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The Economic Perspective 12/08/2023

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, The Balmoral Group's Australia director, Grant Leslie, was inducted as an Australian Water Association NSW Water Legend. This honor acknowledges his immense contributions to the water industry and his commitment to a sustainable water future. In his acceptance speech, Grant shared valuable insights, drawing from his experience. He emphasized the increasing challenges in addressing issues like drought, noting, 'As we have already optimized our resources, for example, through water efficient measures, the path forward demands making larger investment decisions'. This perspective highlights the need for bold and innovative approaches in our ongoing challenge with water security.

Grant also offered advice that resonates deeply, both professionally and personally: 'Be the change you want to see and follow your passion'. His remarkable journey, from humble beginnings in the Far West, spanned six diverse careers in the water industry, and stands as a testament to this ethos. As we celebrate Grant's well-deserved recognition, we are inspired by his commitment and vision. His words serve as a reminder of our responsibility and potential in shaping a sustainable water future.

Grant and the Australia team at the Legends of Water Dinner

In this edition we have articles on reclaimed asphalt pavements, measuring snow depths using satellite data, the impacts the increased use of AI has on data centers and water consumption, and more. 

Hope you enjoy the read and let us know what you think! 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!

Green Asphalt Produces 100% RAP Mix

Green Asphalt, located in Queens, New York, has created a formulation that uses 100% reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP) to produce high-performance asphalt mixes. Mix designs typically contain about 5% fresh asphalt cement, but input cost volatility creates uncertainty and continues to raise asphalt prices. For Green Asphalt products, on the other hand, only .5% of stably priced rejuvenator is added to RAP, resulting in a product price of $58 per ton for the past 15 years. According to Green Asphalt, any existing asphalt plant can be adapted to produce 100% RAP over a three-week period. Read more: here. Photo credit: Brandon Noel

A ‘Thirsty’ Generative AI Boom Poses a Growing Problem for Big Tech

Tech giant companies such as Microsoft and Google have seen large increases in their water usage due to AI. Shaolei Ren or the University of California, Riverside, published a study in April investigating the resources needed for AI models such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT. This study found that ChatGPT consumes 500 milliliters of water for every 10-50 prompts. With hundreds of millions of monthly users all submitting questions the water consumption can rapidly rise. Data centers are the greatest share of water and energy use of major tech companies. In July, protests in Uruguay were targeted against Google’s plan to build a data center as the proposal required vast quantities of water during the countries’ worst drought in the last 74 years. Read more here.

Plans to Remove the ‘Super Pollutant’ from Oil and Gas

The Biden administration unveiled Saturday the final regulations in the process of removing methane from U.S. oil and gas industries. This spurs from two years ago, at the United Nations COPP28 climate change conference where plans were made by the United States and other countries for the reigning in of pollution from oil and gas – with the primary goal targeted at methane. A goal set to cut methane emissions by 30% from 2020 levels by 2030 was declared at the time. An estimated $7.6 billion a year from improved climate and health could be seen, along with an increase in recovery of up to $13 billion of natural gas over the time period. Read more here.

Manatee Winter Feeding Program Halted Due to Recovery of Seagrass Beds

Improved conditions in seagrass beds on which manatees depend for food have led Florida wildlife officials to halt a two-year experimental feeding program. The state launched the program after over 1,100 manatees died in 2021 from starvation. Manatees are listed as a threatened species, and the starvation problem they face has been linked to nitrogen, phosphorous, and sewage pollution that kills the seagrass on which they depend for food. Last year, over 400,000 pounds of lettuce was fed to manatees near a power plant in Cocoa, Florida. Wildlife officials emphasized that while feeding manatees is an effective temporary solution, habitat restoration and other conservation strategies are needed long-term solutions. Read more here.

Installation of Protected Bike Lane in Seattle Doubles Active Transit

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT)’s installation of a 0.4-mile protected bike lane on West Marginal Way SW in late 2022 bridged the gap between the Duwamish Trail and West Seattle Bridge Trail. According to a recent SDOT report, the average number of people biking on weekdays was up 144% along West Marginal Way SW after improvements were made, with the number of people walking up 96%. Additionally, the new facility, new traffic signal, and stretch of sidewalk resulted in only a one second difference in travel time for those folks driving on the street; no collisions have been recorded that involve trail users. The Urbanist

Space Lasers Measure Snowpack Levels in Breakthrough Study

Scientists are utilizing space-based lasers to measure snowpack accurately, offering a significant advancement in snow monitoring. University of Washington doctoral candidate Hannah Besso, the lead author of the study," employed data from NASA's ICESat-2 satellite to assess snowpack in Methow Valley and the Tuolumne River Basin. The satellite, equipped with LIDAR, emitted photons to Earth's surface, measuring the time they took to return, allowing precise estimation of snow levels. The method demonstrated remarkable accuracy, particularly in the Tuolumne River Basin, raising potential for improved water resources management, though challenges persist, Besso noted. Read more here.

Data Visualization of the Week

Which Regions Have the Biggest Data Center Power Capacity?

The rise of generative AI applications has increased demand in the world's data center network and is expected to continue increasing in the next years. Based off a 2022 study, the highest concentration of power capacity is in Northern Virginia due to tax incentives, superior connectivity and infrastructure well suited to the resource needs of big server farms. This is followed by Beijing and London. According to CBRE, even with capacity increasing throughout the year, Northern Virginia’s power vacancy rate was at 2% during the first quarter of 2023. Statista


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