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.
This week we have articles on the U.S. car fleet potentially causing lithium shortages, a mosquito feeding platform, whale beachings, and more. The Data Visualization covers changing home prices around the country and expected forecasts for this year.
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New Mosquito Feeding Platform
An article published this week in a leading biotech journal reports on an innovative system for mosquito monitoring: fake skin with real blood. The system consists of a porous hydrogel (so mosquitos can smell the blood through it), and inside the gel are tiny channels with blood inside. It sounds a bit grim, but it’s actually a more humane and versatile system than using animals or humans in testing for mosquito diseases. The idea is that this “mosquito feeding platform” could be deployed to collect better data on mosquito diseases by readily having access to the blood inside the hydrogel. Researchers also think it will have applications for testing new mosquito repellents. It takes innovation to battle the world’s deadliest animal! Read the story at wired.com.
New Buy America Guidance Published
The Office of Management and Budget published the proposed revisions to the Build America, Buy America Act provisions of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The new guidance would add three new categories to the existing list of construction materials: composite building materials, fiber optic cable, and optical fiber. It also explores whether coatings and brick and engineered wood products should be covered too. While aggregates are excluded from the list, the guidance also questions whether some processed aggregate products should be excluded from the provisions. The guidance is in the public comment phase. ARTBA
Four Whale Beachings in Oregon Signal New Trend
The deaths of the sperm whale and three gray whales last month in Oregon is consistent with a larger trend endangering the gray whale population on the West Coast and Alaska. The coastline from Alaska to Mexico has seen an increase in gray whale strandings since 2019. In fact, NOAA has declared an Unusual Mortality Event (UME) for 2019-2023. Gray whales make up 50% of beachings across Oregon and southwest Washington, with 117. Gray whales and sperm whales are the second and third most common, with 27 and 23 respectively. Of the whales stranded since 1989, 57 were found in the past five years – around 24% – with 19 of those whales beached in 2019 alone. The specific cause of strandings has yet to be determined,but changes in the arctic waters may be affecting the gray whales’ food supply, leading them to become malnourished and more susceptible to prey. The Oregonian
Cruz Foam Makes Styrofoam Alternative from Shrimp Shells and Food Waste
As bans on Styrofoam spread across the county need remains for lightweight insulating packaging material. Cruz Foam, founded in 2017, has created an alternative material made from chitin, and starches and fibers from food waste. This is a biodegradable, and environmentally safe option compared to Styrofoam, which degrades into microplastics in our oceans over time. Cruz Foam finally launched its first line of shipping material on Wednesday. These products can be used and safely discarded afterward, even being used as composting for a customer’s soil or garden. Read More.
January Construction Employment a Mixed Bag
According to the Bureau of Labor Statics, U.S. construction increased 3.9% in January 2023 compared to the same month last year. However, the industry’s unemployment rate was 6.9% last month, up from 4.4% in December. In addition, the heavy and civil construction sector declined by 1,200 workers. Average hourly pay for construction workers rose 6.2% in January, year-over-year, to $31.44 per hour. ENR. Read More.
Making the Entire U.S. Car Fleet Electric Could Cause Lithium Shortages
New research from the University of California, Davis and the Climate and Community Project shows that converting the existing U.S. car fleet to battery-powered electric vehicles would require three times more lithium by 2050 than the world currently produces. A transition to EVs could lead to lithium shortages unless broader changes are implemented such as the US and other countries overhaul transportation systems and move away from private cars as primary means of travel and intensive recycling of batteries. Current global production is just over 100,000 tons of lithium annually, but under the base case scenario, the researchers estimate the US alone would require 306,000 by 2050; it does however assume no changes in the transportation system and consumers buying vehicles with batteries the same size as those used in today’s EVs. Read More.
Data Visualization of the Week
U.S. Home Price Insights - February 2023
CoreLogic offers insights into National Home Prices from December to February. While home prices may experience minor declines in price month to month, prices are expected to go up over the course of this year by 3%. States such as Florida, Vermont, and South Carolina are expected to increase the most. Read more and check out other visualizations here