Biomass heating pitched in Silverton

SILVERTON – Several entrepreneurs recently told Silverton town officials they should give a woody biomass central-heating system a shot.

Unlike most towns, Silverton has no delivery of natural gas, which is relatively inexpensive. Instead, buildings are heated by coal, which is messy, or by propane, which is expensive.

David Gibney, of Forest Energy Systems, a firm based in Show Low, Ariz., argued that Silverton has a nice layout for a central heating system. Several buildings in close proximity burn coal for heat, and the town’s streets remain mostly dirt. As such, they could be dug up without great cost for installing of the underground hot-water lines.

At least one other Colorado town – Oak Creek, which is near Steamboat – has heard a similar pitch for a centralized heating system. It, too, relies primarily on propane and coal.

Energy-performance contractors toldColorado Biz Magazine that woody biomass heating plants, such as one being installed at a recreation center in Fairplay, compete very well with propane. The investment will be repaid in only two years.

TheSilverton Standard & the Miner reported that the Silverton Town Board took no action. However, one trustee, Jim Lindaman, questioned whether there is enough wood available in surrounding forests, epsecially if a bark beetle infestation hits.

Officials from the Governor’s Energy Office toldColorado Biz that guarantees of supply remain a major barrier for many biomass projects across the state.

Climatologist starts to change tune

GUNNISON – Nolan Doesken wears the title of Colorado state climatologist. A meteorologist by training, he tends highs, lows, means and all the other records collected within the last 150 years with the utmost attention to detail.

The massing of detail, he told a water group in Gunnison recently, now leaves him “pretty close to a converted skeptic” on the issue of global warming. “Warming winters have outnumbered cooler ones by a whole lot,” he said.

But Doesken, reported theCrested Butte News, seemed to indicate that the theoretical causes aren’t ironclad. With the global economic recession, emissions of carbon dioxide due to burning of fossil fuels might be expected to decline. “But C02 continues to increase this year. I just got the results, and (C02) is going up at the same rate as it was before the global recession,” he said. It’s possible, he added, that there will be a lagged response in C02 emissions due to the economic decline.

Doesken pointed out that one major mystery remains the role of water vapor, which is a far more effective greenhouse gas than C02. “If a warmer atmosphere leads to more evaporation and more water vapor in the atmosphere – without increasing cloudiness – then that magnifies the greenhouse effect,” he explained. “If the added moisture results in increasingly thick clouds, then more solar energy is reflected back to space, and the overall warming could be offset to some degree.”

Teton County tops nation in income

JACKSON, Wyo. – Teton County had the highest wealth per-capita in the United States during 2007.

That conclusion was reached by Jonathan Schechter, the numbers analyst for theJackson Hole News&Guide. He studied the Bureau of Economic Analysis per-capita income measurements and also the Internal Revenue Service, which measures income based on tax returns.

“By both measurements, in 2006, Teton County was, on a per-capita basis, the wealthiest county in America,” Schechter writes. He says that for three straight years now, Teton County has bumped Manhattan for that distinction.

“Two decades ago, when I moved to Jackson Hole, the great concern was that we would become another Aspen. Today, we’ve left Aspen in the dust.”

The area around Pinedale, Wyo., the center of one of the nation’s most frenzied drilling booms in recent years, was also one of the wealthiest counties in the nation based on per-capita income. By these criteria, tiny and rough-hewn Pinedale was more affluent than Steamboat Springs, Breckenridge and Vail, not to mention Park City and Sun Valley, Schechter reported.

Grizzly center proposal shot down

CANMORE, Alberta – The thin line between education and exploitation was explored in Canmore during recent weeks as the town, which is located at the eastern entrance to Banff

National Park, considered a proposal for what was described as a grizzly bear conservation centre.

The Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, located in the gateway community of West Yellowstone, Mont., was presented as the model. Ruth LeBarga, sponsor of the idea for Canmore, said the centre would attract people from around the world who would leave with more respect for the bears and be less likely to come across them in the wild. “The program is meant to break down fear and provide more knowledge on how bears behave and why,” she said. “If this project can save one human life and one bear life, is it not worth your support?” she asked the municipal councilors.

In Canmore, she found some support. But others had heard enough.

“Canmore does not need a ‘zoo’ with captive bears, five in a miniscule enclosure of a mere 5 acres (not 50-plus square miles) where they cannot get out of sight/sound/ smell of each other,” wrote Jean Craven, in a letter published in theRocky Mountain Outlook. “This is not conservation; that is exploitation and the display of an 1800s’ mindset that I thought was long dead.”

A majority of the city’s councilors agreed. “It’s an affront to the dignity of bears to have tamed, caged bears in a wild area,” said André Gareau. “I do not think this is a good fit for Canmore.”

Resort fires ski patroller/councilor

MT. CRESTED BUTTE – The union representing ski patrollers at Crested Butte Mountain Resort is going to bat for Billy Rankin, a ski patroller who was recently fired by the resort company. Grounds for protest were not disclosed, nor did Rankin return a phone call seeking clarification.

Ken Stone, the chief operating officer at the resort, told theCrested Butte News that we will not choose outside vendors or suppliers or employ people “who have a conflict of interest with the company’s vision or policies.”

Rankin is a member of the Crested Butte Town Council, and in that capacity he voted to send a letter from the town to the Forest Service expressing concerns about the expansion of the ski area onto a new mountain, called Snodgrass. The letter also recommends the Forest Service not allow the expansion.

The handbook signed by employees of the resort stipulates that employees agree not to take action against the company or put themselves into situations where conflicts of interest could arise. Rankin admitted to the newspaper that he had not read the handbook when he signed it.

Revelstoke considers pesticide ban

REVELSTOKE, B.C. – A move to ban cosmetic pesticides and herbicides in Revelstoke has been gaining support, reports theRevelstoke Times Review. Cosmetic pesticides are those used such as to eliminate dandelions.

Dr. Warren Bell, a physician from nearby Salmon Arm, B.C., said adequate testing was never done to see what effects the chemicals had on other animals, including humans. He said there are many alternatives to synthetic pesticides for golf courses, for example.

An anonymous blogger on the newspaper’s website, identified as GolfGuy, accused Bell of bias. “Most of us are stewards of the environment and only use pesticides as a last resort,” said the blogger, who seemed to indicate that he is involved in golf course maintenance.

The newspaper says several community groups have endorsed the ban.

New big-box pitched for I-70 corridor

SILVERTHORNE – Big-box stories have popped up with great regularity along the Interstate 70 corridor in the last decade. Target, Wal-Mart Supercenter, The Home Depot and Costco have become nearly as conspicuous between Silverthorne and Glenwood Springs as snow-capped peaks.

Next in line may be another: The Home Depot, this one in Silverthorne. Nearby Frisco rejected a Home Depot five years ago, heeding the warnings of opponents that the store would turn Summit County into a Denver suburb and put small, local retailers out of business.

Those same arguments, reports theSummit Daily News, are now being waged in Silverthorne, where The Home Depot proposes a 100,000-square-foot store. The proposal has the requisite zoning, but the Town Council could still rule the proposed building doesn’t fit into the community.

– Allen Best

Aspen mayor narrowly reelected

ASPEN – Mick Ireland has been re-elected mayor of Aspen, narrowly defeating challenger Marilyn Marks. She interpreted the vote as a “huge voice for change,” but Ireland saw the vote tally as a mandate to “stay with managing growth, not slowing it; creating affordable housing; protecting the environment; and building an economy that’s stable.”

The Aspen Times, in an editorial, indicated that the close vote was more an indictment of Ireland’s style, not his substance. “He can be abrasive, even rude at times, but his record demonstrates an absolute focus on Aspen’s health, as a resort and as a community. To us, Ireland’s manners leave much to be desired, but his priorities as a public servant are never in doubt.”

– Allen Best