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This Economic Perspective features a look at damage impacts from Hurricane Ian on railway, OPEC's production changes, and new technology to mechanize seaweed harvesting, among others. For this week's graphic we feature a spiral chart showing housing markets cooling off. Also featured is an article from NPR that highlights Fat Bear Week, which is shining light on the survival of brown bears - be sure to check it out and vote for your favorite bear!
Thoughts go out to those affected by Hurricane Ian's lasting effects across the State of Florida. As many are starting the recovery process, many are still in response mode. AccuWeather has put together a list of resources for how others can help here.
Storm Damage Forces Southwest Florida Freight Railway to Close for Months
The Seminole Gulf Railway reported losing three bridges near Fort Myers totaling 1,300 linear feet, as well as three additional bridges near Arcadia having the rail yard in Arcadia underwater. About 2,500 carloads of freight come through annually, including plastic, propane, food and building materials. They expect that it could take 6 months to restore the service. In the meantime, some carloads will be diverted to Sarasota and others will have to use trucking for transportation. Tampa Bay Business Journal
OPEC Drops Production by 2 Million Barrels per Day
Recent declines in fuel costs may be short-lived as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) announced major production changes this week. Starting in November, participating countries will reduce crude oil production by 2 million barrels per day (mb/d) from August 2022 required production levels. The largest declines will be seen in Saudi Arabia and Russia; both countries are reducing production by 526 mb/d. At the same time, another 10 million barrels of crude oil are scheduled to be released next month from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve, bringing the total to 165 million barrels out of the 180 million barrels President Biden authorized in March. Source: OPEC, DOE.
Mechanizing Seaweed Harvesting
Seaweed has been utilized for a range of products including food, cosmetics, biofuels and packaging, but current techniques to cultivate on larger scales has limitations. An Indian startup, Sea6 Energy, is looking to mechanize ocean farming with an automated catamaran that simultaneously harvests and replants seaweed. The global seaweed industry doubled between 2005 and 2015, but the costly and labor-intensive production impedes market growth, Sea6 Energy hopes the Sea Combine will cut costs to allow for more applications for seaweed. Read more at CNN Business
Fat Bear Week Celebrates Survival of Brown Bears
Fat Bear Week 2022 is finally here. Starting seven years ago, this annual competition highlights the resilience and strength of the brown bears that reside at Katmai National Park & Preserve in Alaska. This week celebrates the bears' success in preparing for winter hibernation. From the middle of summer to the fall, an average male adult can go from weighing 600-900 pounds to well over 1,000 pounds. Twelve lucky brown bears are placed into a bracket similar to those seen for March Madness, where online voters can decide who should advance. People can cast their votes between 12-9 p.m. Eastern time and even download a bracket to predict their own fat bear winner. Only one will be crowned champion of Fat Bear Week. Vote Here. (NPR).
All Plastic Pollution May Have Met its Match: Wax Worms
It has been discovered that an enzyme found in wax worm saliva, used to breakdown the honeycomb of bees, also has the ability to biodegrade polyethylene plastics. The saliva is able to break down plastics in a matter of hours at room temperature without any needed heat or radiation that other methods require. Previous biological means of plastic biodegrading were done at a microscopic level with only a handful of organisms being able to. With many polyethylene plastics being dumped every year, and less than 10% of them being recycled this new discovery can make huge headways into waste management, as well as limiting plastic pollution. Plastics often breakdown into microplastics but never truly degrade. These microplastics will enter the biological food chain as they pollute water ways. Stopping this can dramatically stop the health problems associated with microplastics. This study was funded in part by a German plastic engineering company, Röchling, and a landmark agreement was approved at the United Nations in March to create the first global plastic pollution treaty. Read More
Data Visualization of the Week
Housing Cooling Off
Spiral charts are usually most effective to show seasonal data over many years; the distance from the center of the spiral corresponds to the quantity being visualized and the position around the circle indicates month or quarter or some other time step. The Washington Post put together a spiral chart showing the % of homes sold within 2 weeks – as a measure of how hot the housing market is. It shows monthly data from 2012 to 2022. There’s also a map by county showing if housing is stable or cooling off. As of August 2022, about 34% of homes were selling within 2 weeks, down from a high hovering around 60% from April 2021 to March 2022. See the data at Washington Post.