Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

October 06, 2007

Invert the increase in our energy use

The Sun's article "Tough to unplug" (Sept. 30) highlights some of the challenges we must address to counter the threat to life on Earth posed by global warming.

Our governor has called for a 15 percent reduction in Maryland's electricity consumption in the near term. So it's discouraging to read that Baltimore Gas and Electric customers actually increased their electricity consumption this summer by 3 percent over the 2006 level.

To ensure our children and grandchildren will have a livable planet, we must reverse this trend in energy use.

Replacing a few traditional light bulbs with energy-efficient ones is just a start.

Our forefathers lived without air conditioning and, at a still earlier time, without central heating. Surely we can adopt BGE's suggested summer thermostat setting of 78 degrees in our homes, schools and workplaces. And in the cold months, wearing a sweater will maintain comfort in an environment heated to 65 degrees to 68 degrees.

Driving at the speed limit, avoiding unnecessary idling, carpooling and combining errands can stretch our finite oil reserves and reduce our production of greenhouse gases.

We should each make it a personal, creative challenge to think about the environmental costs of our daily activities and find ways to reduce our energy use.

Bob Burchard

Catonsville

FERC ruling handled core of complaint

Jay Hancock's column on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's ruling on the PJM Interconnection market monitoring case was pithy but incorrect ("Power overseer ignores alarms," Sept. 26). Indeed, Mr. Hancock missed the entire object of FERC's investigation.

Mr. Hancock faults FERC for acting to ensure the independence of the PJM market monitor, dismissing our actions in this regard as "tinkering with the organization chart."

Mr. Hancock also appears deeply unsatisfied that the FERC investigation and order focused on the independence of the market monitor rather than market power.

But the independence of market monitoring has been at the heart of this investigation since it began. And the reason for this is that the independence of the monitor was the central issue raised by the two complaints that were filed in May.

It should come as no surprise that FERC would address the central issue in the case, the one most important to the complainants.

And FERC did not "kill an inquiry" on this issue. We made a call on the merits based upon a substantial record. We found the PJM tariff unjust and unreasonable, and ordered changes.

The complainants urged us to act quickly, specifically seeking expeditious resolution of the complaint "to avoid irreparable harm to and loss of confidence in PJM wholesale markets." We acted quickly.

The commission largely agreed with the complainants. They asked for a settlement process involving all the parties. They got it.

The goal here is ensuring that PJM's market monitor is able to do his job and ensure public confidence that the markets are functioning properly.

That goal may not excite Mr. Hancock, but it remains important to FERC.

Mary O'Driscoll

Washington

The writer is director of press services for FERC.

Slots would carry some heavy costs

Gov. Martin O'Malley, state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and various business interests are trying hard to whoop up an unstoppable tide to legislate Maryland into becoming a big-time gambling state just like neighboring states ("GOP shuns slots proposal," Oct. 4).

They seem to want to have a quick special session to railroad a tax bill through and legalize slot machines.

Slots advocates often say we need slots to be "competitive." However, these folks need to consider some other points:

Every dollar lost in a slot machine is one that will not be spent on a normal purchase from a Maryland business.

The military organizations moving more jobs into Maryland will not look kindly on a proliferation of big-time gambling establishments near sensitive installations.

Why? Because losing gamblers are a known security risk.

Many high-tech companies will tend to shy away from moving into big-time gambling centers as they are not family-friendly and do not foster a wholesome atmosphere for company operations.

Therefore, by shunning big-time casinos, Maryland could realize a competitive advantage of a much better sort.

Finally, slots advocates owe the rest of us an impact statement that thoroughly considers all the many negatives lurking beneath the surface of big-time gambling.

Dave Thompson

Elkton

Holes in safety net for state's disabled

Thanks for publishing Dan Rodricks' column about Howard Fry, which revealed some of the underlying failures of the state's safety net for those in need ("Safety net, unraveling," Sept. 28).

In explaining some of those failures, the article touched upon the lack of funding to provide the kinds of support Mr. Fry would need to live safely in a more independent, community-based setting.

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