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New West Daily Roundup for July 9, 2013

Making headlines in the New West today: the plan to implement Boulder wind energy may face capacity issues; a rush to secede in northeastern Colorado appears to be losing steam; and porn. Lots of porn.

Boulder has been taking many steps to become energy-independent, to the point of planning a municipal utility that would buy renewable electricity from elsewhere in the region, such as from a wind farm. The goal is to cut down on consumption of carbon-based coal and natural gas, and city officials say they can do this at a slightly lower price.

Hold on, say Xcel Energy officials. They say a Boulder utility could face capacity issues and would not offer service as cheaply as Xcel. From the Boulder Daily Camera:

City officials say they can offer up to 50 percent renewable energy on day one of a municipal utility while offering rates similar to or lower than Xcel Energy’s. Heather Bailey, head of energy strategy and electric utility development for the city of Boulder, said the city accounted for a wide range of possibilities in its modeling, including higher wind costs, but the modeling is also weighted to account for the likelihood of certain issues.

Craig Eicher, Xcel Energy’s Boulder regional manager, pulled up the city’s proposed service area map and encouraged the commercial brokers to be familiar with unincorporated areas that would be part of a future city electric utility. Xcel has asked the Public Utilities Commission to rule on whether Boulder can take county customers if it forms its own electric utility.

Eicher said Xcel Energy shares Boulder’s goals of using more renewables and transitioning away from carbon-based power sources such as coal and natural gas.

The plan depends on using Xcel Energy to allow access to transmission lines. While there’s capacity now, there may not be in the future — and if full capacity is reached, Xcel Energy is under no obligation to expand capacity to serve the needs of a Boulder utility. Boulder officials downplay the threat, saying there’s plenty of capacity and there are other transmission providers out there. A plan to lower local energy consumption with wind and solar power will also impact the need to work with Xcel Energy.

Realizing that there’s virtually chance to carve up part of Colorado to create a 51st state, rural advocates are now shifting the discussion to how their interests can be represented in Denver. To say there’s a political split in Colorado would be an understatement: with northeastern Colorado sparsely populated (Kit Carson County has 8,094 residents; the City and County of Denver has 619,968), residents there feel their interests are underrepresented. Their solutions: secede or impose a nonproportional legislative representation plan based on county, not population. Since there’s little appetite anywhere for a 51st state carved out of Colorado or for any legislative or judicial body to ignore the whole pesky one person, one vote requirement set forth in Reynolds v. Sims in 1964, it doesn’t seem like these Colorado rural residents have much for leeway. From the Denver Post:

“Rural residents are now a disenfranchised minority of Colorado,” Phillips County Administrator Randy Schafer said. “National and urban values and needs are trumping rural values and needs.”

Of about 70 people who attended the meeting in Akron, many said they were unhappy with laws passed during the legislative session earlier this year, including stricter gun laws, civil unions for gay couples and new renewable energy standards created by SB 252….

“I think the city people kind of feel like country people are just hicks. They tend to generally use us,” said Washington County farmer John Lueth. “We just don’t have that much of a voice.”

The Deseret News continues its examination of the porn industry with a look at why obscenity laws are so hard to enforce, drawing in the experience of Icelandic authorities who fail in attempts to limit porn consumption in that small country. Most newspapers wouldn’t bother with a four-part series on pornography (don’t pass up on a chance to read Ubiquitous assailant: The dangerous unasked questions surrounding pornography and Second-hand porn: the spreading circle of damage) in this age of freely available porn on teh Intrawebs, but that’s not stopping the Deseret News from pointing out the many dangers of porn. Pointing out that even in Utah it was impossible to convict someone of actually consuming porn, the Deseret News shifts the discussion to the creation of porn and associating it with bestiality and child prostitution. But let’s face it: the vast majority of pornography doesn’t cover bestiality or child prostitution, and it’s not a hot-button issue even among religious advocates. From the story:

And this is where the public could step in and show prosecutors there’s still a compelling interest to prosecute, says Patrick Trueman, president and CEO of Morality in Media and chief of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section in the Department of Justice from 1988-1993. After all, law enforcement operates off of complaints, he says.

“If you don’t like the situation, if you don’t like a porn shop in your town, contact the district attorney. Make sure their phones ring off the hook,” he says. “But the public isn’t doing that. They haven’t done that for many years.”…

“If a prosecutor wants to prosecute distributors of online porn under Miller, there’s a good chance he’ll get a conviction,” says Eugene Volokh, a professor of First Amendment law at UCLA School of Law. “But if the goal of the prosecutor is to make porn less accessible, that’s what’s not possible. One thing that we have found, is that in free countries, it’s hard to stop the spread of things that people want to consume.”

This highlights one of the big split in western politics: the vaguely libertarian live-and-let-live attitude versus the religious activist. Is porn really a big problem in the New West? Hardly.

Image from Bigstock.

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