More tax revenue from the outdoors than from oil & gas? Can visiting Yellowstone be the key to changing climate change attitudes? How soon will USPS go all-electric? Meet the Footprint Project.
More Tax Revenue from the Outdoors Than from Oil & Gas? Can Yellowstone Be the Key to Belief in Climate Change? How Soon Will USPS Go All-Electric? Meet the Footprint Project
So a lot of what we focus on is solutions. Here’s one for you: outdoor recreation. Recreation on public land has now surpassed oil and gas revenue in exactly half of states in the United States. That’s according to the Department of the Interior’s most recent report on economic contributions.
Some of the winners might surprise you too: Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, all earn more tax revenue dollars and most add more jobs to their local economy than the energy and minerals sector in those same states.
According to that DOI report, nationwide outdoor recreation provides just over 30 percent of jobs related to DOI’s activities and programs. Now before any nay-sayers come calling, yes, energy and minerals make up 65% of DOI’s value added to the national economy and recreation is only 20%. But here’s the consideration for all of you.
There are all kinds of differences between those business types, but one key difference is where they’re based. A vast majority, close to 90%, of the recreation industry is based in its own local community. So all those jobs, those 469 thousand jobs, benefit their local economies. Oh, and while we’re talking economics and numbers, let’s not forget to mention that outdoor recreation is the fourth largest consumer spending category in the United States.
Creating and maintaining jobs and revenue in this area of our economy, now that’s a sustainable solution.
DEEPER DIVE: DOI Report
IS VISITING YELLOWSTONE THE KEY TO CHANGING CLIMATE CHANGE ATTITUDES?
This time last year, The Great American Outdoors Act passed with bipartisan support. Why IS that? Why can Congress agree on that but not on much else? Maybe because Congress knows communing with Nature may be the key to solving Climate Change.
A study published back in 2007 concluded, “For everyone to value biodiversity, which is an essential underpinning to its conservation and to help combat climate change, the closest we can get is to feel nature and to love it.”
Studies indicate that the more time people spend creating memories and interacting with nature, the more they can relate to and understand the need to support environmentally responsible practices. In other words, the more time people interact with nature, the more likely they are to support environmental conservation.
As we emerge from COVID, people are beginning to really get the importance of the Great Outdoors. Take for example, Yellowstone, national park which had an average of four million visitors per year since 2015.
Each visitor to Yellowstone has an opportunity to share with someone who might not otherwise connect with nature, why conservation and environmental protection are necessary. Now if you add up the top ten National Parks visit count in 20-20, that’s nearly 40 million opportunities for people to connect with nature and maybe, just maybe, feel that pull for more responsible action around climate change.
US POSTAL SERVICE TO GO ALL ELECTRIC?
So last year the Democratic party in congress unveiled their “Moving Forward Act” as an infrastructure bill. Just last week the House reintroduced that same bill in parts. One of the key parts is offers $6 billion to the United States Postal Service to replace and repair their trucks … with electric vehicles.
The bill would require that 75% of the postal fleet of vehicle be green, and pushes the USPS to stop any purchase of medium or heavy duty trucks that aren’t green by 20-39.
This is why this bill matters to us. President Biden, as part of his infrastructure plan, wants the federal government’s vehicle fleet to go EV, ASAP. As infrastructure offerings go, the USPS is low-hanging fruit. The USPS operates over 200,000 vehicles. The backbone of its delivery fleet is the right-hand-drive Long Life Vehicle (LLV), making up 74% of the fleet. The LLV has an expected service life of 24 years. But almost 70 percent of the LLVs are now between 25 and 32 years old. The LLVs alone use 85 million gallons of gas yearly. Every gallon of gas produces 20 pounds of CO2 emissions. Swapping LLVs for EVLLVs would save 1.7 billion pounds of CO2 emissions annually from polluting the atmosphere.
The Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, testified earlier in the year that the postal service would shift at least 10% of their fleet to electric in their most recent contract with manufacturer Oshkosh Defense. The goal of the bill is to exceed that target more than seven-fold. Thanks to the bill, we could see a future where the delivery U-S of mail is by a fleet of whisper-quiet EVs within the next decade.
MEET THE FOOTPRINT PROJECT
MicroGrids are being used to help communities in disaster situations not only survive, but also build back with clean energy. So, let’s talk about some emerging technology. Jumping into the way-back machine, we look at electrical infrastructure. In 1882, Thomas Edison introduced the first power plant in New York City. It met local power needs only, but within the first two years had five hundred customers. That was America’s first microgrid. Over time, it grew into a massive, centralized grid–like the one in existence today.
The Texas energy grid disaster last February that cost human lives is an example of why highly centralized grids are a mistake, and why the return of microgrids is the key to energy resilience. MicroGrids serve a local community’s power needs. During last February’s Texas power freeze, when that utility couldn’t serve its customers, a little “David” by the name of Footprint Project, showed up to tackle what the frozen “Goliath” couldn’t handle.
The Footprint Project is a Minneapolis-based, non-profit. And according to its website, its goal is to “provide cleaner energy for communities in crisis.” But their mission goes beyond that goal. For first responders operating in a medium-to-long term situation (think firefighting in the west and Pacific northwest) they want to help cut diesel, cut carbon and cut costs by powering a field operation with mobile solar energy. It’s also safer in fire-fighting situations.
The concept is simple. Footprint Project allows solar manufacturers to donate their excess inventory, which then gets deployed to places like Texas, the west, and to communities in immediate peril. Organizations like Footprint Project matter to us because they prove the efficacy of building resilience through mobile solar access and education.