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Cat on the Prowl

Cat_logoMarch 19, 2011 – I am blogging live this weekend from Las Vegas, where prior to the kick-off of ConExpo-Con/Agg, Caterpillar is holding a press briefing on its latest product innovations. The company will launch a number of new machines at the show, including the 775G haul truck, 988H front-end loader, 374D excavator and 740B artic. Engineering innovations designed to enhance sustainability, operator comfort, safety and energy efficiency, not to mention productivity, are part of the company's extensive list of product developments. Of high priority is fuel economy, and as product manager David Campbell told me in an exclusive interview, "Our equipment puts the right tools in the hands of equipment owners so that they can take control of fuel economy based on the performance parameters they enter into the machine." Stay tuned for more as the weekend progresses.

You Heard it Here First

usgsMarch 17, 2011 – Rock Products yesterday was the first aggregates-industry magazine to break the news that final 2010 stone-production numbers, officially released by USGS, were even higher than previous estimates. The estimated annual output of aggregates (crushed stone plus sand and gravel) produced for consumption in 2010 was 2.0 billion metric tons (Gt), a slight increase compared with that of 2009. The previous estimate was 1.977 Gt. Cracking the 2.0 Gt level is a sort of psychological barrier, and given the enormous challenges the market faces, it offers a bit of good news and encouragement moving forward. According to Jason Willett, crushed stone commodity specialist for USGS, the estimated annual output of crushed stone produced for consumption in 2010 was 1.190 billion Gt, a 2 percent increase compared with that of 2009. The previous estimate was 1.177 billion Gt. The estimated U.S. output of construction sand and gravel produced for consumption in 2010 was 820 metric tons (Mt), a 2 percent decrease compared with that of 2009. The previous estimate was 800 million Mt. Onward and upward.

Take it To The Infrastructure Bank

nssgaMarch 16, 2011 – Some Senators are finally starting to stir the pot. Democratic Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) and Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas) introduced bipartisan legislation on March 15 to create a federal infrastructure bank to fund projects around the nation. The legislation would create an American Infrastructure Financing Authority at an initial cost of about $10 billion. Its objective would be to provide loans and loan guarantees for large infrastructure projects. With the rejection of an increase in the gas user fee, this has been promoted as an alternative funding mechanism for surface transportation projects around the country, according to NSSGA. As proposed, the American Infrastructure Financing Authority would provide loans and loan guarantees for large infrastructure projects. Kerry has stressed that money from the bank would come in the form of loans – not grants – and that no more than 50 percent of the loan will be federal government money. They expect to leverage $600 billion or so in infrastructure investments over time. About $30 billion for the bank is included in the six-year, $556 billion transportation plan proposed by President Obama. With the Highway Trust Fund running short of cash and the federal budget running large deficits, lawmakers and the Obama administration are looking for ways to pay for improving the nation's aging infrastructure while getting new projects off the ground. Lawmakers are discussing public-private partnerships that can propel multiple modes of transportation such as improvements to highways, bridges, airports, railways and ports.

Global Aggregates Consumption Predicted to Increase

AggregatesMarch 14, 2011 – You can never have enough data, that's what I always say. Well, Aarkstore Enterprise just released its latest global construction aggregates market research report. And it contains a lot of data. The report provides data for 2006-2010, and forecasts from 2011 through 2015 along with growth rates. During the review period, the consumption value of global construction aggregates grew at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 7.26 percent. While South America experienced the fastest growth in consumption value during the review period, Asia-Pacific and Europe led the market in terms of contribution to global construction aggregates consumption value in 2010. Until 2007, a combination of low interest rates and easy access to credit led to a boom in the global residential construction market resulting in high demand for aggregates, particularly in developed markets such as the U.S. However, the sub-prime crisis that emerged in the U.S. in late 2007 led to a fall in demand for residential properties in 2008, a trend that spread to other countries and lead to a global economic crisis towards the end of 2008. The crisis had a negative impact on the construction industries of the majority of countries worldwide. However in order to counter construction industry declines, the majority of governments across the world introduced substantial stimulus packages comprising huge investments in infrastructure projects, a move which led to increased demand for aggregates from the infrastructure construction market. The impact of the global economic crisis was comparatively less in developing nations, the majority of which recorded strong construction industry growth, and consequently demand for aggregates, despite the global crisis. The value of consumption of construction aggregates globally is expected to increase at a faster rate throughout the forecast period, with a CAGR of 10.68 percent.

Earthquake and Tsunami

japanMarch 11, 2011 – The earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan this morning continue to cause damage throughout the world, including severe wave action in Hawaii and on the West Coast of the United States. This disaster reminds us once again that events can change in any part of the world at a moment's notice. In addition to enormous personal tragedy to contend with, Japan will have to initiate major infrastructure re-development efforts along the coastal and inland areas washed out by massive waves of water. I just watched a Weather Channel report from the West Coast of the United States, and the reporter was speaking while standing in front of a major break wall constructed of rip rap. There is almost no disaster in which aggregates are not part of the solution, either through the use of stone products, or emergency manpower. I have seen aggregates producers time and time again step in to assist with heavy equipment and know-how after a disaster. Let's hope and pray that the industry's expertise is not needed here this time around, and there is no repeat of the kind of devastation that was caused by Hurricane Katrina.