Readers Respond

July 16, 2009

Smart electric meters of dubious value

After more than 20 years working in the electric utility industry, I am no longer amazed at the lengths some utility companies will go to wrench one more dollar from the consumer while simultaneously reducing service ("An intelligent idea," July 15). The "smart grid" is still down the road since existing technology is expensive (added costs for consumer) and available on a limited basis, with spotty test results.

Several industry specific research groups agree that this is a technology for tomorrow, but first the transmission grid needs to be updated, allowing greater access and thus a reduction in distribution costs. The formula as it exists does not save the consumer money.

Martha Edgeworth, Essex

Be wary of BGE promises

The Sun reported Tuesday that BGE's proposed smart meters would cost $500 million and that the public would pay for them through bill surcharges.

If past experience is a clue, each time BGE and Constellation Energy have approached the General Assembly and/or the Public Service Commission, the ultimate result was more expense to the consumer. Here's hoping authorities will take an extra hard look before giving any approval.

Richard L. Lelonek, Baltimore

PSC right to review Constellation deal

Constellation Energy Group's decision to appeal Judge Stuart R. Berger's ruling to allow the Maryland Public Service Commission to continue reviewing the Constellation/Electricit? de France transaction ("Constellation asks court to let suit against Md. continue," July 14) won't negate the fact that the PSC is completely within its charter to regulate this deal.

The transaction has the potential to put Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. customers into the hands of a foreign power. EDF would be the largest shareholder of Constellation and a partner in its venture to build a new nuclear reactor at Calvert Cliffs. This qualifies as "substantial influence" over a Maryland gas and electric company that Maryland law states is required for the PSC to intervene.

Testimony given to the PSC stated that Constellation could easily be influenced by EDF to shift capital from BGE to fund the new reactor. Constellation is racing to construct it, and it is the PSC's job to step in and regulate a deal that could heavily burden BGE ratepayers.

Susan Barba, Churchton

For some drivers, big is best

In Dan Rodricks' July 15 column about fuel mileage ("Stop settling for mileage mediocrity"), he tosses in the claim that the 1981 Volkswagen Rabbit was rated at 40 mpg city and 54 highway. Unfortunately he omitted two details: That was for the diesel-powered Rabbit, and its driver had to struggle with a whopping 52 horsepower. Anybody up for merging onto I-95 at 7 a.m. in a car that went from 0 to 60 mph in a scorching 19 seconds?

Rabbits back then weighed a light-by-2009 standards 1,800 pounds or so, but through the years federally mandated safety considerations (among other things) raised the weights of all vehicle makes, and manufacturers boosted power in attempts to provide the public with cars it would buy. One of those was the SUV, and while "behemoth" is not an inaccurate adjective for most SUVs, Mr. Rodricks seems to dismiss any reason for such transportation.

Well, for some people there is a reason, and a need, for big vehicles. My wife and I don't own an SUV or a truck, but our daughter is involved in a sport where a big hauler would be a blessing. It is true that a lot of SUV owners could fill their transportation needs with smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles, but there are millions of people who require something bigger, and they accept higher fuel consumption as a trade-off for function. Also, although large vehicles usually do not handle as well as smaller ones, and thus are less capable of avoiding accidents, at crunch time the rules of physics favor passengers in the behemoth.

Ignoring for now President Obama's apparent intent to have every American family (except his) make do with small cars, so far each of us has the freedom to decide how big (or small) and what kind of a vehicle to buy. The U.S. marketplace should be where these personal choices are made, not at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Don Struke, Baltimore

Do police have time to solve crimes?

Glenn McNatt's Saturday editorial notebook ("The paper chase," July 11) notes that Baltimore police officers record 12,000 to 15,000 handwritten crime reports a month. A more important question would be, how many are actually solved?

I ask because my future daughter-in-law was a victim of a hit and run in the very same Northern District that Mr. McNatt visited in the article. Despite providing five of the seven numbers/letters of the person's license plate and the make/model of the vehicle, having multiple witnesses, and making five calls over three weeks to the Baltimore police, there has been zero investigation of this crime. She spent several hours trying to ascertain who operates the intersection camera, but no one seems to have that information.

It would appear that once this paper was filed, the "chase" was over. Accurate reports are great, but if that's where the effort ends, other than for the sake of statistics, what's the point?

Joyce C. Robinson, Glen Burnie

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