Hummer-owning mayor warns of addiction to oil
TAOS, N.M. – Can you own a Hummer and be truly distressed about the various implications of our fossil-fuel based economy?Bobby F. Duran, the mayor of Taos, says he can. The Taos News reports that Duran took some jabs for owning a Hummer recently when he introduced a showing of a movie, “Crude Impact,” at a community meeting. Duran defended the Hummer, but said “Crude Impact” and “An Inconvenient Truth” are scary, and wants the movies shown to school children to get out the message about the effect of carbon emissions on global warming.Taos recently joined the U.S. Mayors Agreement on Climate Protection. The Taos News made no mention of how Taos intends to meet the commitment of reducing emissions by 67 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2012 in Taos, as the agreement requires. Aspen getting down to hard work of warmingASPEN – About two years after launching its Canary Initiative, an effort to lead in the area of global warming, Aspen is getting down to the hard task of figuring out how to walk all of its talk. Dan Richardson, the global warming project manager, describes his recommendations as “some pretty drastic actions.”On supply side, Richardson is calling on a greater portfolio of electricity from renewable sources. The city is also a leader in this realm, with a city-owned hydroelectric plant and wind-powered electricity. But like most of America, Aspen remains heavily dependent upon cheap and reliable coal-fired power plants in faraway places. Aspen, says Richardson, should aim for at least 40 percent of its electricity coming from renewable sources.On the demand side, Richardson is calling for major reductions. He proposes a new energy code that is 50 percent more efficient in homes, offices, and stores than the national standard. He proposes energy ratings be checked whenever homes are sold.To reduce car-based emissions of greenhouse gases, Richardson is also calling for a key change that will allow buses with preferential lanes to move faster during the “rush hour,” which at Aspen’s entrance becomes crawl hour, sometimes literally. But to do that would involve sacrificing dedicated open space, reports The Aspen Times.As a symbol, Richardson proposes to turn off the gas-powered open-air hearth in one of Aspen’s downtown malls until the city’s emissions drop 30 percent below 2004 levels. Only then, he believes, will Aspen be walking its talk about global warming.Snow extremely thin in the Sierra Nevada TRUCKEE, Calif. – The snow was thin through January at the Truckee-Tahoe resorts, about 40 percent of normal. The result: cutbacks and layoffs. One ski area, Sugar Bowl, reduced hours of food workers, lift operators and housekeepers 50 to 80 percent, according to the Sierra Sun. About half of the seasonal employees in the Truckee-Tahoe area come from other countries, with a good many from South America.January was also extremely dry in central Idaho, leaving Sun Valley at 71 percent of average.In Jackson Hole, meanwhile, January was the third-coldest month in history, or at least in about 40 years, which is as far back as reliable records go. The average high temperature was 19 degrees, and the average low was 4 below. But although it was consistently cold, there were no extraordinary cold temperatures. The record was set in 1979, when the temperature plunged to 63 below.Towns advised to build more affordable housingJACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – Nearly everywhere in the West, ski towns are being urged to build more affordable housing.In Jackson Hole, developers of residential real estate are currently required to make 15 percent of their housing available for deed-restricted lower- and middle-income housing. A consultant recommends upping the ante to 40 percent.Jack Stout, the president of the Housing Authority’s board of directors, said he expects opposition, but that an ambitious action is needed to stem the loss of Jackson Hole’s worker base. Fourteen percent of employees commuted into the valley in 1990, say consultants, but 33 percent by 2005.The goal is to keep the percentage of the commuting workforce to below 40 percent. Christine Walker, Housing Authority executive director, said that the “tipping point” at which a town loses its sense of community is when 40 percent commute. At that point, many of the local service providers relocate to outlying areas.Jackson Hole began its affordable housing program in 1996, and so far this century has been delivering 125 housing units per year, but the expanding job market has seen the need for 270 to 340 new units per year.The Vail Town Council has also been looking at stepping up affordable housing requirements. A proposal introduced by the town earlier this winter to require that 30 percent of residential construction is at lower price points has been reduced to 10 percent, and only to certain areas of the town. A companion proposal, to require that developers of commercial projects be required to provide housing for workers in those projects, has similarly been watered down, this time to 20 percent. However, the town council has given no indication it will completely back down from proposed requirements.Aspen is the model that Vail and Jackson Hole, and a good many other towns, have been looking to. There, developers have faced stiff requirements for affordable housing. Some of those developers, when queried by the Vail Daily, grumbled that they almost can’t make ends meet. But Tom McCabe, director of the Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Office, said the stiff requirement has not deterred development. And, in fact, he added, “they still make a ton of money.”Canmore planning to require green buildingCANMORE, Alberta – City officials in Canmore plan to mandate increased energy efficiency and other standards, what is sometimes called “green building.” They have been looking to Green Built standards as well as the LEEDS certification program. Some builders had been building to higher standards in recent years, reports the Rocky Mountain Outlook, and developers of the high-end Three Sisters project have been required to do so. The newspapers found no particular opposition to the stiffer standards, as long as they’re applied equally, according to one development representative.Canmore, meanwhile, continues to become steadily more engaged in a concept called the Natural Step. The process intends to cause communities to look at their environmental footprint. The footprint in this case is not just the amount of land occupied by a town, but also the resources and infrastructure needed to support that town and its residents.Wildfire plan in works for Fraser-Winter ParkWINTER PARK, – A wildfire protection plan is to be drawn up for the Fraser Valley, in the Winter Park and Fraser area. In Winter Park, town officials last year spent $380,000 in aggressive programs of cutting and spraying lodgepole pine trees infested with bark beetles, but the communities feel vulnerable to a catastrophic fire. The plan is expected to take a year to draw up, reported the Winter Park Manifest.
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