Monday, December 25, 2006

Colorado Meth

This blog on this story of a man arrested for "suspicion of meth" simply for buying more Claritin-D than the law allowed (buying for his son who can't legally buy put him over the limit) made me wonder if anyone in Colorado's run into this problem. Do you know of anyone who's had run-ins with the authorities thanks to these laws? Do you suffer from allergies and worry that your previously legal use of Claritin-D or other over the counter drugs will get you flagged as a suspect?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

IMBA Epic Trails

As we know, Colorado is a wonderful place for mountain biking. Only California has more IMBA epic rides than Colorado. Colorado's Epic Rides are as follows :

Buffalo Creek Trails, Pine, Colorado
The Edge Loop, Fruita, Colorado
Telegraph Trails, Durango, Colorado

Do you know of any trails in Colorado that should be nominated?

Friday, December 01, 2006

Colorado Oil And Gas

Colorado Confidential is reporting that "Nearly 100 oil and gas leases that had been issued in Colorado's wilderness and roadless areas by the Bureau of Land Management have been blocked by a ruling from US District magistrate Judge Elizabeth Laporte".

Will this have a large impact on the future of energy production in Colorado.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Colorado Cooling

Here's an interesting study in light of all the recent global warming talk in Colorado lately.

Researchers with the Russian Academy of Sciences warned Wednesday that the Earth could be headed for a 60-year cooldown, the news agency Interfax reported.

Scientists based at the academy's Pulkovskaya Observatory in St Petersburg, Russia, said they expected a gradual decrease in global temperatures in 2012-15, followed by a more dramatic, 60-year period of cold to come in 2055-60.

Khabibullo Abdusamatov, chief researcher at the observatory, said the predictions were based on solar cycles, and that after the 60-year glimpse of the Ice Ages warmer weather could be expected.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Averages [Non-Colorado Specific]


Averages are nice to know but sometimes I feel like a lot of people don't realize how limited they are. For example, realators seem to love using averages when talking about housing prices. Even though the median price would much better reflect what's going on in the market. I ran across this discussion of averages with an excellent example that both addresses why they're tricky and more so how a dropping average wage would have a limited meaning.

The same problem with averages arises when discussing average wage rates. The average wage rate can fall even though everyone's wages rise. Here's how. Suppose that America's average wage rate is now $18 per hour. Now suppose that many low-skilled immigrants arrive and find employment here at wages higher than they could earn in their home countries. Possessing lower-than-average skills means that the wages these immigrant workers earn will likely be lower than the U.S. average -- say $10 per hour.

America's average wage rate will be pulled down even though no individual's wages fall. Indeed, it is possible for every American's wages to rise and the average still fall.

Let's be clear: A change in an average might be evidence of changes in the fortunes of the individuals who compose the group for which the average is calculated. But it need not be so.

Statistics seem like straightforward, unambiguous facts; they're not. Care is required not only in their gathering but also in your interpretation of them.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Colorado Family Planning

Colorado Confidential is reporting that Govenor-elect Bill Ritter could restore family planning funding. Has anyone seen any recent polling on this? I'm curious if this is a more accurate reflection of what the Colorado electorate would want.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Colorado Energy And Electricty

The Pueblo Chieftain has a nice article about energy in Colorado. It looks at some of the issues the state faces if it's to expand it's renewable energy industry or simply meet the needs of it's growing population. One of the mundane issues we don't hear about often is building new transmission lines. These aren't cheap to build, they're definitely not sexy and frequently face NIMBY opposition. But without these new lines, we won't be able to reliably get energy to Colorado households, let alone expand the renewable energy industry to meet those needs and even the needs of other states.

The main action at this time the state seems to be taking is as follows :

The chief recommendation in the study, called for under a bill introduced during this year's session by Rep. Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo West, is to loosen Colorado Public Utilities Commission rules governing when utilities can pass infrastructure costs to users, said PUC director Doug Dean.

Under current rules, utilities aren't usually allowed to recover such construction costs until after a project is completed and power is being sent, although exceptions have been made in some cases.

That's why the study is calling for a Transmission Cost Recovery Rider to be approved by the Legislature, which would allow utilities to recover costs while construction is under way.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Colorado I-70 Expansion : Part 1

What do with the I-70 corridor in the mountains (Jefferson, Clear Creek, Summit counties) is an issue that affects most Coloradans. To help people better understand the issue, I want to bring together some sources of information and some different opinions on the subject.

Yesterday's Colorado Matters has a nice show looking that issue. You can listen to it by clicking here. Their overview for the show is as follows :
Officials at the Colorado Department of Transportation are considering plans for reducing traffic along I-70 from Denver to Glenwood Springs. They expect to announce their first choice for a solution by the end of the year. Ryan Warner talks to CDOT engineer Brian Pinkerton and Idaho Springs Mayor Dennis Lundbery, who fears that widening the interstate—one of the plans under consideration—could take a toll on his community.
Colorado Confidential took a look at this issue this past July. They don't focus on one solution. They do call for something to be done now rather than putting the issue off any longer.

There are groups like Mountains to Plains Transportation Solutions that advocate what their names says, building a train on the I-70 corridor. Trains Not Lanes is another one of these groups. Fight I-70 Congesting is yet another one of these groups.

The Colorado Department of Transportation has a web site dedicated to this issue. Beside review the PEIS and other information, you can sign up for their I70 mailling list.

If you know of other good sources on the subject, please share them.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

New T-Rex Experiences

Seeing all the articles trumpeting the opening of the SE light rail line in Denver, I'm wondering what experiences people have had with it so far. Has it worked well? Do you now find yourself having to transfer during your commute when you didn't have to before? Are the trains frequent enough? Anything else?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Milton Friedman - Not Colorado Specific

With Milton Freidman passing away this last week it seem appropriate to share a few of his quotes.

“Currently more than 40% of our income is disposed of on our behalf by government at federal, state and local levels combined. One of us suggested a new national holiday, "Personal Independence Day" - that day in the year when we stop working to pay for the expenses of the government, and start working to pay for the items we severally and individually choose in light of our own needs and desires. In 1929, that holiday would have come on Feb 12; today it would come about May 30; if present trends were to continue it would coincide with July 4.”—Milton Friedman

"The “social security” program is one of those things on which the tyranny of the status quo is beginning to work its magic…. [I]t has come to be so much taken for granted that its desirability is hardly questioned any longer. Yet it involves a large-scale invasion into the personal lives of a large fraction of the nation…." —Milton Friedman

Mr. Friedman also was a virtuoso debater. When, to endorse conscription over the volunteer military, Gen. William Westmorland said that he did not want to command "an army of mercenaries," Mr. Friedman piped up and asked, "General, would you rather command an army of slaves?"

Milton Friedman was one of history's greatest champions of liberty and human dignity.

Colorado Smart Growth

For those of you who haven't seen it, there's an intersting look at Smart Growth and it's affects on housing prices in Colorado here.

Monday, November 06, 2006

NW Denver Light Rail

A recent op-ed in the Rocky Mountain News calls for better tranist service for northwest Denver. Specifically it calls for better light rail (LRT) service as part of Fastracks. And what is the reason given for LRT as opposed to other choices?

While buses and other transit modes may seem to be viable options, one need only to experience the convenience, speed and connectivity of light-rail transit to know that the other modes are not equivalent.

This may seem compelling but think about it. What constitutes convenience? How do we know it's faster than other modes? And what is meant by connectivity?

Keep in mind that light rail costs 3 times as much up front to build as Bus Rapid Transit (assuming dedicated right-0f-way for both, et al.) Improving regular bus service would cost far less. So how is LRT more convenient to residents of northwest Denver than having 2 or even 3 BRT lines? Seems like the latter would be 2 to 3 times likely to be within walking distance for residents and would have 2 to 3 times as many businesses (jobs + shopping) within walking distance of transit. How is having less choices more convenient?

Speed is one form of convenience. As anyone who has used transit on a regular basis, a lot of time can be consumed by getting to the stop and waiting. It stands to reason that the closer to home or work the transit service is, the less time you spend doing that. I do not know of any studies showing that BRT service along the a route is actually slower than LRT. I do know of examples of where LRT is 15-20% slower than the bus service it replaced such as Minneapolis' Hiawatha line. And it stands to reason that if you simply beefed up bus service, that having more express buses where riders could ride directly or with only one or two stops downtown would be faster, especially for people further along the line in Arvada and Wheat Ridge.

What is meant by connectivity is ambigous. Could greater connectivity actually mean that somehow it's easier to step off an LRT train and wait on the platform for another LRT train than other choices? Is Mr. Copeland actually implying that LRT service would be more frequent than other forms? That's not true since if anything because of their lower costs, more frequent transit service from BRT or traditional buses is the probable outcome.

But what this doesn't address is the lack of flexibility light rail has in addressing the transit needs for the community as a whole. Fastraks is for the most part a downtown transit system. For those who work in downtown Denver, and there are no more jobs downtown than there were 20 years ago, it will work well. But what about people in NW Denver that are working in Golden, Broomfield, Boulder, Littelton or the Tech Center? Naturally no form of transit can perfectly account for everyone's travel needs. But by spending less money up front on light rail there are several options that would help better meet everyone's transit needs. For example, express buses on Sheridan could help connect riders to either the BRT or LRT lines that will serve the US 36 corridor (Boulder, Interlochen, etc). By forgoing the huge investment that LRT requires, it would be possible to have the BRT line run to Golden instead of ending in Wheat Ridge. This would not only offer more convenient, speedy transit service for Northwest residents that work there, but also open up more options for others in Wheat Ridge, Golden and other areas along the line. There are lots of other options that would be available by putting resources into express buses and even dedicated right-of-ways for BRT. People could have the option to travel by transit directly to their jobs in the Tech Center or the Federal Center instead of facing lengthy transfers downtown.

Having said this, why exactly is it again that Mr. Copeland believes that realigning the Gold Line to better server northwest Denver is the best option? Exactly how would that be more convenient, faster and give better connectivity for both those residents and, just as importanly, everyone in metro Denver?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Issues Facing Ethanol

More On Ethanol

Forbes has a decent article covering some of the issues ethanol, especially corn-based ethanol, is facing in the US. Public radio's Marketplace also covered the issue in yesterday's show. Ethanol production in the state of Colorado is going to be affected by many of these issues whether it's the sharp increase in production capacity and how that will affect prices to the price of corn going up at the same time we've seen a 20% drop in oil prices.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Corn Ethanol

A recent story in the Rocky Mountain News talked about corn ethanol production in Colorado. It did a decent job for a newspaper article in covering the issues associated with corn ethanol. A couple of the major issues it didn't raise are that of sustainable farming, more tightly linking food prices with fuel prices and rainfall.

Sustainable farming is a phrase used in regards to modern farming practices in industrialized countries like the United States, Australia, Brazil and others. Many modern techniques have led
to topsoil depletion, groundwater contamination, increasing costs of production, and other problems. It'd difficult to imagine how the lure of profits from growing corn for fuel will lend itself to making major changes to these practices.

The corn industry constantly points out that ethanol production will not affect corn prices. But a quick search at Google News for news with words like "ethanol corn prices" yields a slew of artciles with headlines like "Ethanol production pushes corn prices higher" and articles talking about how the run-up in prices for corn futures during the last year has been driven by increased demand for corn for ethanol production. And this during a time when 13% of US corn crops are used to produce enough ethanol for for less than 3% of the countries fuel needs. What would happen to corn prices if 10% of fuel was derived from corn ethanol? How many crops would be dropped in favor of growing more lucractive corn? How would that affect food prices? How will rising corn prices affect dairy and beef production? What about chicken, turkey and others? It's difficult to see 30%, 40% or more of corn production being devoted to fueling our vehicles without it affecting food prices.

As the original article points out, a gallon of ethanol requires 1,700 gallons of water for production. This is consumed both for growing the corn and also for the production of the ethanol itself. It's needed because corn is essentially a tropical grass. And for areas such as Yuma county that have an annual rainfall of about 15 inches it's an issue because corn requires twice that. This has created a variety of problems including have a large negative impact on the Ogallala Aquifer. It also poses a probelm for the state as a whole. Colorado saw it's population boom including adding a million new people in the 1990s. The population of the state is still growing at a fast clip. Many growing cities have been purchasing farms and ranches for their water rights. It's hard to see how corn ethanol produciton will help restore the Ogallala Aquifer's health, let alone how it won't further exacerbate the water problems facing the state.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Commerce City

Armpit of Metro Denver?

Most people don't think much of Commerce City, Colorado. It was never a desirable bedroom community. It has lots of commercial and industrial development. But with the closing of Stapleton and the old Rocky Mountain Flats and the land it's annexed to the north east, it has a blank slate to work with in rebranding itself. The cornerstone of this is it's Prairie Gateway project. It will give Commerce City a downtown. The focal point of the project is a new stadium for the Colorado Rapids. More information on the Prairie Gateway development can be found at the city's website.

What do you think of the project? Will it change metro Denver resident's image of the city?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Michael D. Thomas

If you haven't already heard, an Aurora PD officer was murdered while on duty. Detective Michael D. Thomas was shot while at a traffic light at Montview and Peoria. For those of you not familiar with the area, it's not exactly the nicest part of town. There is more information on this at the Officer Down Memorial page .

May the perpetual light shine upon him.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Colorado Changing

Red or Blue?

A Rocky Mountain News / CBs4 poll looks at some of the ballot initiatives Coloradans will be looking at this fall. What I find most interesting is that the initiative in regards to Amendment 43. Amendment 43 would ban gay marriages in Colorado. The poll found 52% planned on voting yes for amendment 43. Considering the margin of error for the poll is quite large, 6.2% that really means about 1/2 of the voters are planning ino voting yes. And we know that as election day approaches, people's enthusiam tends to wane. They become more likely to vote no. And it becomes less likely that those undecided or planning on voting no will vote yes.

Is this another sign that Colorado is becoming less of a red state? Or is this a reflection on the gay marriage issue itself in that it's getting played out and losing resonance with voters?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

It's Electricity For Those Trains!

I always wonder about "news" stories like this one in the Denver Business Journal. They report that a study was completed that recomends "construction of an electric rail line". I wonder if they have someone actually writing this or they're just mashing together a press release or two for the story. Afterall, shouldn't a reporter in this situation be asking what is meant by an electric rail line? Does this mean a 3rd rail simlar to what we'd normally associate with a subway (DC' Metro has a lot of above ground operations so it's possible)? Does it mean overhead wires? Or do they simply mean that they'll use diesel locomotives much like Union Pacific or BNSF use? Afterall, technically those locomotives are electric. They use the diesel to generate electricity that is then used propel the train.

If you've been paying attention to FasTracks, you'll probably assume that they're talking about putting in light rail with the overhead wires. This is because they've had some articles in the past talking about the issues with using commuter rail (heavy rail) on the route. We'll just have to wait and see if our assumption is true.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Washington Mutual's Retreat From Windsor And Water

Lipstick For This Pig? Really?

The Denver Business Journal is reporting that Washington Mutual is pulling back in Colorado. They're closing several branchs in the state including fast growing cities like Greeley and Windsor. Washington Mutual tries to put a positive spin on the situation by saying that they're closing poorly performing branches and will be opening others. The problem is, it comes across as putting lipstick on a pig. One needs to ask why they'd be closing a branch in one of the fastest growing cities in the state such as Windsor.

Windsor Water

Speaking of Windsor, congratulations to Wagner Caterpillar on it's new location on Crossroads in Windsor. They're located across the street from the Wal-Mart distribution center. It was nice to tour the place. What I found most interesting was their washing bay. As you can imagine, all that equipment gets very dirty out in the field. The washing bay they have is able to reuse 90% of it's water. It does this with a system that both seperates the sediments from the water and uses natural microbes to break down the oil and grease. Not only will this save them money but it'll help reduce the demand for water in an area that averages around 15" of rain in a year.

Colorado Water

Many States, One River

Given this summer's drought, we shouldn't be suprised to see that Western states are on the verge of going back to court over Colorado River water. Very fast growing states like Nevada and Arizona want more water to be kept in Lake Mead. Other states would rather the extra water be stored in Lake Powell. The question is, with water being a reoccuring issue for Colorado, do you know where the gubernatorial canidates stand on issues regarding water rights?

Rock Slide Death

I-70 Rock Slide

In the news today is a story about a woman who died in a rock slide on I-70. It's unfortunate that this accident happened. CDOT feels they're going to have the freeway open in a week. It's interesting to contrast that with the Big Dig. Portions of it are still shut down after a woman was crushed to death there. Are Coloradans too insensitive to deaths in the mountains? Shouldnt' more be done to ensure these slides don't result in fatalities?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Beauprez's Gas Tax

Apparently Beauprez sees the gas tax as a simple form of revenue. He doesn't seem to be concerned that lowering the price of gas would most likely result in higher consumption. Nor does he seem to recognize that the gas tax is a sem0user fee. In many ways, the more you use the roads, the more gas you buy. The more gas you buy, the more gas tax you pay. Higher fuel milage in a vehicle offsets this but in general it holds.,2808,DRMN_24736_4980383,00.html

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez said Friday that he favors scrapping Colorado's gasoline tax and replacing it with a statewide sales tax to fund road improvements.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Denver City Council : Easy Paycheck?

An editorial at the Denver Post points out that despite the pay and benefits technically the city council memebers aren't considered full time employees. They also have several suggestions for getting council members to show up to all the meetings. I wish I could say who wrote it but the online version doesn't seem to indicate the author.,2777,DRMN_23964_4973394,00.html

Since Denver City Council members are paid $73,512 a year, you might think they'd consider it a full-time job and show up for all meetings.

But legally it isn't, even though most members claim that in fact they work full time for the city.

As News reporter Daniel J. Chacón reported Tuesday, the 13 members serving since 2003 have missed between 18 and 81 meetings of regular, joint and special committees. That performance isn't good enough.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Colorado Issues

What are the most pressing issues that Colorado will be facing over the next decade? Will they be related to growth? Will there be local climate changes that will bring farming to an end? Will we continue to see more population growth in the mountains? Will the eastern third of the state continue to empty?

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Smoking Fires

Colorado Smoking

There was talk about Colorado's recently implemented smoking ban in the Denver Post today. Apparently a bar in Durango has won a preliminary injunction and don't have to abide by the smoking ban. It'll be interesting to see how this pans out. The legal issue seems to be revolving around the clarity of the law with it's provisions for cigar bars.

Freedom Sight also makes not of this article without much commentary on the issue.

Colorado Wildfires

Speaking of smoke, how do you think Colorado faired this year for wild fires yet? We're not out of the woods yet but considering how dry it's been, it doesn't seem to have been too bad. What do you think?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

More Colorado Transportation Talk

With all the transportation new yesterday, I thought I'd bring up a few others that have been in the news recently.

Tolls...We mean, “Fees”

The Loveland Reporter-Herald recently ran an article on some of the transportation options being considered for Loveland. One part I noticed was something the Federal Highway Administration official mentioned. What caught my attention is that he was talking about creating toll roads only the FHA is referring to them as a user fee.

Capka talked about a program the state of Oregon is testing that places global positioning systems in the cars of its residents.

“When a certain car uses the (highway) system, it tracks the user and charges a fee instead of the gas tax,” he said.

It's All About Downtown

Another item that caught my attention was in an article on a proposed passenger train that would run along the front range. The Berthoud board of Trustees passed a resolution saying they want to be served by a commuter train rather than Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Why? They want to save downtown. This despite the rail option costing 2 to 3 times BRT. More so, there is no evidence that rail service is needed for a successful downtown.

More so it's interesting to see how downtowns still dictate our transit planning. It's been a couple a decades since their were more jobs in the suburbs than downtown, yet our transit systems continue to be little more than a downtown transportation system.

Besides widening the highway to six lanes, state officials are looking at adding either a commuter rail through cities or a Bus Rapid Transit lane down the center of the interstate, he said. The Berthoud Board of Trustees passed a resolution Tuesday stating its preference for the commuter rail alternative.

“It’s really, really beneficial to our downtown,” he said. The BNSF line runs through downtown Berthoud.

“Berthoud will be struggling to keep downtown the center of the community.”

A Decade Of Waiting

As Fastracks move forward, meetings are being held in order to finalize plans for each individual line. In a decade, the metro population will have grown another 30%. Most of that growth will be occurring in areas further out (that is, their rate of growth will be much, much higher). It will be interesting to see how cities along these lines such as the gold line will react. Growing up in Minneapolis, I watched the city lobby for decades to get a light rail line. But leading up to that and even once it was built, they did to change zoning along the line. Are cities like Arvada and Wheat Ridge, traditionally single family home bedroom communities, ready to allow for dense, multi-story, multi-unit construction along the gold line corridor? Will other cities along other routes do this?

The RTD FasTracks Gold Line is still about a decade away, but when it arrives, Wheat Ridge will be ready.

Superslab : Front Range Tollway

Front Range Transportation

When it rains it pours. Both the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post today were full of articles on transportation in Denver and the rest of Colorado.

Connecting Broomfield, Lafayette, and Thorton

The first was the article on the Northwest Parkway. For those who aren't familiar with it, basically it's part of the beltway around Metro Denver that connects I-25 and US36 in the NW corner. The 11-mile tollway was completed in 2003 for a cost of $416 million.

I-25 HOT Lanes

The second article I caught was more important to me. A little while back I mentioned the talk of building a train on the I70 corridor. I think the better solution is 3-person HOT lanes and beefed bus service in addressing the problem. The congestion occurs on the weekends, the very time we have all sorts of buses in the Denver Metro going unused. Anyway, the article mentions that in the first 3 months the HOT lanes on I25 had already collected the dollar amount of tolls they had projected for the first year. Does anyone know what they're going to do with the tolls they collect? Build more HOT lanes? Fund more transit?

Prairie Falcon Parkway Express

For many years there has been talk about building a new freeway in Colorado to link Ft. Collins and Pueblo while by-passing big population centers like Denver and Colorado Springs. It could make traveling through Colorado much easier. It will also include new right-of-ways for utilities and railroads. One thing I haven't heard talked about this project is the potential it has for ensuring that a new corridor is built from day one configured for transit. This will be especially important on the sections by fast growing Ft. Collins and the fastest growing metro on the Front Range, Greeley.

Some legislation was passed last fall that had those against the project thinking they had killed it. Then yesterday the new company, Prairie Falcon Parkway Express, announced they were moving forward with it according to the new law passed last fall. One of the articles on it can be found at the Rocky Mountain News, here.

The corridor stretches from north of Fort Collins to south of Pueblo, ranging up to 30 miles east of Interstate 25, the congested Front Range freeway the toll road seeks to relieve.

One of the blogs for those against the project can be found at this URL :

Monday, August 28, 2006

Illegal Immigration

In reading an article at the BBC on the problem of illegal immigration in South Africa it struck me that in many ways their situation is similar to the US. You have a neighboring country with has a lot of desperate people looking to survive sneaking into the country. It's funny for how much we hear about immigration in the news these days, we seem to rarely hear about countries with immigration issues getting together and talking about what has worked and what hasn't worked for them.

There are a few blogs that look at the issue more :

Modern Tribalist

This Scepter'd Isle

South Africa Info

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Flags in Colorado

The Denver Post is asking :

A geography teacher, suspended over flying world flags, resigned after being given a 6-week limit on how long those flags can stay up. What do you think about the way this case was handled?

How do we all think it was handeled? What do you think? I'd be surpised if many people thought it was the right thing to do. I think the school should've stood by the teacher and let the legal authorities raise a fuss if it really mattered to them. Seems like the principal was more concered about covering his own butt than worrying that the kids were learning. What do you think?

Friday, August 25, 2006

Crap and The Climate

I came across another horrible blog at This guy seems to think he's just being grump and somehow so grumpy that he's anarchistic. He's not. He uses terms like “sand nigger” “fagotts” and others. He's just a biggot taking advantange of the internet to yap.

On a brighter note, there is talk about the Colorado Climate Project. Coyote Gulch mentions it but doesn't get into the issue. It'll be interesting to find out more details on this proposal.

Speaking of things we haven't heard much about. For all the screaming and crying and yelling and shouting going on over global warming, we seem to hear very little over local climate changes. As we all know, weather can vary a lot depending on your locality. Western North Dakota tends to be very dry compared to cetnral North Dakota, let alone eastern North Dakota. In Colorado we see all sorts of localized climate differences and they're not simply dependent the mountains. If you're interested in reading more, some Colorado Climatoligists (note :for the most part, the only scientists who actually matter in this debate) write about it on their blog .

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Colorado and Coal

Colorado Matters had Jeff Goodell on the other day. His book "Big Coal : The Dirty Secret Behind America's Energy Future" recently came out. It was interesting to listen to him. I haven't had a chance to read his book yet but he didn't strike me as overly sensational. He brought up some points that we don't hear a lot about energy issues. For example Tri-State [] wants to spend $5 billion to build 3 new coal plants. Jeff Goodell claims that $400 million spend in demand side management would eliminate the need for the additional energy. Checking SWEEP's web site [], I didn't see a verification of that specifically, but I did find :

“Promoting energy efficiency would be a lot more cost-effective than building new coal-fired power plants and transmission lines,” stated Howard Geller, co-author of the report and Executive Director of SWEEP. “Utility-sponsored energy efficiency programs could result in$760 million in net savings for consumers and businesses served by Tri-State, rather than billions of dollars in net costs,” Geller added.

I wasn't able to confirm if that $760 in net savings included that $400m in expenses or not. It wouldn't suprise me. Unlink mass transit, a lot of changes made for energy effenciency don't require major lifestyle changes. They simply involve updating the applliances or the buildings people use.

One point Goodell kept hammering away at was that we didn't know the true cost of coal. For example, he mentioned the American Lung Association had claimed there were 24,000 premature deaths each year in the US. Well, alcohol is involved in 18,000 premature deaths each year in the US. Additional taxation hasn't ended that problem. That's not to say it hasn't made a differenene. But one has to wonder how much carbon taxes would help to address the issue.

What's bothersome was that he didn't address at all the changes to the current situation coal gasification and carbon squestering bring to the use of coal. He did mention that 40% of total carbon emissions in the US are from coal. So why wouldn't someone who's talking about the high cost of coal and who recognizes that 40% of carbon emissions are due to it, not talk about technolgies that could cut it in half in the near future and 10 - 20 years from now reduce it by over 90%?

A lot of environmental groups and people avoid talking about any further use of coal. So it's nice to find one that does, Western Resource Advotactes [ ]. I understand why groups don't embrace coal. It has a lot of issues. But other power solutions do too. And considerin that IGCC (Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle) coal technology in it's early form can cut coal plant emissions by 40% to 60% with poential for 90% or more, it seems like a valid option. As the Durango Herald (Durango Herald; Aug. 18 ) points out in an article last week, it wouldn't require much additional money, $50 million. When you consider that in light of Tri-State wanting to spend $5 billion for 3 new plants, it's a very minor additional cost with a lot of clear, immediate benefits. Considering that coal power plants account for 35% to 40% of carbon emissions, this one technology has potentional to LOWER our carbon emissions by 25 – 30%. It's the closet thing we have to a silver bullet right now.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

3 decades ago 1976 winter olympics blocked by voters. They feared excessive growth and environmental damage. Lately the Metro Denver Sports Commision has been pushing to bring in smaller "major" sporting events as part of a push to bid for the winter olympics in 2018. Naturally the plans are not very concrete at this point. One thing we do know is that no modern Games have made money when all costs, including public money and land transfers, infrastructure costs, and security are factored in. Knowing this I was still suprised to hear the commission's chairman come out and say that ther is no linkage between growth and hosting of the Olympics. If Denver isn't going to have any economic gains form hosting the Olympics, why spend billions to do it?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

During the 1990s the population along the The Front Range boomed. The Front Range as a whole added nearly a million people and grew by 30%. Some places like Greeley saw a faster rate but the other metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) all saw 30% growth. Well, except for Pueblo. Pueblso MSA only grew by 14%. Essentially they grew at the same rate as the rest of the nation.

Why didn't Pueblo experience the same kind of growth the the rest of the Front Range experienced? Are they not close enough to the mountains to have drawn in those technology companies? I wouldn't see why that would be a problem considering Greeley grew the fastest despite being the furthest from the mountains. And like Greeley, Pueblo has a 4 year college. The climate in Pueblo is a little nicer than places like Ft. Collins with it being further south, right? And Pueblo is in Colorado so it should more or less have the same type of laws and taxes that the rest of the Front Range has. Why has Pueblo, the old Pittsburgh of the West, not grown like the rest of the Front Range? Why has what was once the 2nd or 3rd most important city in the state 100 years ago fallen so far behind so many other cities?

Monday, August 21, 2006

There's been some talk again about a train for the I70 corridor that runs West through the mountains from Denver. One article address this can be found at at the Rocky Mountain News. Last January Environmental and Urban Economics did a nice write up on the background. Not only is Denver's population booming but the population in the mountains is growing fast. Many solutions have been looked at. A few years ago a monorail solution was wrote off as being too expensive. The groups are claiming that a new technology for trains in Switzerland has changed things enough that a train can be built for less than $4 billion.

I'm skeptical of the cost. They seem to be talking about a double-tracked elevated railway. Traditional monorails cost $125 million or more to construct when built in relatively flat areas. The I-70 corridor is anything but that. And there has been very little talk from these groups about what it will cost in terms of concrete numbers. They simply repeat claims that it'll cost less than $4 billion and even that it'll be less expensive than building additional freeway mileage. I wasn't able to find very much information on it looking on the Internet myself. If anyone has anything more concrete, please share it with us in the comments. Until then, it seem a bit like the kid that claims he's better than Pele but isn't willing to prove it.

What's more interesting about this development is the lack of public discourse over what the problems are and how important they are in the grand scheme of things. Today's Denver Post had an article pointing that Colorado's per student funding for it's public colleges and universities is the 3rd lowest in the nation. Issues like these are important to keep in mind because we're talking about congestion. Congestion is simply people waiting in line to get through a spot on the free. The problems it creates on the I70 corridor are arguably less important. One result can be a lack of growth in the tourism industry in those areas. While it's important to have a variety of jobs, how worried should we be about the lack of growth (or even the loss) of jobs that are relatively low paying for the most part? The other issue that the congestion adds to is pollution. A large part of that occurs from simply operating a car. Stop and go traffic makes the problem worse. But how much better would the pollution situation be if we spent $5 to $10 billion on addressing the congestion problem on that corridor? Even if we got ½ the traffic onto the train, we don't yet have the capacity to consistently produce green energy for the train to operate on. How much good would come from that? We'd be billions to simply shift the source of the pollution from the mountains to Ft. Morgan or Pueblo. Is it really worth it?

And what's with blogs that don't allow for comments? Are they afraid people may point out claims that aren't factual? Colorado Environmentalist is one of them. Apparently they don't want anyone pointing out that there is no proof that “the overwhelming weight of scientific opinion is calling for strong immediate action” in regards to global warming. One thing that is true is that an overwhelming number of English teachers want a comma in that phrase.

And keep safe when the those scattered storms come through at night. As Walter in Denver points out, Denver's the 2nd most dangerous city for lightening.