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Economic Perspective 10/20/2023

The Latest Trending Economic, Environmental and Demographic News Curated for You By The Balmoral Group

The Balmoral Group provides practical, professional and precise Economics, Data Analytics, and Engineering Consulting services and is part of a globally integrated team.

Happy Friday!

This week at our Winter Park, FL headquarters, The Balmoral Group welcomes Grant Leslie, Director, Balmoral Group Australia! Grant is working on exciting projects in Australia and Fiji, and it is great to have him here with the U.S. team even if only for a short while. There are lots of fun and interesting things to do around Orlando this time of year - join some of the TBG Team as we attend the Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare this Friday Night at Orlando Shakes!

This Friday's edition of the Economic Perspective features articles on highway funding, the cement industry, using AI to track forest ecosystem health, and more! Our data visualization details a research project that used tree rings to identify earthquake risk! Check it out below. Enjoy the read and feedback is always appreciated! Please feel free to forward this to anyone you think would be interested. If you'd like to view previous editions please click here, or to subscribe please click here!

Have a great weekend!

States Pitch Mileage Tax to Bridge Gap in Federal Highway Funding

The Highways and Transit Subcommittee held a hearing on October 18th in regards to the Highway Trust Fund’s (HTF) solvency issues and potential solutions. While the 2021 infrastructure law helped with the influx of money to the HTF, the issues will arise again in 2026 when the law expires. An analyst for the Congressional Budget Office said that, assuming gas taxes are unchanged, the cumulative gap in the HTF between revenue and spending will be $241 billion by 2033. The hearing also included testimonies from the Oregon DOT and the Washington State Transportation Commission, where they shared findings from their road usage charge pilot programs, which are seen as potential new revenue sources. Read more here.

Startup Claims It Can Completely Decarbonize the Cement Industry

Brimstone Energy, a California-based startup, is working to decarbonize the cement production process. Cement production accounts for roughly the same carbon emissions as cars around the world. This is due to the abundance of concrete in construction and that limestone is the primary ingredient in cement. Limestone consists of about 50% CO2, but Brimstone is using a calcium silicate rock that is even more abundant than limestone and Brimstone’s new cement with this rock has already been certified as essentially the same as Portland Cement. Brimstone claims that once its company scales up production it will be cheaper than cement. Read more here.

Using AI to Analyze Forest Sounds for Ecosystem Health Assessment A recent study in Nature Communications reveals how forest sounds can serve as indicators of biodiversity recovery. Researchers, led by Jörg Müller from the University of Würzburg, employed bioacoustics and artificial intelligence to monitor reforestation efforts in Ecuador. By analyzing the soundscapes, they could identify species present, with healthier ecosystems exhibiting more vibrant acoustic diversity. This approach offers a cost-effective and non-intrusive means of tracking ecosystem health. As climate change intensifies, the study emphasizes the critical role of tropical forests in carbon storage and biodiversity preservation, making soundscapes a valuable tool for monitoring restoration and combating greenwashing. Read more here.

Feds Announce $3.5 Billion Grid Resilience Program A $3.5 billion Grid Resilience and Innovation Partnerships program was announced by the Biden administration this week to fund 58 projects across the U.S. in an effort to strengthen the nation’s electric grid resilience. As extreme weather events such as wildfires, winter storms, and hurricanes increasingly strain transmission systems across the county, the projects are expected to harden electric systems and improve energy reliability and affordability. Read more here.

Data Visualization of the Week

Tree Rings Reveal Hidden Earthquake Risk in the Pacific Northwest

Although no major earthquakes have hit the area in decades, the Pacific Northwest is considered a seismically active area. So, to better understand the risk of quakes in the region, researchers in the PNW are using tree rings to study the past in order to gauge future earthquake risk. By examining preserved trees believed to have been killed by earthquakes, they determined that two shallow fault lines in the Puget Sound region are connected and pose a higher earthquake risk than previously believed. The study found evidence of a massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake or two smaller quakes of magnitude 7.5 and 7.3 occurring around the years 923-924 based on tree ring data, highlighting the need for increased understanding of local fault networks as well as reexamining current hazard models and preparedness plans. Read the full study here.



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