'09 outlook grim but not totally so | Jan. 4
Ethanol is just not worth it
Dear Mr. Trigaux:
I am very pleased to see you mention that ethanol is an expensive alternative. I wish more journalists would unmask the ethanol boondoggle.
As a chemical engineer and a registered professional engineer in Florida and other states, I can tell you that because ethanol is not as efficient a fuel as octane, it requires more for the same amount of energy. It also produces more carbon dioxide than octane per mile driven.
Aren't we trying to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide produced?
For our long trips, we use our 2004 Lexus LS430 because of comfort and safety. In the South, with our good interstate system and relatively flat landscape, we get 29 miles to the gallon when using fuel without ethanol.
With 10 percent ethanol added to the fuel, we get about 26 miles to the gallon or about 10 percent less. The reason for the expensive addition of ethanol escapes us.
Ethanol is expensive to produce. There is the tilling of the land to plant corn with fuel-fired tractors; spraying the crops with expensive fertilizers and herbicides by fueled vehicles; harvesting the crops with fueled vehicles and transporting the crop to the fermentation plant where the corn is mashed and then fermented in heated chambers; and the final brew — distilled by heated distillation rigs, with the final ethanol transported to the blending plants by fueled vehicles.
I hope you'll expose the "Ethanol Myth" as a viable alternative. I don't think that until gasoline hits $10 a gallon in the United States that ethanol will be a viable alternative. Hopefully, by then, we'll have efficient electric cars that are being charged by central nuclear plants. Maybe we'll even have fuel cell cars.
William W. Gorman Jr., Treasure Island
Citizens rates may jump Jan. 7
Raising rates is out of touch
Unbelievable! As a homeowner for 18 years, and a dual-income family making ends meet while raising two teenage children, I find it hard to comprehend that Citizens Property Insurance thinks it deserves a raise.
I had been insured with Nationwide Insurance for 33 years, never making a claim on my home or cars. Nationwide dropped us because our house was too old, and we live too close to the coast. It never fulfilled its responsibility to acquire another insurer for us. I spent countless hours trying to find another insurer. Citizens was the only one that would take us.
Now Bruce Douglas and his task force think this increase is "affordable and politically digestible." Give us a break! We pay higher premiums than most others. We have not had salary increases for more than five years due to the economy. Yet, the government can "bail out" corporate America and its greedy executives. God forbid we do have to make a claim. We would have to take out a loan to meet the deductible.
It's time somebody with a backbone stood up for us. The cost of living is rising daily. Will the government bail out my husband and me? Should we file bankruptcy?
How do we explain to our children that college is questionable unless they get a loan?
It's time for our elected officials to take a long, hard look at reality while they sit in their mansions. Put yourselves in our shoes. Heaven help us all if this misuse of power continues. We will be living in trailers on food stamps.
Nancy Beers, Belleair
No time for bad service
Retailers need to serve customers
This is a tough time to be working in retail. Some customers are even more demanding and not as nice about it, either. Retailers are cutting back staff, and that means cutting back on service. Retailers are dealing with customers who are cherry picking deals and buying less.
Cutting expenses seems a responsible move. But it is a dangerous move. The risk for retailers is losing their customer service mentality and reputation. Once a business moves away from a customer service mentality it is extremely hard, if not impossible, to get it back. Just ask Kmart. They have spend millions trying to get back a customer-first mentality.
Or look at the grocery industry. Kroger was supplanted by A&P, which was supplanted by Safeway, which was supplanted by regional chains. Each time the primary reason for losing dominance was that cutting costs to achieve short-term profitability was more important than customer service.
In this downtime in the economy, healthy retailers need to see this as an opportunity to win market share by keeping their customer service first mentality. That will equate to short-term declines in profits, but it will also set up long-term profitability.
Customers have long memories. We remember who left us high and dry and it is very hard to get us back.
Mark T. Stephens, Land O'Lakes
His Ponzi scheme was just one lie | Jan. 4
Too good to be true usually is
The grand swindler, Lou Pearlman, pleaded guilty to stealing $300-million and got 25 years in prison. This multifaced man was a menace to say the least.
Even sophisticated bankers and investors fell for his schemes.
Con artists like Pearlman abound and are constantly on the prowl for sucker material. The unsophisticated, though, are especially easy targets. The broad masses of people aren't learned scholars or abstract thinkers. Scammers seek them out.
We live in corrupt, unethical and greedy times. Folks just cannot be as trusting as people could be in past generations. People are just not as wholesome and clean cut nowadays as in yesterdays. Until ethical codes everywhere become a commonality in the realm of business and investing, people must just be mentally prepared and skeptical of "too good to be true" proposals.
Robert B. Fleming, St. Petersburg