Strategic Element's The Weekender

The Weekender: Planes, Trains, and Brand New Names

Strategic Element's The Weekender


  • 1 in 24: Your chances of running into a millionaire in NYC
  • 30%: The portion of the world’s electricity produced by renewable energy in 2023
  • $205: What the average American spends for Mother’s Day
  • 19%: The percentage of beauty products that comprise Mother’s Day gifts in the U.S.
  • 72 Years: The number of years since the Miss Universe Organization didn’t have a Miss USA or Miss Teen USA title holder; both stepped down this week
  • 2 Billion: The approximate number of mothers in the world

The Big 5

Sustainable Aviation Fuel Industry Takes Flight

The Biden Administration is giving ethanol and soy-based biofuel producers an eligibility runway for tax credits for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). The tax credit will put air under the wings of biorefineries that use certain climate-smart conservation practices, including cover cropping and no-till agriculture. The tax credit, made available through the Inflation Reduction Act, applies to SAFs with 50% less greenhouse gas emissions than conventional airline fuel.

The airline industry already embraces sustainability practices, including SAF adoption, battery-powered flight, and hydrogen-powered planes. Despite strong propulsion, there is still work to be done if the industry is to reach the heights it intends to attain. While 24.5 million gallons of SAF were used in the U.S. in 2023, the Biden Administration set a goal of producing 3 billion gallons by 2030.

Hydrogen-powered aircraft are gaining momentum as well, but still face challenges before they break through meaningful (sound) barriers. ZeroAvia successfully launched its first 19-seat prototype hydrogen-fueled plane. The promise of widespread use of green hydrogen (produced from renewables) and blue hydrogen (created from methane with carbon capture technology) will drastically reduce carbon emissions if the U.S. makes strides in developing its flight path over the next decade.

The SAF and hydrogen economies are only set to increase, with new economic opportunities availing themselves at every turn. If the U.S. invests in next-generation sustainable travel, it may be able to capitalize on the wind at its back to lead the global economy in producing the future of energy systems.

Read More at the Wall Street Journal

Return of the Vlad

Russian President Vladimir Putin was recently sworn into his fifth term as the country’s leader, continuing his uncontested rule for the past quarter century. While U.S. voters are accustomed to stringent term limits for its presidents, Russia’s laws are slightly easier to circumnavigate. Russian presidents may not serve more than two four-year terms consecutively. When Putin’s second term expired in 2008, he swapped roles with his Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (while still controlling a leadership position in the government) only to reset his consecutive term limits in 2012.

While the Russian voting system hardly meets democratic standards, citizens still cast votes. The Kremlin controls all state media and realistic opposition candidates are barred from running against Putin. For perspective, Putin’s primary contender was Alexei Navalny who, after surviving an assassination attempt via nerve gas, died in an Arctic prison colony controlled by the Russian government. First elected in 2000 following the defeat of dancing, drinking and happy-go-lucky Boris Yeltsin, the first Russian president under the new constitution devised in the aftermath of the fall of the USSR, Putin set a much sterner tone. He has continuously worked to undermine the legal framework of the constitution, which commits that “rights and freedoms shall be the supreme value” for Russia.

Putin’s campaign rested heavily on doubling down offensively in Ukraine. It rallied that any Russian citizen who committed to the Motherland would be rewarded with economic and political positions. Putin met with members of his government to prepare for his new term, and its Defense Ministry immediately announced it would stage tactical nuclear missile drills soon – a threat to Western countries aiding Ukraine’s defensive forces.

Read More at the Washington Post

Boy Scouts Rekindle Fire with New Name

Founded 114 years ago, the Boy Scouts of America have trained youth boys and teens in wilderness survival, adaptability, principled life skills and much more. Now, with an increase in young girls choosing to join their ranks, the organization has decided to officially change its name (though it originally opposed doing so). The Boys Scouts of America is now Scouting America – but its mission remains the same: teaching young people how to be prepared for life.

The organization has been ongoing a reformatory period over the past decade, allowing gay members to join in 2013, ending a ban on gay adult leaders in 2015, then allowing girls to join cub scouts in 2017, and the flagship Boy Scouts in 2018. Today, over 176,000 girls are members of the newly-branded Scouting America – and 6,000 of them have achieved its vaunted, highest rank of Eagle Scout.

The name change will formally go into effect in 2025, and although some see rebranding as a drastic change in creed, Scouting America affirms that the same lessons, skills, and activities will be held with no changes.

Read More at the Associated Press

Social Security Prognosis: 11 Years

Image of four social security cardsThe Social Security Administration’s annual trustees report shows that the program is expected to run dry in 2035 – one year later than originally projected. The projection date denotes when 80% of the program’s benefits will be payable – which Congress could move to prevent the shortfall.

Why the extended projection? More people are contributing to Social Security due to a strong economy, low unemployment, greater job growth, and wage growth. With 70 million active beneficiaries and 180 million workers contributing to the program, there is incentive to prevent the 2035 depletion date for the SSA’s combined trust funds.

It’s important to note there are two trust funds managed by the SSA. The first, the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund, is projected to survive until 2033 when 79% of its scheduled benefits go live. The other, the Disability Insurance Trust Fund, will be paying out benefits until 2098 at the earliest.

Medicare is facing the same dilemma. With a direct portion of workers’ taxes headed to the program like Social Security (albeit a smaller percentage), its projected depletion date sits around 2036. Last year, it was only projected to last until 2031. Although Social Security and Medicare now both have some more years in the solvency periods, these issues are not ones that should be kicked down the road.

Read More at CNBC

The Heyday for Railways

Do you like showing up at the airport three hours early, waiting in a long TSA line, sitting in a crowded airport, and being crammed into an airplane for an hour-and-a-half flight for $450? If not, we may be entering the revitalization era of the U.S. railways. If you include the additional time it takes to fly (i.e. waiting and standing, then waiting and sitting), a trip on the train takes about just as long for a quarter of the price while being able to arrive minutes before boarding with less security.

Unfortunately for many, options are limited. Private and public sectors are looking to change that. Brightline West broke ground on a 218-mile rail line from Las Vegas to just east is Los Angeles with zero emission, fully electric trains that can reach 200 MPH. If their plans come to fruition, a ticket on the railway would move passengers in half the time it would take to drive.

Amtrak is looking to replace its entire fleet over the next decade and build out a route from Dallas to Houston, too. The California High-Speed Rail, despite its challenges, is attempting to connect Sacramento and San Diego. With many of these projects thriving from the support of the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law going into effect, one could be forgiven for calling the package the “Moolah for the Choo Choo Law.”

If the plans to build out the domestic railway can leave the station, they will face problems everywhere, from a lack of investment to geographic issues to political pushback. There may be a day, however, when consumers can easily, cheaply, and quickly board a train to travel to U.S. rather than committing to the stresses and expenses of long-distance driving and air travel.

Read more at Axios

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