine, followed by Colorado and Vermont.

The ranking judged each state on these factors:

  • Number of registered EVs
  • Number of EVs per charging port
  • Ratio of one square mile per charging port
  • Cost of electricity
  • Annual cost savings for EV owners
  • Number of EVs per service center
  • EV tax credits

“Texas has cheaper electricity but a bad ratio of EVs registered to charging ports and service centers. The annual savings on gas money is only about $1,000, and there are no tax incentives,” says EV Charger Reviews.

Texas’ ranking stands in contrast to the presence in Austin of Tesla’s headquarters and a Tesla factory. The more than 10 million-square-foot, 25,000-acre factory serves as the U.S. manufacturing hub for Tesla’s electric-powered Model Y car and Cybertruck.

While thousands of Texans are driving Teslas and other EVs, they’re definitely in the minority.

Survey findings released in November 2023 by the University of Houston and Texas Southern University showed that only five percent of Texas motorists who were questioned drove an electric-powered car, truck, or SUV.

Nearly 60 percent of those who didn’t drive EVs said they wouldn’t consider buying one. Almost half (46 percent) cited the lack of charging stations as their chief reason for not wanting to own an EV.

“With such a small percentage of Texans currently owning electric vehicles, it looks like Texans will hold tight to their gas engines for the foreseeable future. Government incentives … have yet to make a difference among the state’s vehicle buyers,” according to a UH news release about the survey.

“But as charging stations grow in number, costs of operation decrease and — most important, the technology allows longer driving ranges — perhaps electric vehicles will start to earn their place in the garages of Texans.”

A Texas law that took effect in 2023 requires an EV owner to pay an extra $200 fee when they renew their vehicle registration or an extra $400 fee for their initial two-year registration.

The lawsuits are Oklahoma's first against natural gas operators over earnings during the 2021 Winter Storm Uri. Photo by Lynn in Midtown via CultureMap

Oklahoma sues 2 Texas natural gas companies over price spikes during 2021 winter storm

taking action

Two Texas-based natural gas companies are being sued by Oklahoma, which alleges they fraudulently reduced gas supplies to send prices soaring during Winter Storm Uri, making huge profits while thousands shivered across the state.

The lawsuits are Oklahoma's first against natural gas operators over earnings during the 2021 storm. The suits were filed against Dallas-based ET Gathering & Processing, which acquired Enable Midstream Partners in 2021, and Houston-based Symmetry Energy Solutions.

Both lawsuits seek actual and punitive damages, as well as a share of any profits that resulted from wrongdoing. Oklahoma's Republican attorney general, Gentner Drummond, said his office intends to pursue additional litigation against other companies that may have engaged in market manipulation.

“I believe the level of fraud perpetrated on Oklahomans during Winter Storm Uri is both staggering and unconscionable,” Drummond said in a statement. “While many companies conducted themselves above board during that trying time, our analysis indicates that some bad actors reaped billions of dollars in ill-gotten gains."

A Symmetry spokesperson said in a statement that the company "adamantly denies the unfounded allegations in the lawsuit, which it will vigorously defend.” A message seeking comment left with ET was not immediately returned. The lawsuits were filed in Osage County, Oklahoma.

The devastating storm sent temperatures plummeting across the country and left millions of people without power.

Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach filed a similar lawsuit in federal court in December against a natural gas marketer operating in that state. In Texas, which was also hit hard by the deadly storm, the electric utility Griddy Energy reached a settlement with state regulators over crushing electric bills its customers received.

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Equinor makes big investment into lithium projects in Arkansas, East Texas

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A Norwegian international energy company has entered into a deal to take a 45-percent share in two lithium project companies in Southwest Arkansas and East Texas.

Equinor, which has its U.S. headquarters in Houston, has reached an agreement with Vancouver, Canada-based Standard Lithium Ltd. to make the acquisition. Standard Lithium retaining operatorship, while Equinor will support through its core competencies, like subsurface and project execution capabilities.

“Sustainably produced lithium can be an enabler in the energy transition, and we believe it can become an attractive business. This investment is an option with limited upfront financial commitment. We can utilise core technologies from oil and gas in a complementary partnership to mature these projects towards a possible final investment decision,” says Morten Halleraker, senior vice president for New Business and Investments in Technology, Digital and Innovation at Equinor, in a news release.

Standard Lithium retains the other 55 percent of the projects. Per the deal, will pay $30 million in past costs net to the acquired interest. The company also agreed to carry Standard Lithium's capex of $33 million "to progress the assets towards a possible final investment decision," per the release. Additionally, Equinor will make milestone payments of up to $70 million in aggregate to Standard Lithium should a final investment decision be taken.

Lithium is regarded as important to the energy transition due to its use in battery storage, including in electric vehicles. Direct Lithium Extraction, or DLE, produces the mineral from subsurface reservoirs. New technologies have the potential to improve this production method while lowering the environmental footprint.

Earlier this month, Houston-based International Battery Metals, whose technology offers an eco-friendly way to extract lithium compounds from brine, announced that it's installing what it’s billing as the world’s first commercial modular direct-lithium extraction plant located at US Magnesium’s operations outside Salt Lake City. The plant is expected to go online later this year.

Beyond range anxiety: The social dynamics powering EV adoption

Guest Column

Imagine a world where electric vehicles are as commonplace as smartphones. Not so long ago, this seemed like a distant dream, primarily due to the dreaded “range anxiety.” But today, the landscape is shifting dramatically thanks to a mix of technical advancements and social dynamics.

In 1996, General Motors' EV1 emerged as the first modern-day all-electric vehicle, boasting a modest range of 74 miles – adequate for city driving but limiting for longer trips, especially with public charging stations scarce. For the next 15 years, this narrative was slow to change.

Fast forward to today: The Lucid Air boasts an estimated range of 516 miles, more than the average gasoline-powered car can travel on a single tank. In 2022, the average range of an electric car sold in the U.S. reached 291 miles. By May 2023, more than 138,100 public charging outlets were available nationwide. Despite a concentration of these stations in California, the trend is evident: EVs now offer unprecedented range, complemented by an ever-growing network of charging stations.

Yet, the specter of "range anxiety" lingers. Why?

The answer lies not in statistics or technology but in human behavior. A recent study of new EV registrations in 11 U.S. markets revealed a "cluster effect" in EV adoption. Prospective buyers are often influenced by EV owners within their social circles ― neighbors, family, or colleagues. This phenomenon, sometimes known as peer pressure, social contagion, or the “neighborhood effect,” underscores a simple truth: seeing is believing. In other words, the best predictor of a person driving an EV is someone in their inner circle driving one first. (As an EV driver, my own experience resonates with this finding. Three of my friends switched to EVs after hearing about how much my family was enjoying ours, and how much we were saving.)

The report cited two key factors of peer influence in helping new EV drivers overcome possible sources of anxiety, like range limitations. The first factor ― interpersonal communication and persuasion ― includes observation of specific choices (i.e., a new Tesla in the neighbor’s driveway), word-of-mouth communication, and the influence of trusted community leaders. The second ― normative social influence ― holds that social norms are passively communicated as shared standards of behavior within a group. Even without talking to the neighbor, the sight of their new Tesla suggests that driving one allows you to “fit in” too.

If peer influence helps convince EV buyers that range is no obstacle, charging stations are doing their part to influence cluster buying as well. California had more than 14,000 of the nation’s 51,000 public charging stations as of March and also the highest number of registered EVs. Consumer Reports reported in June that “charging logistics” was the number-1 reason holding back potential EV buyers. It only makes sense that the threat of a broken EV charger or a long stretch of road without one is lessened where more chargers are available. The number of public charging stations has increased by 40 percent since Jan. 2021, and figures to rise further as public- and private-sector investment dollars flow into public charging.

More than the availability of public charging stations, the ability to charge one’s EV at home overnight is a practical antidote to range anxiety. Charging overnight can add 40 to 50 miles of range, enough for an average driver on an average day. A 2022 survey by J.D. Power indicated 27 percent of homeowners are "very likely to consider” buying an EV, compared to 17 percent of those who rent. “Not only are homeowners more affluent, on average,” the report notes, “but are more likely to be able to charge an EV at their residence.”

Here too, the cluster effect makes sense. In areas where renters are concentrated (think apartment complexes), all it takes is one EV driver to inform their neighbors where the nearest charging stations are, eliminating a logistical barrier to range anxiety. In areas where homeowners are concentrated (think new-construction suburban communities of family homes), all it takes is one EV driver to demonstrate the utility of overnight charging in a standard garage or driveway outlet.

Advancements in charging technology also play a critical role. The advent of affordable Level 2 chargers and ultra-fast Level 3 chargers, like Electrify America's 20 miles-per-minute chargers, further eases range concerns.

The availability and affordability of charging technology might be the best weapons in the fight against range anxiety, but they are of little use without a first-hand introduction on the part of someone in your social circle. The key to accelerating EV adoption lies in nurturing these social “clusters,” fostering a network of influence that propels us towards an electrified, sustainable future. In this journey, our greatest allies are the conversations in our living rooms, the examples in our driveways, and the shared experiences within our communities. As these clusters expand, they forge a path toward a cleaner, more environmentally conscious world.

———

Kate L. Harrison is the co-founder and head of marketing at MoveEV, an AI-backed EV transition company that helps organizations convert fleet and employee-owned gas vehicles to electric, and reimburse for charging at home.

ExxonMobil adds energy transition leader, investor to board

all aboard

An energy transition expert and investor has joined Houston-headquartered ExxonMobil Corp.’s board of directors.

Maria Jelescu Dreyfus is CEO and founder of Ardinall Investment Management, which is an investment firm that works in “sustainable investing and resilient infrastructure.”

She previously spent 15 years at Goldman Sachs as a portfolio manager and managing director in the Goldman Sachs Investment Partners Group that focused on energy, industrials, transportation and infrastructure investments across the capital structure.

She currently serves as a director on the board of Cadiz Inc. and on the board of CDPQ. She also works in the energy transition space as a director on several companies' boards.

“We welcome Maria to the ExxonMobil Board as the company executes its strategy to grow shareholder value by playing a critical role in a lower-emissions future, even as we continue to provide the reliable energy and products the world needs,” Joseph Hooley, lead independent director for Exxon Mobil Corporation, says in a news release. “Her deep financial background combined with her extensive work in sustainability will complement our Board’s existing skill set.”

Dreyfus is the vice chair of the advisory board of Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, and serves as co-chair of its Women in Energy program.

“With the close of our Pioneer merger, we gained a premier, tier-one Permian asset, exceptional talent and a new Board member who brings keen strategic insight,” says ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Darren Woods in the release. “Our boardroom, shareholders and stakeholders will greatly benefit from Maria’s experience.”