Fuel abounds for this idea | VailDaily.com

Fuel abounds for this idea

Matt Zalaznick

Instead of ruining the view, all the dying, rusty, beetle-ravaged trees on and around Vail Mountain could be powering our heated driveways, running our hot tubs, charging our iPods. There’s a better chance of having those un-postcard-worthy trees removed if Vail and its neighbors figure out what to do with them. In Europe, and in scattered parts of this country, old trees are being converted to energy in “biomass” plants. It has been suggested that Vail build one to put its ugly pines to good use. Last year, former Vail Mayor Ludwig Kurz and Jim Lamont, director of the Vail Village Homeowners Association, visited a biomass plant in Lech, a ski resort in Austria. Since the plant was installed in 1999, it has supplied 90 percent of the energy needs of a village about the size of the area from Ford Park to the west end of Lionshead, Vail Daily Nicole Frey reported in an article in October. “It’s totally unobtrusive and environmentally friendy, and it’s economically flourishing,” Lamont said. But if alternative energy’s too far out for Vail, they could play it safe and use the logs to build a nice alpine-style conference center. Vail might have to reimburse the Forest Service for the logging work, but the good news is the beetles haven’t been known to bore into conventioneers. Biomass plants have had their problems in the mountains, most notably in Nederland, west of Boulder, where a dispute between the town and the companty that built the facility seems to have doomed the experiment. But Summit County is going ahead with discussions about going biomass, and Vail should start a serious conservation, too. Vail Resorts, Eagle County, the Ginn Co. and the feds should be involved. Most of us who live in Vail want to keep the sky blue, the mountain streams clear and the mountains green. Biomass may be one of the best things locals can do to make sure Vail looks like that in the future. Biomass technology is not sure fire, but let’s give put some of the Seibert spirit behind this concept. It’s baffling sometimes how a town that once thrived on wild risks and vast dreams has gotten so timid about taking chances. It’s not just the Vail Town Council that’s afraid to put up the money. It’s the also a gun-shy, study-mad portion of the electorate that harangues the board into being way too prudent to pull the trigger on visionary projects like a biomass plant. What else are Vail and the Forest Service going to do with the trees? Stack them along the sides of over I-70 to stifle the highway roar? A log-tunnel would certainly fit in with the surroundings.Vail, Colorado

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