Posted May 24, 2017
Summer is nearly upon us. Soon the kids will be out of school, and families across the USA will start packing up and heading out on vacation.
Millions will make their way to Florida – for the magical world of Disney or one of the state’s many other theme and water parks. From the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios to the Star Wars-themed adventures at LEGOLAND, families can find activities to make everyone happy in the Sunshine State.
Energy will get them there – and it will give them the opportunity for the best vacation ever. Because that’s what natural gas and oil, America’s leading energy sources, do: They make things possible, and they make them better. Like vacations.
Certainly, Florida’s role as the nation’s leading theme-park destination has reached prominence in the 45 years since Disney World opened in Orlando. There, children (and adults) are immersed in an imaginary world the moment they arrive – from Mickey Mouse merchandise in the airport terminal to classic cartoons playing on the Magical Express bus. Behind the fairy dust, a lot of energy is making Disney dreams come true.
Start with the iconic sphere known as “Spaceship Earth” at Epcot’s entrance. The aluminum was produced with a big hand from natural gas. Inside Disney’s gates, energy’s contribution grows.
Think about power – for lights, rollercoasters, log flumes, sound systems, monorails, watercraft of all types, restaurants, kitchens, computer systems, hotel accommodations – the list is almost endless. Walt Disney World is nearly 40 square miles in area, about the size of San Francisco. With more than 170,000 guests and 70,000 cast members walking through the resort every day, you need lots of electricity – electricity that’s increasingly generated by natural gas, at Disney and around the country. That’s domestic natural gas, safely produced with hydraulic fracturing or from the Gulf of Mexico.
Disney and nearby attractions – Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios – are part of a special taxing district that has its own utilities, including natural gas- and diesel-fired electricity generation, wastewater treatment facilities, recycling and other services.
It’s a substantial utility plant when you consider, for example, that Disney World washes 285,000 pounds of laundry every day and cooks up more than 1.8 million pounds of turkey drumsticks. It keeps the parks shining brightly, including more than 26,000 feet of lights that outline the Epcot World Showcase pavilions – enough to cross the Golden Gate Bridge six times.
When parents are dog tired or the children start getting grumpy, they can quit walking and take the once-futuristic monorail, which has logged enough miles since 1971 for 30 round trips to the moon. Each 203-foot train in this system is powered by 600-Volt propulsion systems (about five times as much as the 120-Volt lines that power most homes), which pick up electrical power as they move along a concrete beam track.
It’s clear these theme parks are a major economic driver across the state, especially when you consider that Walt Disney World Resort is the No. 1 employer in the Orlando area, providing jobs for more than 70,000 people as of March 2017. The parks and resort generate upwards of $18.2 billion in annual economic activity, a 2011 study found.
And it’s more than Disney. Other theme parks in the Orlando area and across the state also drive the regional and state economies. Universal Studios, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, SeaWorld and its Aquatica waterpark and Busch Gardens in Tampa drew more than 29 million visitors in 2015. Gas-fired electricity makes vacation entertainment modern, fast-paced and exciting for thrill seekers of all ages.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.