The Boulder County jail does a lot of laundry.
If it’s not uniforms, it’s bed sheets or underwear, meaning that the industrial-sized washers and dryers are often running 16 hours a day, greedily sucking electricity off the grid.
About 500 people live at the jail, so when you add the laundry to a flood of hot showers and countless burning light bulbs, the facility racks up a pretty hefty utility bill: $250,000 a year.
The Boulder County commissioners want to slash that bill, and if voters give them the thumbs-up at the ballot box in November, they say they can cut the amount of money spent on jail utilities in half.
This November, the county commissioners are asking voters for permission to make major energy-efficiency upgrades to the jail with the ultimate goal of cutting its $250,000 annual utility bill in half. Boulder County Ballot Issue 1C would allow the county to take advantage of new federally backed, zero-interest loans to make $6.1 million worth of improvements to county buildings, including the jail, the justice center and the sheriff’s headquarters.
The new loan program is part of the federal stimulus bill, and the money must be used for public buildings. Read more
A federal judge has told the USDA that they should’ve slowed down — and considered the environment — when the agency approved genetically modified sugar beets, which have recently caused an uproar here in Boulder County.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White ruled Monday evening that the USDA has to go back and produce the environmental impact statement that the agency should have worked on before.
Last December, six Boulder County farmers asked for permission to plant Roundup Ready sugar beets on the open space land they lease from the county. Since the county already allows GMO corn — 1,500 acres of open space is planted with it this year — the farmers thought the request wouldn’t be too big a deal.
But the issue blew up, thanks in part to a group of riled up leaders from the area’s organic and natural food industry. In August, the county commissioners agreed to delay the controversial decision on whether to allow the GMO beets while the county debates what to do with genetically modified crops in general. Read more
First it was the mysterious, wide-spread death of aspen trees.
Then it was the near annihilation of all of Colorado’s mature lodgepole forests by a plague of pine beetles.
Now, the forest service is worried about limber pines and their relatives in the white pine family, including the ancient bristlecone pines.
The combination of blister rust — a non-native fungus — and pine beetles, which also feed on limber pines, is killing off the ancient trees at unprecedented rates.
The U.S. Forest Service has recently beefed up a campaign to save limber pines by looking for the hardiest trees and collecting their cones.
From last weekend’s Daily Camera:
On Saturday, the first of several groups of volunteers organized by Boulder County’s Parks and Open Space Department will scour the mountains west of Boulder in an effort to save the limber pines by collecting their cones.
The cones — and more importantly, the seeds they contain — will be handed off to the U.S. Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station, where researchers will cultivate young pines, searching for the healthiest individual trees.
“We’re going to test the resulting seedlings for resistance to blister rust, an introduced fungal pathogen,” said Thomas Crow, manger of the limber pine program. “It’s part of a more proactive approach to management.”
Read more posts about forest health on BigGreenBoulder:
|Beetle-killed trees threaten Colorado power grid||Rocky Mountain aspens could disappear by 2090|
Pine beetles have infested about 2 million acres of Colorado’s lodgepole pine forest, and utility companies are worried that when the dead trees fall, they’ll fall on power lines.
This from the Vail Daily:
A wildfire along one of the West’s key power line corridors could shut down the grid in a worst-case scenario. To avoid disruption, the U.S. Forest Service wants to remove dead and dying trees along power lines crossing national forest system lands in northern Colorado. …
“There is an imminent threat to power lines from an increasing number of hazardous trees falling in the three forests,” said Cal Wettstein, commander of the Forest Service’s Bark Beetle Incident Management Team.
The U.S. Forest Service wants to work with utilities to cut down beetle-killed trees on land it manages in Colorado, including trees in the Roosevelt National Forest, which covers a swath of western Boulder County.
There are around 800 miles of distribution and transmission lines on the three National Forests — White River, Medicine Bow-Routt, and Arapaho and Roosevelt — according to the forest service, and about 400 miles run through lodgepole pine that has been or will likely be killed by the bark beetle.
With just a few minutes to spare until midnight, the Boulder County Board of Commissioners wrapped up a seven-hour-long public meeting on whether to allow GMO sugar beets on publicly owned farm land… by unanimously deciding not to decide.
Instead, the commissioners asked county staffers to begin working on a plan for how to deal with all types of genetically modified crops.
In 2003, a different set of commissioners voted to allow GMO corn on county open space land leased to farmers, but stipulated that each new genetically modified crop would need new permission. This means that when farmers asked to grow GMO sugar beets last December, the request ate up hours and hours of staff time and triggered three public meetings that drew hundreds of locals.
And even if the beet question was put to bed Tuesday, herbicide-resistant wheat and drought-resistant corn are just around the corner, waiting to pull the county back into another long debate.
“We do not want to be in a position of doing hand-to-hand combat about every GMO seed,” said Commissioner Will Toor at Tuesday’s public hearing.
Last night’s decision by the commissioners to create a larger plan could save time in the future, but for now, it means that there’s no end in sight. (Last time the county debated GMO corn, it took nearly three years to get a decision.)
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has added the first of two super-sized wind turbines to its research center in southern Boulder County.
Already, more than a dozen wind turbines — from graceful lattice-mounted units with 2-kilowatt capacities to hulking white turbines from the mid-1980s that can crank out 600 kilowatts — stand facing into the wind gusting off the foothills at the National Wind Technology Center.
The new turbine, which is rated at 1.5 megawatts, will allow reserachers to tinker with a type of turbine that is becoming widely used at wind farms across the country. The second turbine, which will be added later this fall, will be even bigger at 2.3 megawatts.
Read more about the National Wind Technology Center’s new turbines at dailycamera.com or learn about Center for Research and Education in Wind, a new collaboration betwen researchers at the Universtiy of Colorado, Colorado State University, the Colorado School of Mines and NREL.
Turns out that while the federal “Cash for Clunkers” program may be a great economic stimulus for hurting car dealerships — it’s not a great way (or at least not a cheap way) to cut the nation’s carbon footprint.
This is from the New York Times blog Green Inc.:
“The program is really not cost effective as a climate policy,” said Michael Wara, who is an assistant professor at Stanford Law School and a faculty fellow at the university’s program on energy and sustainable development. “It might be a great economic stimulus — we’re selling a lot of cars — but this is not the way to deal with mobile sources of climate change.”
Mr. Wara found that the program cost between $200 to $400 per ton of carbon dioxide emissions avoided, and Mr. Knittel’s estimates went up to $500 per ton. By contrast, the climate bill recently passed in the House of Representatives would result in a $28 per ton carbon price in 2020, according to analysis by the Congressional Budget Office.
Read Green Inc.’s full post on the high carbon cost of the “Clunkers” program, or read a story by Alicia Wallace in the Daily Camera about how the program is giving a boost to Boulder County car dealers. Check out the government’s cash-for-clunkers Web page for more information about the program, officially called the Car Allowance Rebate System, or CARS.
The pine beetles are still hungry, and nothing is going to stop them from killing the vast majority of Colorado’s mature lodgepole pines in the next several years.
(Last year, the beetles chewed through nearly half a million acres of trees in Colorado, bringing the total bug damage in the state to about 2 million acres.)
But some organizations and homeowners hope that there’s some chance of at least saving a few of the pines — the ones that shade campsites, line ski runs or decorate a back yard — and that hope goes by the name of carbaryl.
The problem is that carbaryl — which to have any hope of fending of the munching beetles would have to be sprayed every year for a decade — is a “likely carcinogen,” according to the EPA, that can also cause a host of other unpleasant neurological problems. And two years ago, it showed up in Boulder’s water for the first time.
This month, a group of residents in Estes Park have begun organizing to fight carbaryl, forming the Mountain Pine Beetle Defense Council, according to the Trail Gazette.
Around Estes, the chemical is sprayed by the city, the forest service and Rocky Mountain National Park. Read more
GM is saying that its new Chevy Volt — expected to hit showroom floors sometime late in 2010 — will get a gazillion miles per gallon. Well, not a gazillion… but far more than any other hybrid is claiming: 230 mpg.
This would make the Volt almost five times more fuel efficient than the Prius, which claims 48 mpg and is becoming more common in Boulder than even prairie dogs, Crocs and cruiser bikes. But there’s a catch. It’ll cost you nearly twice as much to buy a Volt than a Prius. Read more about the Volt here or after the jump.
In Boulder, residents — and increasingly the government — are looking to take the Priuses they already own to the next level, converting the cars to plug-ins that one day may be able to feed electricity back to the grid.
Boulder County, the city of Boulder and the University of Colorado are all collaborating with Xcel Energy on one of the first large-scale tests of vehicle-to-grid technology. Just recently, big yellow plugs have sprouted from the northwest end of the parking lot behind the county courthouse, and you can see a couple of converted Priuses plugged into the wall when they’re not being driven.
Read more about the local vehicle-to-grid tests on the Daily Camera’s Web site here and here. Or check out a story on Hybrids Plus, a Boulder-based company that converts standard hybrid cars to plug-ins, here.
Two recent pieces in the Camera cover local senior citizens with the desire to learn how to reduce their environmental impact, addressing issues like frugality and possible physical limitations on green action. Read more