seeing green

Houston is uniquely ready for the energy transition, Rice University research finds

A new study declares that Houston boasts the talent pool, tax advantages, and business-friendly environment to lead in energy transitions. Photo via Getty Images

These days, the term "green energy" has quickly evolved from a potential new resource avenue to political lighting rod — especially in Houston. But now, a new report suggests that the nation's oil and gas leader could be primed to be a green leader.

Houston's "energy capital of the world" status is here to stay — no matter the type of energy — says a new report from Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy. The study declares that Houston boasts the talent pool, tax advantages, and business-friendly environment to lead in energy transitions.

"With the Port of Houston consistently ranked the nation's largest for waterborne tonnage, foreign imports and vessel transits, Houston has earned its stripes as a global epicenter for logistics and complex supply chain operations," Rice's Ken Medlock notes.

"Managing supply chains, handling materials and deep expertise in chemistry and engineering are all skill sets that drive the oil and gas industry, and they form the basis of Houston's comparative advantage. All are transferable, and will remain important for the development and delivery of all energy services."

The Bayou City is actually "well-positioned" to pioneer the continuing evolution of the global energy system, the study continues.

Public perception aside, Texas is already prepared for the green energy transition, Medlock continues, offering up these stats:

Texas already has more wind capacity than any other state (more than 26 percent of the entire U.S.), and the Lone Star State is home to almost 10 percent of the nation's installed solar capacity and 10 percent of the nation's installed battery capacity

Texas currently accounts for 20 percent of the nation's total non-hydro renewable power capacity, despite only accounting for only 11 percent of the nation's total installed generation capacity.

"This means Texas is ranked No. 1 in wind capacity, No. 2 in battery capacity and No. 3 in solar capacity among every state in the U.S., which puts Texas at the top of all states in terms of installed green power technology capacity," says Medlock.

More on the report can be found here.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

For over a year now, scientists have been testing wastewater for COVID-19. Now, the public can access that information. Photo via Getty Images

In 2020, a group of researchers began testing Houston's wastewater to collect data to help identify trends at the community level. Now, the team's work has been rounded up to use as an online resource.

The Houston Health Department and Rice University launched the dashboard on September 22. The information comes from samples collected from the city's 39 wastewater treatment plants and many HISD schools.

"This new dashboard is another tool Houstonians can use to gauge the situation and make informed decisions to protect their families," says Dr. Loren Hopkins, chief environmental science officer for the health department and professor in the practice of statistics at Rice University, in a news release. "A high level of virus in your neighborhood's wastewater means virus is spreading locally and you should be even more stringent about masking up when visiting public places."

The health department, Houston Water, Rice University, and Baylor College of Medicine originally collaborated on the wastewater testing. Baylor microbiologist Dr. Anthony Maresso, director of BCM TAILOR Labs, led a part of the research.

"This is not Houston's first infectious disease crisis," Maresso says in an earlier news release. "Wastewater sampling was pioneered by Joseph Melnick, the first chair of Baylor's Department of Molecular Virology and Microbiology, to get ahead of polio outbreaks in Houston in the 1960s. This work essentially ushered in the field of environmental virology, and it began here at Baylor. TAILOR Labs is just continuing that tradition by providing advanced science measures to support local public health intervention."

It's an affordable way to track the virus, says experts. People with COVID-19 shed viral particles in their feces, according to the release, and by testing the wastewater, the health department can measure important infection rate changes.

The dashboard, which is accessible online now, is color-coded by the level of viral load in wastewater samples, as well as labeled with any recent trend changes. Houstonians can find the interactive COVID-19 wastewater monitoring dashboard, vaccination sites, testing sites, and more information at houstonemergency.org/covid19.

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