Terrence Henry is the Austin-based online reporter for StateImpact Texas. He has worked as an editor, writer and web producer for The Washington Post and The Atlantic. He has a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Brigham Young University.
Tesla want's to sell it's electric vehicles in Texas directly to consumers, but will the legislature oblige?
Update, May 14: The deadline for the Tesla bill to pass out of the House has come and gone, but a Senate version is still alive. Read our latest update here.
Update April 24:HB 3351, which would allow Tesla to own direct dealerships in Texas, passed out of committee this week. The bill was changed to only allow the company to sell 5,000 vehicles per year before having to enter the franchise dealership system. In earlier testimony, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said he expects the company would sell between 1,500-2,000 electric cars each year in Texas. Now it heads to the House floor.
Original story, April 10, 2013: There are lots of retail businesses that have come to Texas recently: Trader Joe’s, H&M, even In-N-Out Burger, a move so bittersweet it brought one Dallasite to tears.
But for one gleaming, seductive product with an almost astronomical price tag, you’ll have to look elsewhere — the Tesla electric car.
Because of state law (which is similar to those in many other states), manufacturers of cars can’t directly sell new cars to customers in Texas. Enter Tesla, who wants to do just that, and is now engaged in a full-press charm offensive to get the Texas legislature to amend the law. Tesla maintains that their only chance of survival is to own their own dealerships, and under current law they can’t market and sell their electric cars fairly and profitably.
To give you an idea of what it’s like trying to buy a Tesla in Texas, I went to the company’s showroom at the Domain in Austin. There, a shiny black Tesla S sits in the center of a long, narrow showroom, with bright lighting, clean lines, and no clutter, much like an Apple store. There are T-shirts, swag, some seats and large posters extolling the car’s virtues. But the star of the room is the car.
You just can’t drive it, or even find out from Tesla staff how much it costs.
A flag is flown at half staff in West, Texas, near the scene of the fertilizer plant that exploded Wednesday night in in the town of 2,8000 on Thursday, April 18, 2013.
It will take time to determine the exact cause of the fire and explosion at the fertilizer plant in West, Texas. The disaster has cost at least 14 lives, caused 200 injuries and has destroyed at least 50 homes. The blast was so strong that it blew out windows for miles, and even registered as an earthquake. First responders said the aftermath looked like “a war zone.”
“Everybody plays over there,” resident Deborah Waters tells StateImpact Texas. “That track that is right beside the intermediate school, normally at that time of day, there are 20 to 30 people walking the track.” Continue Reading →
The deadly explosion ripped through the fertilizer plant late on Wednesday, injuring more than 200 people, destroying 50 homes and damaging other buildings including a school and nursing home, authorities said.
KUT photographers Filipa Rodrigues and Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon traveled to the town of West with StateImpact Texas to document the story. You can see their images, along with photos from wire services and state officials, in the gallery above.
Update: As of 3 pm Saturday, some residents of West, the site of a major explosion at a fertilizer plant Wednesday, will be allowed back into their homes in part of the severely damaged neighborhood in the North section of town. Residents 18 and over living in the area from Walnut street southward will be allowed to enter until 7 pm. From 7 pm to 7 am, the city will have a curfew, and residents will need to either stay in their homes or leave the neighborhood. North of that area, Mayor Pro Tem Steve Vanek said at a press conference this afternoon, the city will work “as quickly as possible”to allow people back to their homes. More information for residents is available at the City of West’s website.
For Texas environmental regulators, a hometown fertilizer business that stored and sold anhydrous ammonia posed a low risk to houses, apartments and schools just a few hundred feet away. That assessment six years ago – and numerous others by state and federal agencies over many years – ignored the danger from another type of fertilizer that is used around the world to make bombs.
Perhaps it’s a reflection of the integral role that energy plays in American life, but energy has also played a big role in Hollywood — from the oilfields in ‘Giant’ to a nuclear time machine in ‘Back to the Future’.
A new television show premiering tonight takes a closer look at the connection. Associate Professor of Engineering and Deputy Director of the Energy Institute at University of Texas at Austin Michael Webber hosts “Energy at the Movies,” an examination of how film has reflected the energy issues of our past, present, and even future. The show airs on Central Texas public television station KLRU at 9 p.m. tonight, and you can also watch it online.
Q: When you think about movies, energy isn’t the first thing that comes to mind, but you say maybe it should be.
A: Well it turns out that energy shows up in the movies in a lot of ways. It shows up as a plot line, it shows up as a background context, as a motivation for characters. And we found a couple of hundred movies that have major energy elements in them in one way or another. And if you take all these elements and stitch them together over time, you get a pretty nice historical snapshot of energy in society. Continue Reading →
The Keystone XL pipeline under construction in East Texas. The state legislature is considering plans to change how pipelines use eminent domain in the state.
The controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which would take heavy crude oil from sand pits in Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast of Texas, is getting new scrutiny after an oil spill from another pipeline in Arkansas carrying that same kind of heavy oil.
Environmental groups say that allowing the Keystone XL pipeline, owned and operated by the pipeline company TransCanada, will harm the climate and risk severe spills, while the oil industry says pipelines are the safest way to move the fuel, and that oil will help the economy and national security. The President’s getting pressure from both sides to decide whether or not to allow the pipeline to cross the Canadian border. But with our without presidential approval, the Keystone XL pipeline is coming to Texas, where it has brought another issue into the spotlight: property rights in an industry-friendly state. Continue Reading →
The bottom of the lake after the water has dried up at the Benbrook Lake Dock in Benbrook, Texas, near the peak of the drought in August 2011.
While there are different routes proposed to get there, one goal is clear this legislative session: lawmakers want to do something to address the state’s water woes. Texas faces shrinking water supplies, persistent drought and a growing population. One major initiative that would likely take $2 billion from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to start financing new water projects in the state had a hearing today at the State Senate Natural Resources Committee.
Representatives of farmers, environmentalists and conservative groups all had their say on that proposal, HB 4, by Rep. Allan Ritter, R-Nederland. And for the most part, the plan has widespread support. “I’m getting a little bit worried because the comments by the Texas Farm Bureau sound like the rationale Sierra Club has for supporting this bill,” joked Ken Kramer, Water Resources Chair & Legislative Advisor for the Lone Star Sierra Club, who testified in favor of the bill.
The plan would create a revolving bank, the State Water Implementation Fund of Texas (SWIFT), that would review and approve loans for water projects, things like new reservoirs, brackish desalination and conservation. The loans would be repaid into the bank, which would then use the money for other new projects. 20 percent of the funding would be dedicated to conservation projects, while 10 percent would be directed towards rural areas.
At this point, the only real opposition to the water funding comes from some fiscal conservative groups, who argue that state spending and oversight is largely unnecessary. Continue Reading →
A new surprise plan from the Texas Senate would take big decisions about funding for water and roads and put them in the hands of voters.
Water and roads are hot topics at the Texas legislature this session, as for the first time in several sessions, lawmakers make real efforts to fund new water and road projects for the growing state. While there seems to be a broad consensus that significant new funding is needed; as expected, it’s in the particulars where differences are emerging.
If a new Senate proposal ultimately passes, the large allocation of state dollars for water and roads would now be decided by the voters.
A plan already making its way through the legislature would create a revolving state water bank, backed by $2 billion from the Rainy Day Fund (basically the state’s bonus savings account) and an additional $6 billion in bond authority. That recently passed in the House and is now in the Senate, HB 4. But the actual funds for that bill are found in another bill, HB 11, which has yet to hit the floor. (A similar scenario is at play in the Senate.)
But late yesterday, in a surprise move, State Sen. Tommy Williams, R-Woodlands, introduced a different plan for the funds for the water bank, which would send the spending approval to voters. It’s in Senate Joint Resolution 1, with a price tag of $2.5 billion for water, and another $3.5 billion in transportation funding. Voters would decide on each allocation separately. They quickly held a hearing on it this morning in the Senate Finance Committee. Continue Reading →
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