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The Economic Perspective 3/10/2023

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.

Dr. Dan Dourte was in Brisbane, Australia this week for the launch of our office there led by Edwin Chivava and Jonathan Thompson. In this edition, we have articles on water quality with announced funding in Washington State and a new tool that will help to diagnose the health of water streams. We also have interesting pieces on carbon storage in Maine, how managed wildfires can improve health forest and more. March is Women’s History Month, so we’ll be taking a minute each week here to celebrate the lives of women who have shaped the sciences and engineering in key ways. This week we’re recognizing Florence Nightingale, a statistician who revolutionized nursing by using data visualization to represent information (something that is becoming more popular these days). In particular, how she developed a polar-area diagram to show the causes of mortality in military hospitals in 1854 and 1855 during the Crimean war. You can learn more about her here.

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New Polyethylene Plant Breaks Ground in Texas

In important news for a polymer-constrained construction industry, Golden Triangle Polymers has broken ground on a new $8.5 billion polyethylene plant in Orange County, Texas. The facility is a joint venture between Chevron Phillips Chemical and Qatar Energy and is expected to come online in 2026. The plant is set to produce Marlex polyethylene, which is used in the production of durable goods like pipe for natural gas and water delivery as well as recreational products and packaging. The plant will include an ethane cracker with an annual production capacity of 2,080 KTA and two 1,000 KTA high-density polyethylene units. Read more here

$40 Million Announce for Clean Water Infrastructure Upgrades for Washington State

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced over $40 million for Washington to support Washington communities in upgrading essential water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure. Funding is from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law through this year’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF). These upgrades to water systems in Washington state will help protect people’s health and waters, while addressing key challenges like the contaminants per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substance (PFAS). Nearly half of the total funding is available as grants or principal forgiveness loans in effort to remove barriers to essential water infrastructure in underserved communities. EPA

Maine Woods Are Capable of Storing More Carbon at Without Decreasing Harvest Levels

The forests of Maine already absorb roughly 70% of the annual fossil fuel emissions in the state, but a new study shows that, with involved climate controlling strategies such as increased planting, thinning, and selective harvesting, even more carbon may be able to be stored without having to decrease harvesting levels. This study claims that annual carbon storage may be increased by an additional 20% at least if these practices are implemented widely. These improvements also come at a lower potential cost compared to other methods of combating climate change, with increased potential yield from harvesting operations in the long term as well. New England Forestry Foundation

Water Quality Expert Develops Public Tool for Diagnosing Health of America’s Streams

A West Virginia University researcher, Omar Abdul-Aziz, developed a model for predicting oxygen levels in water. Aziz’s model relies on only water temperature and pH to get a measurement of oxygen. His model takes very little data to get an accurate measurement that is important for stream restoration. Despite many other factors being important to determining health of a water system, temperature and pH can acquire all the information needed to make quality predictions. The tool is scalable and will work for any freshwater stream except for some streams in mountainous areas. This will allow for historical conditions to be understood and make expectations for the future. Read More.

Public Investments for Sustainable Aviation Fuels

United Airlines recently launched its Sustainable Flight Fund, a $100 million effort to power planes with sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) using waste from various sources including cooking oil, algae, and crops that can be refined into jet fuel. While United is working alongside other companies to create the supply chain of sustainable fuel, the company is providing customers with the opportunity to contribute to this fund when purchasing a ticket. Aviation emissions are responsible for 4% of the global effects and the World Economic Forum estimates emissions could more than double as cheaper flights become more available. Drop-in fuels such as SAFs do not require jet engines to be modified to burn them, which is promising as planes that run on clean electricity such as hydrogen would require replacement of entire fleets and take decades. Read more about the SAF journey here

Data Visualization of the Week

Managed Wildfires can Improve the Health of Forest

Throughout the last few decades, impacts from wildfires have become an increasing social, economic and ecological concern across the western United States. Thanks to new findings, managers and researchers linked forest restoration goals with maps of predicted post-fire conditions. Researchers utilized probabilistic tree mortality models for 24 species based on tree characteristics and remotely sensed fire severity from burned field plots, and applied estimates to unburned stands in four national forests to predict post-fire conditions. This type of modeling may provide a new way to predict the fire severities that are most apt to help eastern Oregon forests return to their historical density, species composition and basal area. For instance, the figure mapped the restorative fire severity ranges and vegetation types for the 2012 Parish Cabin on the Malheur National Forest. Oregon State University



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