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The Economic Perspective 8/18/2023

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, everyone!

HGreat news for the Balmoral Group this week as our President and Principal Economist Valerie Seidel (pictured below, far left) was announced member of the year at the annual meeting of Florida's section of the American Water Resources Association (AWRA). If you are involved in Florida water resources, think about scheduling a trip next summer to Key West for the AWRA Florida Annual Meeting, as well as attending other events AWRA Florida does throughout the year.

In this Friday's edition we have pieces on major environmental projects such as: the demolition of dams along the Klamath River to restore the river and the first wind farm in Lake Erie. Also, we have an article on how a judge's decision in a climate change case in Montana could reshape the state's environmental review policies as well as influence other ongoing cases in other states and countries.

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!

World's Largest Dam Removal Project Gets Approval

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission unanimously voted on a proposal to demolish four dams on the lower Klamath River in California. The $500 million project aims to restore the lower half of California’s second-largest river to its natural free-flowing state, effectively opening up hundreds of miles of critical salmon habitat. Tribal communities that rely on the Klamath River supported this project. Read more here Photo: AP

Judge Sides with 16 Activists in Montana Climate Case

A judge ruled this week in favor of 16 plaintiffs and found the state's approval process for fossil fuel permits is unconstitutional. The plaintiffs, between ages five and 22, cited a clause in the state’s constitution to a clean and healthful environment in the lawsuit to target a 2011 state law that made it illegal for environmental reviews to consider climate impacts when deciding on new projects. The state will appeal the ruling, but if it upheld then the state legislature will have to redraft its environmental review policies to take climate change into consideration. BBC

Study Describes How Innate and Learned Factors Interact to Form Human Attitudes Toward Nature

Human attitudes towards nature stem from a blend of inherent disposition and learned experiences, says a new study. The study emphasizes that our affection for nature varies individually and should guide urban planning. While the positive impact of nature on people, especially in cities, is acknowledged, reasons behind this "biophilia" phenomenon are debated. The researchers assert that both genetics and upbringing influence nature sentiment, with environment playing a pivotal role. People's diverse reactions to nature are due to a mix of nature preferences inherited and nurtured, underscoring the need for tailored urban green spaces. Read more here.

Trucking Industry Downturn

Drivers across the country are leaving the freight trucking industry amid one of the hardest recessions in freight as merchandise consumption returns to normal spending patterns. Many freight carriers are affected, with smaller companies being pushed out entirely and major companies, such as Knight-Swift, are seeing profits fall by 71% in the second quarter. Yellow Corp., the nation’s third-largest trucking company is expected to file for bankruptcy, idling 30,000 workers. This is a stark contrast from the pandemic peaks when the White House worked to attract more drivers to haul road freight and when 8,000 trucking companies entered the market in a single month compared to the long-term average of about 700. Washington Post

Great Lakes First Windfarm

Plans to get the Great Lakes first wind farm is underway for Lake Erie. The farm will be several miles off the coast and produce nearly 20 megawatts annually with six turbines. Construction is planned to begin in 2025 and could set a path for the Great Lakes to be a new renewable energy hotspot. However, environmentalists are cautious, citing major bird migratory patterns in the region, as well as the risk for potential oil leaking into the lakes. Tensions are high but a Senior Engineer at a Michigan-based environmental consultancy claims that the area of the project will be far enough off the coast and has been cleared to have seen no pupping grounds for popular fish, far enough to not contend with the birds, and oil leaks are very rare. To learn more about the story, read here.

Data Visualization of the Week

Peak Parameters

With the emergence of Large Language Models (LLMs) and the chatbot interfaces that make them accessible, AI has become much more widely used this year (with plenty of pitfalls and promise). This visual illustrates that most of these models top out around 1000 billion parameters; with the “simplest” LLMs having around 40 billion parameters. This massive number of model parameters is part of the reason why researchers can’t explain how the models do some of the things they do. More on that here. See the data behind the LLM sizes are owner here.


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