An Environmental Protection Agency draft finding on airline emissions kicks off what is likely to be a very tough year of air quality regulation for operators of transportation equipment. The EPA’s finding, that aircraft carbon emissions contribute to climate change, won’t change rules for air operations right away, but the WSJ’s Jon Ostrower andAmy Harder report that it sets the stage for significant new constraints and that prospect already will have airlines and aircraft manufacturers scrambling to respond. Trucking companies also are bracing for a tougher regulatory environment as President Barack Obama rolls out a more aggressive climate-change agenda. Any new rules are sure to raise costs for truckers and their customers, but there’s little in history to suggest that would convince regulators to pull back from emissions rules if engine-makers can meet new standards.
U.S. manufacturers aren’t waiting for consumer spending or any other economic signals to set their agenda for 2015. The outlook the National Association of Manufacturers issued on Wednesday was very firmly downbeat, and it was especially grim for companies working within factory supply chains because NAM is projecting far less capital investment this year than the industry was planning just three months ago. The WSJ’s Jeffrey Sparshott writes companies taking part in NAM’s quarterly survey dialed back capital investment growth expectations to 1.9%, down from 2.3% investment growth they forecast in March. That fits in with a growing stack of negative outlooks, including one from the World Bank issued Wednesday. The WSJ’s Ian Talley reports the Bank scaled back its forecast for U.S. economic growth this year from 3.2% to 2.7%. That’s pretty close alignment between the manufacturers and the World Bank economists, and that is worth paying attention to.
African leaders are trying to set their own agenda for trade, and if it works the way they envision it would have important repercussions across the shipping world. Leaders from 26 countries across the eastern half of Africa, from Egypt to South Africa pledged on Wednesday to create a free-trade zone across half the continent. The WSJ’s Matina Stevis and Patrick McGroarty report the pact is a bold commitment to dismantle long-standing hurdles to investment in the fragmented region. It’s also a region ripe with shipping and trading opportunity: Kenya, Tanzania and other nearby countries provide large volumes of perishables to Europe and Asia, for instance. The countries also are trying to lure more manufacturing. Creating an even more integrated cross-border economy across such a wide area would help that effort, and probably draw factory and logistics investment to move things along more rapidly.
The JDA Software Group Inc. choice of Google Inc. as its cloud computing host provides a vivid illustration of the big questions raised by the changing landscape of technology and competition in the supply chain. As a major player in global supply chain software, JDA is a coveted customer for cloud services providers. But JDA turned to Google’s so-called public cloud, not the the widely-used Amazon Web Services platform. WSJ Logistics Report’s Loretta Chao writes that Amazon.com’s rocky relationship with the retail industry looms over the choice. One analyst, Nikki Baird of Retail Systems Research LLC, says some retailers believe Amazon’s popular cloud service effectively subsidizes the e-commerce company’s low prices. Amazon denies that, and the real impact of Amazon’s cloud service on retail competition is unclear. But JDA counts those retailers as customers, and it doesn’t look like the company was going to allow developments in Web-based software services cast a cloud over its own business.