State must promote energy alternatives In "Socialism at...


September 06, 2006

State must promote energy alternatives

In "Socialism at the pump" (Opinion * Commentary, Aug. 30), Steve Chapman criticizes the Department of Energy for offering financial inducements to develop alternative energy technologies.

In support of his position, Mr. Chapman observes that "if modern science offers feasible ways to produce cheaper sources of motor fuel, there is no need for this type of government intervention. And if it doesn't, there is no point."

I respectfully disagree.

When oil prices are high, gasoline is expensive, and it becomes economically feasible to develop alternative fuels. But this lasts only as long as oil prices remain high. Unfortunately, as soon as a fledgling alternative fuel can really compete with gasoline, it may be a victim of its own success.

As the alternative fuel begins to make inroads in the market, the demand for gasoline and other oil products will drop.

Thus the price of gasoline will drop and the alternative fuel may no longer be economically viable.

America solved an analogous problem of rural electrification in the 1930s.

Back then, large power companies refused to supply electricity to rural areas because it was too expensive to string the lines and people living in rural areas lacked the resources to pay prevailing rates.

As a result, large numbers of people residing in rural areas lacked such basic amenities as refrigeration, washing machines or even electric lights.

Their lives were miserable, and were it not for massive government intervention, including the formation of the Rural Electrification Administration, nothing would have changed.

Unlike Mr. Chapman, I think a massive government intervention is precisely what is called for at this time.

Instead of wasting hundreds of billions invading other countries in a desperate and ill-considered effort to maintain the status quo, we should declare an all-out war on the runaway profits of "Big Oil," and aggressively fund the development of alternative, clean and renewable sources of energy.

Stephen P. Kauffman

Ellicott City

Fuel tax will keep our money at home

Steve Chapman got it exactly right in "Socialism at the pump" (Opinion * Commentary, Aug. 30). We should raise taxes on oil and let the market figure out how best to respond.

Some combination of conservation and renewable energy would emerge, and we would be better off.

But how can any politician pass such a program with gasoline prices already high?

The key is to recognize that oil is finite and declining production is thus inevitable.

When that happens, higher prices will result. If we just wait, the market will raise prices for us and send our money off to the oil-exporting nations.

I, for one, would rather keep our money here by raising the price of gasoline through a tax on fossil fuels.

We could use a fossil fuel tax to balance the budget, thereby reducing the taxes our children will pay.

Many oil experts believe we are at the peak of global oil production. The time to respond is now.

Carl Henn


New bridge no cure for our traffic woes

I am glad that the idea of building a second bay bridge has been put off ("No recommendation on possible new span," Aug. 30). And I hope somebody will find a solution to a traffic problem that does not involve another expensive, invasive structure.

Why is the answer to a congestion problem always to build more roads - or in this case, bridges?

And what would happen as traffic and population steadily increased over the next few decades? Would we build a third bay bridge?

New York and Atlantic City, N.J., generate business by having day-trippers come in on buses.

Maybe a good solution would be to add a bus-only lane to the Bay Bridge and offer day, weekend and weeklong bus trip packages to the Eastern Shore.

Not only would that cut fuel consumption and emissions, it also would help people avoid traffic congestion on the bridge and go to the Shore stress-free.

Rebecca Staniewicz


Thinking globally benefits all of us

I was pleased to read Luther S. Luedtke's column praising Goucher College's decision to require all students to study abroad - and calling on colleges to expand international programs by offering more service-learning programs overseas ("Make semester abroad more meaningful," Opinion * Commentary, Aug. 30).

I agree with Mr. Luedtke that American colleges and universities must do more to advance genuine global understanding and engagement.

When Goucher announced its international education initiative last year, we hoped to stimulate public dialogue about the critical importance of international experience to every college student's education.

Goucher offers many international service-learning opportunities, some in conjunction with the International Partnership for Service Learning.

As Mr. Luedtke points out, the more success we have teaching young people to think and act globally, the better for us all.

Sanford J. Ungar


The writer is the president of Goucher College.

Democracy isn't an object to install

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