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.

Don't drive distracted, Houston. Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Unsplash

Houston swerves onto new list of U.S. cities with the worst drivers

transportation

Locals may think that Houston is one of the most traffic-ridden cities, but its drivers are actually much better than many other U.S. cities, according to a new study by Forbes Advisor.

In its report "Cities With The Worst Drivers, Ranked," published February 8, Forbes Advisor analyzed the 50 most populated U.S. cities across five metrics to determine which have the worst drivers in the country. Those metrics, calculated per 100,000 city residents using a five-year average from 2017-2021, were: total number of fatal car accidents, number of people killed in fatal crashes, and number of fatal car accidents involving a drunk, distracted, or speeding driver.

Houston ranked No. 23 overall, earning a score of 59.27 points out of a possible 100. That means the drivers here are solidly average — and that other Texas cities' drivers are, amazingly, even worse than ours.

The report found approximately 10.81 total fatal crashes occur for every 100,000 city residents in Houston, with less than 12 people (11.36) killed in fatal crashes per 100,000 residents.

Where drunk drivers are involved, Houston ranked No. 9 for the highest per-capita number of fatal crashes. Fewer than five fatal drunk driving crashes (4.44) occurred per 100,000 residents.

This troubling discovery isn't exclusive to Houston, the state of Texas as a whole still struggles with drunk drivers. More than five people are killed in car crashes involving a drunk driver for every 100,000 Texans, according to a 2023 Forbes report.

Here's how Houston fared in the remaining categories:

  • No. 33 – Number of fatal crashes involving speeding (2.79 per 100,000 residents)
  • No. 40 – Number of fatal crashes involving a distracted driver (0.24 per 100,000 residents)
Forbes Advisor concluded that three of the top-15 U.S. cities with the worst drivers were located in Texas. Dallas (No. 6) earned a score of 90.97 points to take the crown for the city with the worst drivers in the state. Fort Worth (No. 9) also earned a top-10 spot, and San Antonio ranked No. 12. Austin fell behind Houston into No. 24.

The report found Dallas had the third-highest number of fatal car accidents involving a drunk driver, with 6.25 crashes per 100,000 residents. Dallas also ranked No. 4 in the category for the highest number of fatal car accidents involving speeding: 5.69 per 100,000 residents.

The most dangerous U.S. city to drive in, Forbes says, is Albuquerque, New Mexico. Albuquerque leads with the highest number of fatal car accidents involving a distracted driver, at 5.42 crashes per 100,000 city residents.

The top 10 U.S. cities with the worst drivers are:

  • No. 1 – Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • No. 2 – Memphis, Tennessee
  • No. 3 – Detroit, Michigan
  • No. 4 – Tuscon, Arizona
  • No. 5 – Kansas City, Missouri
  • No. 6 – Dallas, Texas
  • No. 7 – Louisville, Kentucky
  • No. 8 – Phoenix, Arizona
  • No. 9 – Fort Worth, Texas
  • No. 10 – Tampa, Florida

The study calculated five-year averages using data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality and Injury Reporting System Tool for the years 2017-2021, and U.S. Census Bureau city population data from 2022.

The report and its methodology can be found on forbes.com.

------

This article originally ran on CultureMap.

UH Professor Vedhus Hoskere received a three-year, $505,286 grant from TxDOT for a bridge digitization project. Photo via uh.edu

Houston researcher earns $500,000 grant to tap into digital twin tech for bridge safety

transportation

A University of Houston professor has received a grant from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of how bridges are inspected in the state.

The $505,286 grant will support the project of Vedhus Hoskere, assistant professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, over three years. The project, “Development of Digital Twins for Texas Bridges,” will look at how to use drones, cameras, sensors and AI to support Texas' bridge maintenance programs.

“To put this data in context, we create a 3D digital representation of these bridges, called digital twins,” Hoskere said in a statement. “Then, we use artificial intelligence methods to help us find and quantify problems to be concerned about. We’re particularly interested in any structural problems that we can identify - these digital twins help us monitor changes over time and keep a close eye on the bridge. The digital twins can be tremendously useful for the planning and management of our aging bridge infrastructure so that limited taxpayer resources are properly utilized.”

The project began in September and will continue through August 2026. Hoskere is joined on the project by Craig Glennie, the Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished Chair at Cullen College and director of the National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping, as the project’s co-principal investigator.

According to Hoskere, the project will have implications for Texas's 55,000 bridges (more than twice as many as any other state in the country), which need to be inspected every two years.

Outside of Texas, Hoskere says the project will have international impact on digital twin research. Hoskere chairs a sub-task group of the International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering (IABSE).

“Our international efforts align closely with this project’s goals and the insights gained globally will enhance our work in Texas while our research at UH contributes to advancing bridge digitization worldwide,” he said. “We have been researching developing digital twins for inspections and management of various infrastructure assets over the past 8 years. This project provides us an opportunity to leverage our expertise to help TxDOT achieve their goals while also advancing the science and practice of better developing these digital twins.”

Last year another UH team earned a $750,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for a practical, Texas-focused project that uses AI. The team was backed by the NSF's Convergence Accelerator for its project to help food-insecure Texans and eliminate inefficiencies within the food charity system.

———

This article originally ran on InnovationMap.
Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

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

eyes on LI

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.”