Axios Houston

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๐Ÿ‘‹ Hey, y'all. It's Tuesday.

โ˜€๏ธ Today's weather: A beautiful sunny day. High of 66.

๐Ÿงข Sounds like: "Von Dutch" by Charli XCX.

๐Ÿค It's a great day to contribute to our newsroom by becoming an Axios Local member.

Today's newsletter is 948 words โ€” a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: We're still growing

Change in population, 2020 to 2023
Data: U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Axios Visuals

Harris County added more residents than any other county in the country, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau, possibly increasing competition at your favorite taco food truck.

By the numbers: Harris County, the country's third-most populous county, with about 4.8 million residents, added nearly 54,000 residents last year.

The big picture: Texas saw some of the biggest population increases nationwide last year. All of our large metros โ€” Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio and Austin โ€” were among the top 10 metro areas with the biggest population increases from July 2022 to July 2023.

Change in population, 2020 to 2023
Data: U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Axios Visuals

Plus: In terms of percentages, the Lone Star State also had six of the country's 10 fastest-growing counties, including Liberty and Chambers counties.

  • Liberty County grew 5.7% to about 108,000, and Chambers County grew 5% to nearly 54,000.

Of note: This data is the most recent release of the annual Population Estimates Program, which uses administrative records and other sources to calculate annual changes in population and housing between censuses.

Between the lines: The population gains come from two sources โ€” people moving to the area and births outpacing deaths. Harris County was among the top counties that saw gains from international migration, which made up over 41,000 people.

  • Yes, but: 2023 marked the eighth consecutive year that the county experienced negative domestic migration, meaning more people moved out of Harris County than moved in from elsewhere in the U.S., per the Greater Houston Partnership's analysis.

The bottom line: We just keep getting bigger. But hey, more people means more friends to share those tacos with, right?

2. ๐Ÿ›ข๏ธ CERAWeek arrives in Houston

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

This week, downtown's George R. Brown Convention Center will be ground zero for battles over the shape and speed of the energy transition.

Why it matters: CERAWeek by S&P Global opened Monday with speeches from Big Oil CEOs and top Biden administration officials.

  • It serves as a window into policy divisions and areas for potential cooperation, Axios' Ben Geman reports.

The big picture: The international confab is much more, too โ€” private government-industry huddles, big-name onstage interviews, and a large clean technology event with startups galore.

Ahead of the event, Axios chatted with S&P's Daniel Yergin, the Pulitzer-winning energy historian and CERAWeek emcee, about big themes.

Behind the scenes: U.S. electricity thirst is jumping after many years of flat consumption, amid rising use of electric vehicles, new manufacturing, and artificial intelligence growth.

  • "One of the biggest things ... is the whole new outlook on electricity demand, and AI data centers [have] been a big driver of it," Yergin said.
  • More broadly, "AI is going to be a big thread running through the entire conference," he said.

Inside the room: Geopolitical tensions are a major theme. CERAWeek is happening amid the Middle East crisis and, for the third time, Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

  • That guarantees focus on energy security โ€” and how it intersects with climate policy.

Follow the money

3. ๐Ÿ’ธ Millions can file taxes directly, for free

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

About 3.8 million Texans are eligible to use a new Internal Revenue Service tool to file their 2023 federal taxes for free.

The big picture: April 15 is the deadline for most taxpayers to pay any taxes owed and file their personal federal returns or request an extension.

Why it matters: Texas is one of 12 states participating in the IRS Direct File pilot, which could reshape how millions of Americans do their taxes and disrupt the multibillion-dollar tax preparation industry, per Axios' Jacob Knutson.

How it works: Users can check their eligibility using the Direct File website and, if they're eligible, enter their income information to file their federal taxes.

  • The tool comes with customer support, a checklist for completing the steps, and tutorials in English and Spanish.
  • Users can review the information they've entered and see how much they owe before filing their return.

Yes, but: Eligibility depends on your type of income and tax credits. You also can't itemize deductions.

  • And the tool does only federal filings โ€” not state ones. Texas doesn't have a state income tax, but people who conduct business where there's a state income tax have to file returns there.

What's next: The IRS says that it issues most refunds within 21 days but that taxpayers shouldn't depend on receiving a payment by a certain date because of delays.

Share with a taxpaying Texan

4. Bayou Buzz

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

๐Ÿฉบ The Houston Health Department and the Ibn Sina Foundation are partnering to host community health fairs throughout the year to provide free or low-cost vaccinations and screenings. (Houston Public Media)

๐Ÿ’จ Houston's Cloverleaf community is one of several without adequate access to air-quality monitoring data. (Texas Tribune)

๐Ÿšง The Texas Department of Transportation will shut down a crucial connection from West Loop 610 to Interstate 69 for months. (Chron)

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5. ๐Ÿ“ธ Your RodeoHouston photos

Angela D. and family (left) and Lisa G. and friends (right). Photos: Courtesy of Angela D. and Lisa G.

Howdy! The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo may be over, but we wanted to relive the magic by showcasing some of the photos you shared with us.

Driving the news: We asked our readers for memorable photos, and y'all didn't disappoint.

Photos of rodeo patrons and a ride at the carnival
Nicolas J. donned a custom Gonzo247 cowboy hat (left), and Gwen H. snapped a swing ride on film. Photos: Courtesy of Nicolas J. and Gwen H.

What they're saying: "Had a great time taking my three kids to the rodeo for their first time ever," reader Nicolas J. said. "And I got to wear my custom cowboy hat from local artist Gonzo247!"

๐Ÿ’ญ Jay's thought bubble: I always love seeing our readers out and about, in the wild or via photos in our inbox.

  • Seeing your loved ones having a blast at one of the common experiences we get to share as Houstonians was such a lovely way to spend my Monday. Thank you!

Thanks to Chloe Gonzales for editing and Khalid Adad and Yasmeen Altaji for copy editing this newsletter.

๐Ÿ’ป Shafaq still needs to do her taxes.

๐Ÿš” Jay is reading the Houston Chronicle's investigation into Harris County constables' unprecedented power.