Friday, February 1, 2013

Mountain Town News


Vegetables or chocolate? Efficiency or renewables?
    ASPEN, Colo.—Can Aspen use less electricity? Sure, say experts, who describe energy efficiency and conservation as the “vegetables” that should be consumed before the dessert of renewable energy.
    But like broccoli, many people would just as soon not become energy efficient.
    That’s the policy conundrum Aspen city officials now find themselves in after a defeat at the ballot box in November. The story really starts in 2005, when the city government issued a climate change manifesto called the Canary Initiative. Among other goals, the plan identified a 2015 deadline for producing all the electricity distributed to consumers of Aspen Electric from renewable sources. That includes about two-thirds of the electricity used in the town.
    In achieving that goal, Aspen had a giant head start, due to several decisions made in the 1980s and 1990s to reduce dependence on coal. With further purchases of wind-generated power, the utility is now 75 percent divorced from coal and natural gas. Retrofitting of an existing dam between Telluride and Montrose to produce electricity will further push the utility to 89 percent.
    But the low-hanging fruit was to have been replacement of a hydroelectric plant that was decommissioned 50 years ago. By diverting water from two local creeks, Castle and Maroon, the plant was projected to displace another 8 percent of the electricity now produced by burning coal.
    Though originally approved by voters in 2007, the hydro project ran into increasing opposition, in part because of the perceived impacts to the local creeks. By a narrow margin, Aspen voters in November expressed their dislike of the project.
    While that vote did not formally demand an end to the project, council members agreed to reconsider. One argument is that instead of producing more electricity, Aspen needs to figure out how to do more with less.

Whistler chamber says bitumen pipeline risky
    WHISTLER, B.C.—Echoing a position taken in April by the Whistler Municipal Council, the local chamber has voted to oppose the Northern Gateway pipeline project.
    The pipeline would export bitumen from the oil/tar sands of Alberta across the Rockies to a port several hundred miles north of Whistler. Despite the distance from Whistler, local tourism officials say they fear that the pipeline might result in oil spills, sullying all of British Columbia’s reputation as a pristine landscape.
    “We believe it is imperative that the importance of tourism to the province is acknowledged to ensure that the sector’s concerns are represented as part of the final decision of the Joint Review Panel,” said Chamber President Fiona Famulak.

No plastic chairs at this bowling alley
    SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colo.—What was once a movie theater, then a ballroom and conference center, now will likely soon become a bowling alley, the first in the Snowmass-Aspen area.
    Mark Reece tells the Aspen Daily News that he plans a boutique operation: maybe eight lanes, gourmet food and comfy couches. Not any of those cheap plastic chairs at this joint.

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