- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Star Tribune, Minneapolis, Sept. 21

Keep on droning on

Psst. You might want to install a landing pad on your property. Perhaps one with a trapdoor that leads to a storage compartment (patents pending).


Why, to prepare for the wave of retail drone deliveries you’ll soon be receiving. Or one day will be. At this point the concept is more like a series of ripples, though there are enough of them now to warrant attention.

Drones already have been used for such purposes on a small scale. An example is a pilot program launched by Walgreens last year in Christiansburg, Va., population 22,500. Last month, though, remote-retailing behemoth Amazon received a key Federal Aviation Administration approval that will allow it to expand testing. Walmart, FedEx, DHL, UPS and Alphabet (which you know as Google) also have various plans to get in on this action. We’re probably forgetting someone. It probably involves pizza.

So it’s going to happen on a broader scale. “Exactly when” and “exactly how much” are what’s left to be determined.

A question you might ask, then, as a citizen and consumer: Who benefits? Do corporations? Does society? Do I?

First things first. You’ll benefit from getting quick, on-demand deliveries. Amazon’s hope is to set down a package of 5 pounds or fewer in half an hour or less within 15 miles of a distribution center. It would have loved to have been doing this years before now. The advancement could lower the cost of moving a product the “last mile.” Also, juice the number of purchases.

As far as societal costs and benefits, it’s more complicated. Can drones operate safely in urban environments? (An Amazon video shows one avoiding a dog in a yard and even detecting a clothesline.) Can all those individual deliveries really save energy over the use of trucks, which offer an economy of scale? (Only if there are multiple distribution hubs to limit flight distance, according to modeling by the RAND Corporation.) Will drones be too noisy? (Surprisingly, they could blend in with the sounds of a city, assays RAND. It depends on design improvements, frequency, altitude and attitudes.)

And one might ask: If drones prove capable of this task, where will it end? Why shouldn’t every small business deploy them as needed, directly or via partnership? The local skies could be filled with items in transit, and despite the fact that you were promised jet packs, you won’t be one of them.

It’s not hard to imagine the governmental challenges this will present. It’s something to start considering. Thanks for your attention. As you whir.


Free Press, Mankato, Sept. 22

It’s the right time for state to promote electric vehicles

Electric vehicles continue to make inroads across the country, boosted by consumer demand and by corporations aiming to cut their carbon footprint to zero in the next couple of decades.

Amazon early this year ordered 100,000 custom delivery vehicles from electric vehicle maker Rivian. The electric vehicles, which will begin delivering packages to customers next year, will help Amazon reach its goal of being carbon neutral by 2040.

On Monday Walmart announced it also aims to reduce its global emissions to zero by 2040, in part by switching to an all-electric vehicle fleet.

Here in Minnesota, a survey by the Union of Concerned Scientists and Consumer Reports shows six in every 10 prospective car buyers have interest in electric cars, trucks and SUVs. The survey also found that 66% of prospective Minnesota car buyers want automakers to provide more types of electric vehicles.

That’s why the push for tougher vehicle emission standards in the state deserves support. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, at the direction of Gov. Tim Walz, has been preparing rules that would promote more electric vehicle offerings and cut the overall vehicle emissions. Vehicle emissions remain the No. 1 producer of greenhouse gas emissions, which speed climate change.

Last week the American Lung Association released a report highlighting the potential public health benefits of widespread electrification of the transportation sector. Emissions from transportation is one of the biggest sources of air pollution, worsening asthma attacks, lost work days and premature deaths. In Minnesota air pollution is estimated to cause between 2,000-4,000 deaths a year.

Widespread electric vehicle adoption - powered by clean energy sources - would reduce deaths, lost work days and save on health-care costs.

Electric vehicles make good sense in Minnesota where a good portion of the electricity is already derived from renewable resources.

Some GOP lawmakers and other groups have been critical of state government pushing more electric vehicles. But states that have clean car standards give consumers more clean car models to choose from while still leaving them with plenty of options for traditional car, trucks and crossovers.

More importantly, clean car standards have the dual benefit of being a cost-effective means of addressing climate change while at the same time improving Minnesotans’ health and saving health-care costs for businesses and individuals.

Electric vehicles are still only a sliver of the market in Minnesota - just over 1% - but the number of Minnesotans and Americans who say their next vehicle will be an electric has soared.

Having the state push automakers and dealers to offer more electric choices is a responsible step that will offer more consumer choice, help reduce the cost of electric vehicles moving forward, address climate change and improve health.


St. Cloud Times, St. Cloud, Sept. 18

Take advantage of the state’s battleground status

America’s two main presidential candidates visit Minnesota on the same day that early and absentee voting begins.

Welcome to the official sign that Minnesota has gone from blue/purple to a legitimate battleground state, at least in 2020.

Last week’s dueling visits from Democrat Joe Biden (in Duluth) and Republican Donald Trump (in Bemidji) show both parties see Minnesota as vital to collecting the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House.

Based on the roughly century’s worth of experience this editorial board has watching Minnesota politics, it’s the first time in living memory that Minnesota’s 10 electoral votes are truly up for grabs.

As a state, let’s not waste this opportunity.

No, that does not mean make sure the state goes (insert your favorite color here.) Rather, it means making the most of the opportunities to shape the future when presidential tickets come to our state. That means doing more than waving placards and commenting on Facebook.

While always at or close to the top of the nation in voter turnout, Minnesota now has its first real chance in a long while to show its residents are about more than just pulling a lever and collecting that “I Voted” sticker.

Ask real questions, if you get that chance. Put campaign staffers on the spot - even your side. Make sure they earn your vote by some virtue other than being on the “right” (or left) side.

Minnesotans should dig into actual information, not slogans or memes, about the presidential race. There’s much to learn beyond the top-level “I love/hate him” rhetoric. And not just about their favorite candidate, but their opponent as well. Open your inputs to new, credible sources of information and learn in detail about the candidates’ past actions as well as how those match up with the promises they’re making in the next 40 days.

Don’t just learn where Trump and Biden stand on specific issues. Learn why they take those stands - and then check their recent records to see if their actions follow suit.

With this new status as a battleground, we’ve gained the attention of the major parties’ tops-of-the-ticket. With that attention comes a responsibility to ask all the questions and demand all of the details we have for years wished voters of other states would ask on our behalf.

And while you’re at it, you might as well do similar research on the many other races on the ballot. From school board seats to state legislators, the 2020 Election Day ballot is loaded with decisions for you to make - the impacts of which will last from two to six years.

Only then should you cast your ballot.

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