highway hiccup

Houston researchers: Texas to face gridlock challenges with reducing emissions in transportation

One of the biggest obstacles to Texas' net-zero goals is its transportation sector, according to Houston research. Photo via UH.edu

A new report found that one of Texas' biggest roadblocks with reducing emissions is its transportation sector.

In its white paper series, the University of Houston's energy researchers found that — unless something changes — the Lone Star State is not likely to hit its carbon neutrality goals by 2050 within the transportation sector.

“What would it take to make the Texas transportation sector net zero by 2050?” Ramanan Krishnamoorti, UH vice president for energy and innovation, says in a news release. “The answer is a miracle, policy interventions that start as soon as possible, and somewhere between 30 to 50 billion dollars of public money between now and 2050 and at least an equal match from the private sector.”

According to the Net Zero in Texas: The Role of Transportation report, over 230 million metric tons of carbon dioxide gas is released from Texas roads each year. By 2050, estimates show that the remaining gasoline and diesel vehicles on the road will still be contributing about 40 million metric tons of emissions. Krishnamoorti collaborated with UH Energy researcher Aparajita Datta on a white paper.

“The future is crucial not only for Texas, where carbon emissions hinge on transportation solutions but also for our nation. Emissions transcend state lines and considering the size of Texas, its growing population and strong industry, the impact is significant,” Krishnamoorti adds.

Some of the challenges the state faces, per the report, hinge on electric vehicle adoption, which has been slow for a variety of reasons. One is the lack of EV production materials, such as lithium, cobalt, copper, manganese and graphite, due to increased demand, which is slated to be increased by 140 to 500 percent.

The EV workforce development also poses a challenge. Right now, hourly wages in the traditional auto sector range from $26 to $60, but most jobs in the EV industry, which are not unionized, range from $17 to $21 per hour.

The call for EV infrastructure is also estimated to be high. Per a news release about the report, "the change will require an annual expenditure of $250 million to $640 million for Level-2 (L2) charging stations and between $500 million and $1.3 billion for DC Fast Charging (DCFC) stations in 2040."

The transition will include an addition of 40,000 and 180,000 jobs in Texas between now and 2050, as well as an estimated $104 billion addition in public health benefits for Texans – fewer deaths, fewer asthma attacks and fewer sick days, according to the study.

“It is evident that decarbonizing Texas’ transportation sector will be a significant challenge and relying solely on consumer behavior to change is unrealistic,” Krishnamoorti says in the release. “We need robust policies to drive the state’s transportation electrification. Let’s acknowledge the journey ahead; federal mandates alone will not guide us to net zero by 2050. Texas needs to act now.”

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A View From HETI

The work is "poised to revolutionize our understanding of fundamental physics," according to Rice University. Photo via Rice.edu

A team of Rice University physicists has been awarded a prestigious grant from the Department of Energy's Office of Nuclear Physics for their work in high-energy nuclear physics and research into a new state of matter.

The five-year $15.5 million grant will go towards Rice physics and astronomy professor Wei Li's discoveries focused on the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS), a large, general-purpose particle physics detector built on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, a European organization for nuclear research in France and Switzerland. The work is "poised to revolutionize our understanding of fundamental physics," according to a statement from Rice.

Li's team will work to develop an ultra-fast silicon timing detector, known as the endcap timing layer (ETL), that will provide upgrades to the CMS detector. The ETl is expected to have a time resolution of 30 picoseconds per particle, which will allow for more precise time-of-flight particle identification.

This will also help boost the performance of the High-Luminosity Large Hadron Collider (HL-LHC), which is scheduled to launch at CERN in 2029, allowing it to operate at about 10 times the luminosity than originally planned. The ETL also has applications for other colliders apart from the LHC, including the DOE’s electron-ion collider at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island, New York.

“The ETL will enable breakthrough science in the area of heavy ion collisions, allowing us to delve into the properties of a remarkable new state of matter called the quark-gluon plasma,” Li explained in a statement. “This, in turn, offers invaluable insights into the strong nuclear force that binds particles at the core of matter.”

The ETL is also expected to aid in other areas of physics, including the search for the Higgs particle and understanding the makeup of dark matter.

Li is joined on this work by co-principal investigator Frank Geurts and researchers Nicole Lewis and Mike Matveev from Rice. The team is collaborating with others from MIT, Oak Ridge National Lab, the University of Illinois Chicago and University of Kansas.

Last year, fellow Rice physicist Qimiao Si, a theoretical quantum physicist, earned the prestigious Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship grant. The five-year fellowship, with up to $3 million in funding, will go towards his work to establish an unconventional approach to create and control topological states of matter, which plays an important role in materials research and quantum computing.

Meanwhile, the DOE recently tapped three Houston universities to compete in its annual startup competition focused on "high-potential energy technologies,” including one team from Rice.

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