Early Bird Special: Wirth warns natural gas industry against missing train

Here are some of the items around Colorado that caught our attention today:

Former U.S. Sen. Tim Wirth urged the natural gas industry to stop sitting on its hands and get involved in the national response to climate change, the Denver Business Journal’s Cathy Proctor reports. “We are in very deep trouble, the edge of catastrophe, and you can help,” said Wirth, who now runs the United Nations Foundation following a stint at the Clinton State Department where he worked on global problems.

Wirth said the industry has to act fast to make sure the massive energy bill moving through Congress doesn’t give inordinate preference to coal-burning electricity generation at the expense of cleaner natural gas. “Organize yourselves at a very high speed. The train is moving. You can get on the train or watch it disappear into the tunnel,” Wirth told attendees in Denver at the annual natural gas symposium sponsored by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. Gov. Bill Ritter addresses the group Thursday.

Oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens applauded U.S. Rep. Betsy Markey as an “energy independence crusader” while he was in the nation’s capital Wednesday lobbying for energy independence, writes Fort Collins Coloradoan editor Bob Moore. Pickens praised Markey for her work sponsoring the New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions (or NAT GAS) Act, “proving her commitment to enabling her constituents in Colorado to choose a legitimately American fuel at the pump.” The bill provides incentives to convert vehicles to natural gas power. Moore notes that Pickens’ visit to D.C. occurs during a “tough week” for the billionaire. “[Pickens] announced he was scrapping plans for the world’s largest wind farm in Texas, saying the plan was crippled by lack of adequate transmission lines to carry the electricity from remote locations to cities,” Moore writes. He also points to a pledge the usually partisan Pickens made in a Politico interview: He’ll be sitting out the next round of elections. “No, I won’t play a role,” Pickens said. “I’m not going to attack anybody.”

• For the fourth year in a row, Fort Collins drivers are the second-safest in the nation, according to an analysis by insurance giant Allstate of claims in the 200 largest cities in America, the Fort Collins Coloradoan’s Trevor Hughes reports. Only the roads of Sioux Falls,, S.D., are safer when it comes to collisions, Allstate found. The Coloradoan’s own analysis of police statistics supports the ranking. Between 2004 and 2008, the number of injury-crashes in the city dropped from 816 to 316 while Fort Collins’ population grew by 4,000 to 131,000. Police attribute the drop in part to deployment of a second photo-radar van, which has slowed drivers.

Denver ranks 10th among the nation’s most walkable major cities, a Website devoted to measuring walkability determined. The Denver Business Journal’s Mark Harden breaks down what it means: “Neighborhoods are scored from an upper range of 90-100 (“walkers’ paradise”), where most errands can be accomplished on foot and many people get by without owning a car, to a lower range of 0-24 (“car-dependent”), where virtually no neighborhood destinations are within walking range.” On that scale, Denver’s overall score of 66 earns the city a tie with Portland, Ore. Four neighborhoods in Denver earned superlative scores, Harden reports: Lower Downtown at 97, Golden Triangle gets 96, Capitol Hill’s 93 and Cherry Creek trots along with 90. San Francisco was deemed the most walkable of the nation’s 40 largest cities, though Harden notes the scoring doesn’t take hilly terrain into account. Jacksonville, Fla., brought up the rear in the survey. Here’s the complete ranking of walkable American cities.

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