Working together on energy solutions | Nov. 19, commentary
We can meet energy challenges
Gov. Crist is absolutely correct when he points out the very real economic and job-creation benefits that the state and country can reap from proactive, sound policies to tackle the pressing issue of climate change.
A quick glance at China shows what can be achieved. China's share of global solar power capacity climbed from just 1 percent in 2003 to 35 percent in 2007. In the process, the country created an industry worth $12.9-billion. The more than 400 solar companies employ more than 300,000 people.
Gov. Crist also correctly outlined the need for partnerships to realize the full potential, not only between states but between business and government. A report recently published by the Climate Group estimated that the information, communications and technology industry could deliver solutions that would enable other business sectors and customers to achieve global reductions in annual man-made emissions of 15 percent by 2020 — with energy efficiency savings worth more than $946.5-billion worldwide.
It will take clear and consistent policies to unlock this potential. We at the Climate Group are delighted that President-elect Barack Obama has stated his commitment to such policies — and that he will invest $15-billion each year to catalyze private sector efforts to build a clean-energy future.
The challenge will be to ensure that Congress gives the president the support he needs to move this important issue forward — and this includes representatives from here in Florida.
Susan Glickman, U.S. Southern regional director, the Climate Group, Indian Rocks Beach
The ethanol problem
The Times recently reported that Florida's university professors are leaving the state due to budget shortfalls. It also reported that the state will subsidize ethanol again this year.
Ethanol is expensive to produce, lowers gas mileage, requires large amounts of fresh water, is an inefficient conversion of energy, increases food costs, destroys rainforests, pollutes the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico, and increases our dependency on imported gasoline.
In 2007, Exxon Mobil paid $31-billion in federal income taxes. The company paid billions more in payroll, state and sales taxes ($171-billion in total), while shareholders paid additional taxes on dividends. This revenue stayed in the United States.
Federal and state governments should be encouraging businesses to develop more, not less, U.S. petroleum and natural gas products and using the fees and taxes generated to develop new, long-range sources of nonpetroleum energy.
Investments in alternative energy sources should be limited, however, to sources where the long-term cost/benefit ratio is positive. Wind, solar, ethanol and other alternative energy sources must eventually prove competitive with oil and gas to justify taxpayer subsidies.
Our legislators should encourage university professors to stay in Florida with ground-breaking grant opportunities to develop and profit from alternative energy sources. Ethanol and other alternative energy subsidies that cannot pass the cost/benefit test are counterproductive to our state and national goals.
Terrence Stapleton, Tarpon Springs
D.C. tenure tussle may hold lesson for nation Nov. 16, Bill Maxwell column
A kick when they're down
I strongly disagree with Bill Maxwell's opening in which he states that public school teachers have their eyes on Washington, but not because of Barack Obama's coming inauguration. In fact, Mr. Maxwell, I find it bewildering that you have yet to comment on this historic election. I can tell you that as a Pinellas County school teacher and a proud liberal, I strongly supported Sen. Obama's campaign, as did most of my colleagues. We were thrilled that he was elected, and not just because of his educational platform.
I believe that chancellor Michelle Rhee has good intentions and wants to improve the D.C. public schools. I know that the conditions of most D.C. schools are abysmal.
But take a look at your own community before you start making sweeping statements about incompetent teachers. Pinellas County teachers are working without a contract. The elementary teachers are besieged with constant assessment requirements and pacing guides. The middle school teachers report high stress levels and low morale as a result of the seven-period school day. No pay increase is likely and our health insurance is going up. Many of us work second jobs just to keep the lights on at home.
I have worked in Pinellas County since 1987. Sure I can come up with an anecdote here and there about incompetent teachers I've seen. And I've seen some bad ones get the heave-ho too. But their numbers pale beside the number of heroically dedicated, creative, good-hearted teachers I've worked with or known through my daughter's school journey.
So have a heart, Mr. Maxwell. Seems to me that your column is kicking folks when they're down.
Maryellen Mariani, Seminole
Ants and God and us | Nov. 16, Perspective
The human factor
I am not familiar with the specific data Edward Wilson refers to, but to state that there is genetic predisposition to altruism is premature to say the least. The only way to prove genetic determination is to demonstrate that a certain gene or group of genes encode a number of proteins that determine human behavior. This demonstration exists only for certain specific diseases (for example predisposition to certain cancers, neurological or mental diseases). At most Wilson can say that certain genes are more or less prevalent in altruistic people. An association at most generates hypotheses for other studies, but it is in no way a proof of causation.
Second, even if we grant that altruism is genetically determined, like eye and hair color, this does not mean the end of free will. The way every individual becomes aware of his or her personal talents and decides to use them is still a scientific mystery.
I may agree with Wilson that faith and religion is a product of human evolution, but does that disprove the existence of a God? If anything, the evolutionary nature of religious beliefs shows that they express the most intellectually sophisticated achievements of humanity.
Lodovico Balducci, professor of oncology and medicine, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, Tampa
History will size up Bush | Nov. 16, commentary
Bush is no Truman
Let me be among the many who will criticize the rather positive article on President Bush's performance. First of all, the comparison with President Truman is equivocal, as Truman was contending with the onset of the massive Cold War with Soviet Russia and Communist China, which he handled with reasonable competence.
Bush created his problems in Iraq first and then the economy. His only excuse was the 9/11 terrorist attack which, unfortunately, made him a pseudo-war president and allowed him to do whatever he desired at home and abroad until the disastrous results became apparent. The "surge" has only has calmed things down temporarily.
W.H. Riddell, Tampa