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Are Charging Stations on Texas’ Highways Progress?

Texas is getting the most of any state (it is the largest in the lower 48) and intends to build more than 50 new locations in the first year along major Texas interstates between El Paso, San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, Panhandle, Rio Grande Valley, and Houston using money from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law from 2021.

For the next 5 years, the Texas Department of Transportation plans to expand the stations into rural areas and build at least one electric vehicle (EV) charger in every county.

The announcement comes after Governor Greg Abbott last year warned state agencies, like a petulant child, to be cautious before accepting funds from newly passed federal climate initiatives. Abbott said to avoid the funds if they constrain the state or require an agency to implement a policy that is contrary to the policy of Texas. Unfortunately in our republic, he does represent the citizens, but his idiocy knows no bounds. The man and his cohorts just hate progress, reason, and decency.

In August, the Inflation Reduction Act included an ambitious climate package with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the U.S. economy’s reliance on fossil fuels. The law will provide hundreds of billions of dollars in tax credits and subsidies for clean energy programs and also includes consumer tax credits to buy electric vehicles.

Though the Inflation Reduction Act passed without any Republican support (take away reason and accountability) based on the idea that it would “punish energy producers.” In other words, it will hurt the people and companies that give them money. Despite Texas Republicans’ political rhetoric and state legislation opposing climate action, TxDOT’s application for electric vehicle charging stations indicates that economics will prevail.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said that “some of the best use cases for electric vehicles are in places like Texas,” arguing that widespread electric vehicle adoption could save Texans money on gasoline. Though slightly better for the environment, the reality is that it won’t. It just shifts the cost to electricity bills and higher taxes in the form of government subsidies. Why not just be honest and forthright about that?

The state’s plan is to build 55 new charging locations during the first year. Private companies have already installed 27 charging locations along the targeted highways and 26 more will be funded by the Volkswagen-emissions-cheating lawsuit settlement.

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Currently, around 150,000 electric vehicles are registered in Texas. That represents about 1% of vehicles. Current estimates shows Texas will have 1 million electric vehicles by 2028, which is still only a small portion of the 30+ million cars that will be on the road. Moving from 1% to 3.3% is an increase, yes, but that doesn’t really move the needle in terms of decarbonization. Furthermore, is it even practical?

The state said that will satisfy the federal government’s requirement to have charging stations every 50-70 miles. After your first full charge of your EV, all you have to do is wait an hour to drive another hour or two. At that rate, you can get across the big state of Texas in about 4-5 days. Hilarious!

The new national climate adviser Ali Zaidi said “If we make it so that it’s not about sacrifice, but it’s about opportunity, I think it becomes irresistible.” Again, comments like this make the shift feel like a it’s just that… a shift and not actually better for anything or anyone. Though slightly better for the environment, the reality is that it will not be. It just shifts the business model of consumerism.

Though more EVs are being produced and sold every day and the adjustment in energy consumption will create jobs, will the shift really do anything for quality of life (noise, air pollution, the environment, etc.)? Many are skeptical. They are not doubting the science that electric vehicles can be better and are slightly cleaner (almost negligible at this time), but that the shift is just a shift in how most people consume too much and live their lives inefficiently.

Doesn’t it feel like building a charging station every 50-70 miles is even more saturated than gas stations? What’s going to be the carbon footprint to build those out, building out enough electrical load, building out the grid, and managing all that? We haven’t run the numbers, but this initial step in what will be a lengthy transformation seems ill-advised.

For now, offering subsidies for more practical hybrid cars and/or home solar seems like it would be a better application of money to help all of us lower our electric bills and really make a progressive step toward decarbonization in the arena that needs to addresses first… where we get our energy and electricity to power all of this electric stuff.

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