Math guts nuclear myth and Editorial: High price of nuclear fantasies | May 12
A balanced energy portfolio
As a state and a country, we need to have a balanced portfolio in order to sustain and secure our energy future and a broader understanding of our reliance on natural gas in Florida as the primary source of generating electricity.
Duke Energy Florida's Levy nuclear project remains cost effective when compared to building comparable natural gas-fired power plants. This is laid out in our May 1, 2013, public filing with the Florida Public Service Commission that Times reporter Ivan Penn did not reference.
To compare the long-term costs of a new nuclear plant versus a natural gas plant requires the assumption of many unknown variables. Specifically, in his story, Penn assumes a lower cost for carbon than Duke Energy. He does this by (1) assuming technology currently exists to capture up to 90 percent of all carbon emissions on a natural gas plant when that technology does not currently exist; (2) assuming a capital cost ($1 billion) for this yet-to-be-developed technology; (3) assuming there are no operations and maintenance costs for this "device;" and (4) assuming that carbon emissions can be stored underground in Florida without any science or evidence to support it. Our analysis and assumptions on file at the PSC demonstrate new nuclear remains more cost-effective over the long term than natural gas.
This is why we need to look at the production of electricity in a context broader than the Times' article. Florida is the fifth most dependent state on natural gas, and we are poised to continue increasing our dependence. Sixty-one percent of the energy we consume in Florida comes from burning natural gas, a percentage that has skyrocketed from only 18 percent in 2000 and is more than double the national average of 25 percent, increasing in Florida to 75 percent by 2019. This is like investing your retirement in one stock — and a very volatile one at that.
But what does this mean to you and me, and more importantly, our pocketbooks? Right now, gas is selling at $4 per MMBtu. Last year at this time, it was selling at $2.43 per MMBtu. For every dollar natural gas goes up, our electric bill goes up 4-5 percent. Between 2008 and 2009, dramatic increases in the price of natural gas resulted in an annual increase of approximately $250 for our residential customers.
Electric utilities across the country are retiring older plants and replacing them mostly with natural gas-fired power plants. For example, a number of other states currently generate 5-10 percent of their electricity from natural gas. Projections increase that usage to 20-30 percent by 2019. This will have an impact on both the supply and demand of natural gas; and thus affect the price.
In an environment of changing rules, regulations, costs and expectations, planning for future power plants and other resources is more complex and dynamic than the Times can capture in a 2,000-word article.
Alex Glenn, president, Duke Energy Florida
Shedding light on hospital fees | May 9
Billing needs regulation
Congratulations on this article by Letitia Stein. The practice by hospitals of charging their uninsured patients many times what they charge insured patients is outrageous and needs to be stopped.
Consumer lenders are subject to strict regulations in dealing with their clients, even though the clients have a chance to review documents and to say yes or no. Hospitals, on the other hand, can do whatever they want on charges and fees and the patient really doesn't have a chance to say yes or no. They are truly at the mercy of the hospital.
If ever there was a practice that needs to be regulated it's hospital billing procedures. There is no justification for charging an uninsured patient more than one with insurance. Charging them several times more borders on criminal.
It's an ongoing injustice that injures the people who can least afford it. It needs to stop. I hope you'll follow up on the story.
Ray MacGrogan, Tampa
Shedding light on hospital fees | May 9
Take focus away from profit
The government release of the prices hospitals charge for procedures has revealed as a lie the claim that future Medicare costs must be controlled. Imagine what the cost would be if our senior citizens did not have Medicare. The reason politicians want to attack Medicare is so they can convince us that the system must be changed to allow private control of the health care system, enabling the health care providers to make higher profits. The best solution is to make Medicare available for all Americans, instead of Obamacare, which does not have price controls like Medicare.
Jim Demmy, Kenneth City
Legislature report card | May 10, commentary
Let them pay their share
I find it galling that our House members get health insurance for $8 a month while the rest of us have to pay thousands of dollars yearly. These politicians do not deserve subsidies such as cheap health care paid for by us, the taxpayers. Let them join the insurance market like the rest of us.
Jane Kisuk, Seminole
Where the money goes
I have read that if we don't accept federal dollars — also referred to as Florida tax dollars — for Medicaid expansion, the money will go to other states. The states that receive extended Medicaid money will get an amount determined by their low-income population. Why would they get an additional amount from states that turn it down? Since we are running a large federal deficit, I would think the refused money would be applied to the deficit.
Steven Carey, Dade City
Blaze an amazing Fla. trail, Gov. Scott May 11, Sue Carlton column
Promoting natural Florida
Columnist Sue Carlton hit the nail on the head with her support for a plan to build 72 miles of trails that would connect the 200 miles of existing trails across the state. With so much time and money being dedicated to creating a special iconic structure for St. Petersburg (the pier) while Tampa leaders struggle to create a spectacular city center destination, the continued expansion of Florida's trail system will bring special recognition to the entire state by extolling what many visitors and residents want and need: an affordable and accessible path to Florida's natural resources.
H.A. Smith, Palm Harbor