Meeting Florida's energy needs
Forget nuclear power, let's go solar
There is debate about whether to postpone raising the rates of Progress Energy customers. After reading Asjylyn Loder's article Gainesville utility places premium on solar power (Jan. 2), it appears that there are alternatives to building a new nuclear plant. Nuclear is an overpriced, outmoded option to produce electricity. Yes, the carbon emissions, the primary cause of global warming, are minimized, but the costs of construction and disposal of nuclear waste are too great.
Ed Regan, an official with Gainesville Regional Utilities, traveled to Germany to see why that country is today a leader in solar power. He is instrumental in putting in place in Gainesville the same kind of system Germany uses. Through the use of solar feed-in tariffs, businesses and residential customers are actually paid a premium for the excess electricity they produce and sell back to the utility. In this way, the high price of solar for these early adopters is mitigated and banks are more willing to finance the investment.
The cost to do this is spread among all customers: $2.50 per customer per month in Germany, and about 40 cents per customer per month in Gainesville. That sure beats the surcharge of $11.42 per 1,000 kilowatt hours Progress Energy is going to be charging in advance for building a nuclear plant.
Solar power would provide jobs and eliminate the conundrum of what to do with the nuclear waste. Surely Tampa Electric and Progress Energy, with the oversight of the Public Service Commission, could study this issue and move toward implementing what Gainesville has started. Los Angeles followed Gainesville's lead and adopted feed-in tariffs. Public service commissioner Nathan Skop recently proposed a similar measure. It's time to take the new nuclear plant off the table and study the economic viability of solar power with feed-in tariffs.
Linda Lowe, Brandon
Ignorant critics limit energy supply Jan. 7, letter
Consider thermal pollution
The letter writer has a point. America did once lead the world in nuclear power due to its awesome engineering prowess. However, the writer never mentioned the huge problem of thermal pollution associated with all nuclear and fossil fuel electric power generation. Some 20 percent of all global warming is attributable to waste heat from thermal electric power generation and other waste heat sources such as the internal combustion engine.
For every BTU that gets turned into a kilowatt hour of electricity two BTUs must be dispersed into a body of water or into the atmosphere. Why further heat up our bays and rivers with waste heat? Is it our goal to fry the planet?
America needs to put what is left of our hollowed-out engineering might into photovoltaic electric power generation. There is no thermal pollution in generating electric power from photovoltaic arrays coupled with phase change storage media of molten salts or compressed air for nighttime electricity production. Photovoltaic electric power generation is feasible and can be made very economical (See Scientific American, Jan. 2008).
Lastly the writer doesn't mention that the decommissioning cost of a nuclear power plant is maybe two to three times the initial installed cost. Why worry, just let our great-grandkids pay. It's the ultimate free-market answer to all our power problems: kick the problem down the road.
Ken Fiallos P.E., Seffner
Costs add up
Thanks to the Florida Legislature, Progress Energy is now charging us 25 percent more to cover increased fuel costs and to build a nuclear plant, which won't be finished for years.
Unfortunately the gross receipts tax, municipal franchise fee and municipal utility tax are based on percentages of the total bill, therefore we need to add an even greater percentage to our bills for taxes and fees.
Burt Kauffman, St. Petersburg
Balancing the state budget
Buy time with a temporary increase in the sales tax
Florida legislators are trying to find a way to balance the state budget before the end of this month's special session. Though they are trying to avoid the introduction of a general increase in taxes, they should consider a bill that imposes a temporary quarter of a cent raise in sales taxes, which would sunset at the end of a year. This will not only help balance our state budget, but also give state officials time to critically analyze our state expenditures and make thoughtful, well-planned adjustments.
By next year the newly elected state and federal agents will have had an opportunity to negotiate certain financial aid packages for programs such as Medicaid. Decisions to cut certain services or borrow from state trust funds pre-empt a possible increase in federal funds to the state.
My proposal will buy legislators more time, not unlimited time. The quarter of a cent raise in sales tax imposes a small burden without targeting one specific group or program. Another benefit is that a lot of the funds needed to balance the budget will come from out-of-state pockets.
Under most circumstances I would be opposed to an increase in sales tax, even a minimal increase on a temporary basis, but these are not ordinary times, and considering the alternatives, I believe this is our best option.
Michael Steinberg, Tampa
Budget plans lack vision, add pain | Jan. 9, editorial
Boost tax on alcohol
Again I am subjected to one of your shortsighted ways to raise revenue to cover state shortfalls. This shortfall problem has been experienced many times over the past decade and one of suggested methods of raising revenue has always been to raise cigarette taxes.
Not only is this a tax on a minority of our population, but these individuals also are being taxed with little consideration for the other taxes they are paying. A broader-based tax and one that would fill state coffers immediately would be an increased tax on alcohol.
Alcohol consumption and/or abuse causes far more social problems than those caused by smokers. The time has come to spread any increase in taxes across a wider population of consumers, namely alcohol consumers, than again targeting an already declining segment of the population — smokers.
Douglas Robb, Tampa
Internet sales tax
Tax would be a fatal blow
Many people feel that the lack of sales tax on the Internet is unfair. However, what is being proposed is even more unfair, and would kill Internet shopping. Brick-and-mortar stores charge sales tax based on where they are located. They are responsible for at most one state sales tax, one county sales tax, one city sales tax. Any changes to these taxes are communicated well ahead of time to those who collect these taxes.
What is generally proposed for Internet sales, however, is collecting sales tax based, not on where the Internet store is based, but on where each customer lives. This means that the Internet store is responsible for 50-plus state and territory taxes, hundreds of county taxes, and thousands of city taxes. And this does not even account for those customers who live in other countries. Many of these taxing authorities also have different rates for different items at different times of the year.
If we are indeed pushing for a tax on Internet sales, then let's be fair. Use the same policy for all stores, regardless of how they contact their customers. If I were to buy from a small store in Maine via the mail, I would not be expected to add sales tax to the purchase. So why should I be expected to do this for Internet purchases?
Lee Creel, Tampa
Look to gambling
Last Sunday's St. Petersburg Times presented an interesting juxtaposition. There was a massive ad touting the new Florida Powerball — which would be added to the other legalized games of chance the state offers. There was also the front-page article on how we have a massive tax revenue shortfall in Florida with no idea how we're going to bridge that gap (Florida, this is going to hurt).
The answer seems very simple: Legalize gambling (slots, cards, craps) and open state-sanctioned casinos. Gambling is gambling!
In the past, the Times has come out against legalized gambling. The nannyist arguments your paper has served up about gambling preying on those who can least afford it or increasing crime or compulsive gambling don't hold water if you look at how things are run at the Hard Rock casino or other Indian sponsored casinos. It's funny how Nevada doesn't have a tax revenue problem every year but we do. They are a tourist/vacation destination and so is Florida. It's a good match to encourage increased tourism.
Its time for the Times and our Legislature to support legalizing the other forms of gambling (slots, cards, craps) in a controlled state-run environment and use the proceeds to fund the state tax coffers.
David Gliewe, Clearwater
Rethink role in Mideast
The recent resumption of hostilities between Israel and the Arabs (this time in the form of Hamas) should be an invitation to Americans to reconsider our long-range commitments to the Middle East. Since Israel's birth in 1947 the country has constantly been in conflict with one or more of the surrounding Arab countries and territories.
At least since the 1960s, various American administrations have tried to negotiate peace between Israel and the Arabs. Over the past several decades, we have given subsidies of some $3-billion per year to both Israel and Egypt, and undisclosed millions to the Fatah party of the Palestinian Authority. These efforts have been fruitless because the belligerents refuse to embrace the compromises necessary to bring about a lasting peace.
The outline of such a peace is clear to anyone familiar with the conflict. Arabs must recognize that their ancestral lands seized by Israel after its war of independence are lost forever. And Arab states must be willing to guarantee Israel's right to exist, and suppress violent factions within their countries that seek to overthrow the Jewish state. On Israel's side, it must withdraw from all the territories taken in the 1967 war, including the entire West Bank and the Golan Heights, and agree to the redivision of Jerusalem, with Palestinians controlling the East, Israel controlling the West, and the holy places under international control. Until both sides agree to these significant compromises, there will be no peace.
What should be America's role? It is in our national interest to withdraw completely, taking our subsidies, our weapons systems, and our diplomats with us. If Israel and the Arabs, now facing one another without American mediation, signal a willingness to negotiate these painful compromises, we could offer our good offices, but not until we can see the distinct possibility of a lasting settlement.
Terry Parssinen, Ph.D, professor of history, University of Tampa
What I haven't seen in the opinion pages and letters to the editor regarding Israel and Gaza over the last few years since Israel pulled out of Gaza is any Palestinian outrage over the rockets fired indiscriminately into Israel directly at civilian areas. I haven't seen Palestinian supporters who are outraged that U.N. buildings are being used as weapons storage and factories, deliberately endangering women and children.
No one is outraged that Palestinian leaders and Hamas are openly calling for "human shields" to surround and protect those who are the leaders, the rocket launchers, or to surround the schools and hospitals where they run to hide after firing rockets.
These appeals are shown in Arabic on al-Aqsa TV, on ANB TV-Lebanon and on various Palestinian Web sites. That's how the civilians know where to run to. These are war crimes. Those who stand silently by are just as guilty of war crimes as those who actually commit them. Israel, on the other hand, warns civilians of impending attack.
Susan Segal, Palm Harbor
Russia stars at nights | Jan. 1
An exploited animal
I cannot express how dismayed I am by the review of Russian Accents restaurant and the exploitation of a bear for profit. The irony is that Russia has made enormous strides in banning the private ownership of these animals as a result of pressure from world wildlife advocates; and I think that community would be horrified to learn of its presence here.
By publishing your review, albeit inadvertently, you condone such a thing. I would never patronize such an establishment, and wish you had encouraged your readers to do the same.
Deborah Albert, Tampa