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Reshoring: Myth or Reality?

May 28, 2015 Comments off

Reshoring: Myth or Reality?
Source: IBISWorld

For decades, US companies in the manufacturing sector have increasingly sought to cut costs and improve profitability by offshoring and offshore outsourcing operations. Offshoring is the process in which companies base their operations overseas; offshore outsourcing is the process in which companies base part of their operations overseas and third-party companies are hired to perform operational duties.

However, recent analysis by independent sources suggests there has been some reversal in this trend over the past five years. As manufacturing makes its way back to the United States, a process known as reshoring, US-based manufacturers will have to determine the potential consequences and opportunities that can arise as a result of this movement.

Overcoming Barriers to Deployment of Plug-in Electric Vehicles (2015)

May 26, 2015 Comments off

Overcoming Barriers to Deployment of Plug-in Electric Vehicles (2015)
Source: Transportation Research Board/National Research Council

In the past few years, interest in plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) has grown. Advances in battery and other technologies, new federal standards for carbon-dioxide emissions and fuel economy, state zero-emission-vehicle requirements, and the current administration’s goal of putting millions of alternative-fuel vehicles on the road have all highlighted PEVs as a transportation alternative. Consumers are also beginning to recognize the advantages of PEVs over conventional vehicles, such as lower operating costs, smoother operation, and better acceleration; the ability to fuel up at home; and zero tailpipe emissions when the vehicle operates solely on its battery. There are, however, barriers to PEV deployment, including the vehicle cost, the short all-electric driving range, the long battery charging time, uncertainties about battery life, the few choices of vehicle models, and the need for a charging infrastructure to support PEVs. What should industry do to improve the performance of PEVs and make them more attractive to consumers?

At the request of Congress, Overcoming Barriers to Deployment of Plug-in Electric Vehicles identifies barriers to the introduction of electric vehicles and recommends ways to mitigate these barriers. This report examines the characteristics and capabilities of electric vehicle technologies, such as cost, performance, range, safety, and durability, and assesses how these factors might create barriers to widespread deployment. Overcoming Barriers to Deployment of Plug-in Electric Vehicles provides an overview of the current status of PEVs and makes recommendations to spur the industry and increase the attractiveness of this promising technology for consumers. Through consideration of consumer behaviors, tax incentives, business models, incentive programs, and infrastructure needs, this book studies the state of the industry and makes recommendations to further its development and acceptance.

How fast are semiconductor prices falling?

May 22, 2015 Comments off

How fast are semiconductor prices falling?
Source: American Enterprise Institute

Editor’s note: This paper has been updated from the original version posted in July 2014.

The Producer Price Index (PPI) for the United States suggests that semiconductor prices have barely been falling in recent years, a dramatic contrast from the rapid declines reported from the mid-1980s to the early 2000s. This slowdown in the rate of decline is puzzling in light of evidence that the performance of microprocessor units (MPUs) has continued to improve at a rapid pace. Roughly coincident with the shift to slower price declines in the PPI, Intel — the leading producer of MPUs — substantially changed its pricing behavior for these chips. As a result of this change, we argue that the matched-model methodology used in the PPI for MPUs likely started to be biased in the mid-2000s and that hedonic indexes can provide a more accurate measure of price change since then. Our preferred hedonic index of MPU prices tracks the PPI closely through 2004. However, from 2004 to 2008, our preferred index fell faster than the PPI, and from 2008 to 2013 the gap widened further, with our preferred index falling at an average annual rate of 43 percent, while the PPI declined at only an 8 percent rate. Given that MPUs currently represent about half of U.S. shipments of semiconductors, this difference has important implications for gauging the rate of innovation in the semiconductor sector.

Country Analysis Brief: China

May 19, 2015 Comments off

Country Analysis Brief: China
Source: Energy Information Administration

China is the world’s most populous country with a fast-growing economy that has led it to be the largest energy consumer and producer in the world. Rapidly increasing energy demand, especially for petroleum and other liquids, has made China influential in world energy markets.

Environmental Sustainability in the Hospitality Industry: Best Practices, Guest Participation, and Customer Satisfaction

May 18, 2015 Comments off

Environmental Sustainability in the Hospitality Industry: Best Practices, Guest Participation, and Customer Satisfaction
Source: Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, Center for Hospitality Research

Certain sustainability practices could be considered nearly universal in the lodging industry, based on a study of 100 resorts in the United States. Among the common green practices are water conserving fixtures and linen-reuse programs. A separate survey of 120,000 hotel customers finds that guests are generally willing to participate in sustainability programs, but the presence of green operations still do not override considerations of price and convenience in selecting a hotel. Additionally, the study finds an increased willingness to participate when hotels offer incentives, such as loyalty program points, for participating in environmental programs. Although the link between environmentally sustainable programs and improved customer satisfaction is weak compared to standard drivers like facilities, room, and food and beverage quality, hotels are increasingly expected to maintain sustainability programs as a regular feature of their business. At the same time, the study did find that environmental sustainability programs do not diminish guest satisfaction. Consequently, the decision regarding which programs to implement should rest on cost-benefit analysis and other operating considerations.

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Roundup of Recent CRS Reports About Science, Technology and the Environment

May 18, 2015 Comments off

Locked-in on Our Youth: An Inquiry into American Military Recruiting Media

May 15, 2015 Comments off

Locked-in on Our Youth: An Inquiry into American Military Recruiting Media (PDF)
Source: American International Journal of Social Science

As American military branches continue to encounter challenges associated with filling the ranks, recruitment efforts and corresponding media messages may be inadvertently targeting our nation’s youth. Using existing child-development research, along with relevant theoretical perspectives, this article will explore the strategies used by the military for recruitment and the effects those tactics and media have on a juvenile audi ence.

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