Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

January 19, 2008

Efficient light bulbs well worth the fee

The Sun's article "Efficient-bulb plan has a short circuit" (Jan. 11) seems to suggest customers should not have to pay utilities to provide free or discounted energy-efficient bulbs. That idea couldn't be more wrong.

Putting aside environmental considerations (I'll come to those in a minute), Maryland utilities are facing the dual challenges of looming electricity shortages and inadequate power lines.

It's not possible to build power plants or power lines quickly. But just as an individual faced with a shortfall in his or her budget can limit expenses, we can limit consumption.

Using efficient light bulbs saves energy directly because they use less than one-quarter of the electricity of conventional light bulbs. These bulbs also save on air-conditioning during peak energy usage summer hours because they run much cooler.

From an environmental prospective, using energy-saving lamps means less coal mined through mountaintop removal or dangerous deep coal mining, less land pollution from fly ash, less air pollution and fewer emissions of the gases that cause global warming.

Maryland has no better power alternative than conservation.

Generating more electricity from hydropower is not a good option in our area.

The sites in Western Maryland where wind power is an effective option are limited to ridge tops. As for nuclear power, we still haven't solved the problems of where to put the nuclear wastes and how to make the plants invulnerable to terrorists.

Replacing conventional lamps with energy-saving lamps is a good and effective first conservation step. Consumers can save far more on their energy bills than they will pay for this program.

Richard Reis

Silver Spring

The writer is a volunteer for the Sierra Club and the principal of a conservation engineering firm.

If Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. is going to add a charge to our power bills to pay for discounts on energy-efficient light bulbs, I certainly agree that it needs to make a greater effort to make the discounted bulbs available to everyone. However, if properly implemented, I wholeheartedly support this sort of program. It is a pleasant reversal of business as usual.

Normally, we pay extra taxes to artificially lower the price of energy through government subsidies to the oil and gas industry and military expenditures to help secure our access to oil.

So even though I bike to work every day and rarely purchase gasoline, I pay extra taxes so people can get in their SUVs and drive three blocks to the grocery store every other day more cheaply.

But in addition to greater distribution of efficient bulbs, I would suggest that the fees that pay for the program be converted into a per-unit-of-use consumption surcharge.

This would give people more incentive to conserve energy.

And that way, the more lights the guy down the street leaves on all day and night, the easier it would be for the rest of us to get cheap fluorescent bulbs and reduce our energy bills.

As more people got the bulbs, their energy bills would go down and they would pay fewer surcharges; the program would adjust to an appropriate size automatically.

Instead of protecting people from the consequences of their wasteful choices, we would be forcing them to do their part for the environment and encouraging them to live more efficiently.

Craig Bettenhausen

Baltimore

Restoring oysters does boost the bay

In the editorial "Where the bucks stop" (Jan. 13), The Sun's editors suggest that one bay-related program is more valuable than another, pitting the crab research program at the Center of Marine Biotechnology against the Oyster Recovery Partnership.

This evaluation is unfortunate; while research is important, bay restoration efforts are equally valuable, especially during times of tight budgets.

With support from Maryland's congressional delegation, nonprofit organizations such as the Oyster Recovery Partnership have enhanced the native oyster population and improved the valuable ecosystem services they provide through in-the-water restoration efforts.

The oyster program has planted more than 1 billion oysters in the bay since 2000, with a majority planted on permanently protected or heavily managed oyster bars.

While some of those oysters are being enjoyed by Marylanders at local restaurants, the vast majority are still in the bay, busy filtering dirty waters while providing valuable habitat for the blue crab.

Dr. Torrey C. Brown

Annapolis

The writer is chairman of the Oyster Recovery Partnership and a former secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Past time to abolish cruel death penalty

According to The Sun, 57 percent of Marylanders favor the death penalty while 33 percent would ban it ("In Md., most want option of execution," Jan. 15).

The 33 percent are in good company, as Helen Keller, Dorothy Day, Eleanor Roosevelt, Presidents Harry Truman and Jimmy Carter, Albert Einstein and the Rev. Martin Luther King - all great Americans - also opposed the death penalty.

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