Unfortunately your considerate, nonoffensive interpretation of the "spirit of the law" may leave you with a $5000 fine. For some reason law enforcement officers tend to get caught up with the "letter of the law" side of things. While an individual ranger may let you slide here and there, or interpret the law more favorably, I wouldn't bet $5000 on it.
Last year I called SEKI to ask about using wood stoves above 10,000 ft, even if I collected the fuel below 10,000. The answer I got was: "No."
In any case, that's a moot point this year in Inyo, as there is a special fire restriction order that the OP mentioned. It states that the only allowable stoves are: "portable stove or lantern using gas, jellied petroleum, or pressurized liquid fuel."
The spirit of the current restriction has nothing to do with fuel availablity at high altitude -- it's because with a virtually non-existent snowpack the whole southern Sierra is going to be a giant tinderbox this summer.
I just left a message at the White Mountain ranger station asking if alcohol stoves are OK under the current restriction or not. Based on the letter of the law, I would argue that my 12-10 stove counts as using "pressurized liquid fuel." We'll see if that argument holds water -- my guess is that it will not and I'll have to bring the canister. I'll post the response I get here.
As for Esbit, that doesn't technically fall into either the gas, jellied petroleum or pressurized liquid fuel categories, but you might want to call them to check anyway.