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The Economic Perspective 8/25/2023

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 our very own Alicia Barker will be heading out on a well-earned sabbatical. She will have five weeks off from work and we hope she will enjoy every bit of it!

In this Friday's edition we have articles on Washington State DOT's first contract for hybrid-electric ferries, a new start-up working on cheaper EV batteries, the impact of the Maui wildfires on water access, and more. Our data visualization covers Ukrainian grain exports and Russia's exit of the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

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!

WSDOT Awards First Contract for Hybrid-Electric Ferries

This week, Washington State Ferries (WSF) awarded its first shipyard contract to convert three Jumbo Mark II-class ferries to hybrid-electric power. These Jumbo ferries contribute 26% of the ferries overall greenhouse gas emissions. Once these ferries and terminals are electrified, emissions from the vessels is expected to drop 95%. This massive milestone serves as a huge step towards providing communities with better air quality and sustainability as well as a great stride towards WSF’s journey to zero emissions by 2050. WSF is the largest ferry system in the U.S. and the biggest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions among Washington state agencies, burning 19 million gallons of diesel fuel to support tens of millions of passengers every year. This shift to hybrid-electric ferries comes in response to direction from Gov. Jay Inslee and the Washington Legislature, and aligns with WSF’s Long Range Plan. Read More here.

New BABAA Guidance Issued for Infrastructure

A new Build America, Buy America Act (BABAA) final guidance pre-publication document was released to the public last week, adding a new Part 184 in 2 C.F.R. and clarifying in 2 C.F.R. 200.322 that federal agencies must implement BABAA with regard to federally funded infrastructure projects. Part 184 is intended to be high-level coordinating guidance for federal agencies to use in their implementation of BABAA—ensuring that "none of the funds made available for a federal financial assistance program for infrastructure may be obligated for a project unless all of the iron, steel, manufactured products, and construction materials used in the project are produced in the United States [(U.S.)]." Read more here.

General Motors is Investing in a Startup Working on Better and Cheaper EV Batteries

Mitra Chem, a new startup working on developing lower-cost batteries for electric vehicles, has received $60 million in invest from General Motors. Mitra Chem was founded by former employees from Toyota and Tesla to develop batteries that will no longer require minerals like cobalt and nickel to help reduce costs. These batteries have proven to be durable but lacking in power density. To match the range of normal batteries more are required thus increasing weight. Mitra is currently using AI-powered platforms to test different battery chemistries in the hopes of finding an option that reduces battery costs while remaining lightweight. Read More.

Maui Wildfire Triggers Water Access Dispute

In the aftermath of the deadliest U.S. wildfire in over a century, West Maui Land Company urgently requested permission from Hawaiian officials to divert water from streams to combat the blaze threatening a Maui community. The company eventually gained approval from the water management commission but claimed the response was delayed for several critical hours while fires raged. This disagreement highlights historical tensions surrounding water access in Hawaii, with Native Hawaiian farmers arguing against prioritizing the developer's needs. The conflict echoes wider water rights battles seen across drought-affected Western states. Read more here.

NASA Shares First Images from US Pollution-Monitoring Instrument

This week, NASA released the first data maps from its new instrument TEMPO (Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution) launched to space in April 2023. TEMPO makes hourly daytime scans of major air pollutants over North America with the resolution of a few square miles. These will significantly improve studies of pollution caused by rush-hour traffic, the movement of smoke and ash from forest fires and volcanoes, the effects of fertilizer application on farmland and help mapping pollution at the neighborhood scale. The maps show concentrations of nitrogen dioxide gas from pollution around cities and major transportation arteries. NASA

Data Visualization of the Week

China's the Top Importer of Ukrainian Grain, and Could Save the Black Sea Deal

China, one of Moscow’s most strategic allies, was the top importer of Ukrainian agricultural products in the Black Sea Grain Initiative. This deal was ended by Russia, who complained that the deal only benefited Ukraine. As China received 24% of Ukrainian agricultural exports the risk of no longer buying Ukrainian corn and wheat will likely cause food price inflation in China. Below we can see a representation of the top locations that have received Ukrainian food exports. Worldwide grain prices have increased by more than 8% since Russia exited the deal. Read More.


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