My grandpa used to say, “Everywhere you go there’s weather.” Silly but true. We’ve always lived with storms, drought, blizzards, wildfires, flooding, erosion, etc. But the new normal for “Mother Nature” is different now.
With each passing year, the weather becomes more erratic and extreme. Everyone is affected, somehow, someway.
Consider, for example, the “gem of Klamath County” …Crater Lake. Nestled in the Cascades and known as “one of the snowiest inhabited places in America”, Crater Lake National Park once had reliable annual snowfalls of 43+ feet.
For almost 90 years, rangers in the park have been keeping annual snowfall records, and those totals have been trending downward since the beginning. More to the point, eight out of the last 10 years have been below average.
As co-owner of the Aspen Inn in Fort Klamath, I can easily say that the majority of our guests are tourists visiting Crater Lake and the amazing wilderness areas of the Klamath Basin.
Our livelihood, like so many other people across Oregon, is based on tourism. Much of Oregon tourism depends on the natural world. Smoky skies, parched dying forests and poor air quality keep tourists away. That’s a fact those of us in tourism have felt first hand. To be clear, poor air quality affects all Oregonians, not just tourists.
So, here’s the question: If you had the chance to make a difference in the health of your community and it’s economy, would you?
This year, Oregon has the opportunity to make history by passing the Clean Energy Jobs bill. This cap-and-invest legislation would limit and price pollution from Oregon’s largest emitters, not small businesses like ours, or your local grocery store, florist or favorite coffee shop.
Proceeds from the price on pollutions will help businesses save costs by funding energy efficiency projects or installing on-site solar; projects that save businesses money in the long run, but right now come with an up-front cost that is often too high to make them feasible.
The Clean Energy Jobs bill would help small businesses make the switch to renewable energy, particularly those in rural areas that need it most.
Rural communities across Oregon are feeling the effects of climate change more intensely than those in urban areas, and this bill would make renewable energy options more affordable and accessible to those in need.
Speaking from experience, switching to renewable energy is one of the best things a small, local business can do for the environment, their own bottom line and the local economy.
In the spring of 2017, we were able to obtain financial assistance through the USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and the Energy Trust of Oregon, in order to reach our goal to be a solar renewable powered business.
Going solar not only helped us reduce our carbon footprint, it also helped us save money on our electric bill. So last year, while we were reducing our carbon footprint by 68,300 pounds (the equivalent of 795 trees), we were also watching our normal winter electric bill of approximately $800/month drop to around $150/month.
But this is not just about the bottom line or reducing carbon. This is about jobs in Oregon, too. We specifically chose EcoSolar and Electric, a local design and installation company, and Solar World panels (made in Oregon) for installation.
In doing so, we also helped our local and state economies. In doing our part as a state to stop climate change, there’s no reason we can’t put more people to work in the clean energy industry.
There are already 55,000 clean energy jobs in Oregon, and with the Clean Energy Jobs policy that number will grow. The Clean Energy Jobs bill will help Oregonians across the state, particularly in rural communities like ours, find opportunities in the renewable energy fields.
Imagine if every small business in Oregon had the chance to switch to solar. It all adds up and it all matters. With the Clean Energy Jobs bill giving businesses and individuals across the state the chance to pursue projects that save money, conserve energy and create jobs, we’ll be collectively creating broad, systemic change.
Through clean energy jobs, we will reduce Oregon’s emissions, become more resilient against the impacts of climate change, and inspire other states to act and do their part as well.
We all have to do our part, and the best thing we can do for each other, ourselves, and all who enjoy the wonders of Oregon, is to pass the Clean Energy Jobs bill. It will help small businesses save money, create green jobs in rural communities, and help us all take steps toward a better, healthier future for Oregon. We can’t let this opportunity pass us by.
— Heidi McLean co-owns the Aspen Inn in Fort Klamath and has operated it for the last 16 years.